Thu 17th Sep 2015
Farry – Higher Skills Critical for Economic Growth
Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry has called on the business community to make their views known on the future sustainability of higher education in Northern Ireland.
Dr Farry met today with Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, Stephen McCully, President, and Nick Coburn, Vice-President, of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) to discuss NI Chamber’s publication ‘Growing Something Brilliant, an Action Plan for Growing the Northern Ireland Economy.’
Minister Farry stated: “One of the main recommendations within NI Chamber’s Action Plan is the importance of developing the talents and ambitions of our citizens. Higher education drives our knowledge economy by equipping our people with the higher level skills which companies, both local and newly investing, need to grow.
“However, over the past number of years the level of funding made available for higher education has been declining. This year the extent of that disinvestment is hitting new heights, and our universities and university colleges are dealing with cuts of over £16million.
“As a consequence we are seeing over 500 fewer university places at Queen’s and Ulster University this year for local students, rising to over 1,900 over the next few years. This is extremely detrimental to the local skills needs of business and Northern Ireland’s future economic prosperity.
“That is why I have launched a wider conversation about the financial sustainability of higher education in Northern Ireland entitled ‘The Higher Education Big Conversation’. Northern Ireland’s ongoing disinvestment in higher education and the impact this will have on our local economy is a serious issue that we need to address.
“I welcome the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s support in ensuring the voice of Northern Ireland businesses are heard during the Big Conversation and I encourage others to join in and have their say.”
Speaking on behalf of the NI Chamber Stephen McCully, President, stated: “Our Action Plan for Growing the Northern Ireland Economy makes it clear that preparing our young people for work, investing in the skills of those already in work, and ensuring that we have the skills required to grow the economy are essential to Northern Ireland’s competitiveness. We cannot do this without the support of the higher education sector in Northern Ireland. I cannot stress the importance of higher level skills to the Northern Ireland economy enough, and I urge businesses to join the ‘Higher Education Big Conversation’ and ensure the voices of the business community are heard.”
The Higher Education Big Conversation will run until 23 October. To participate in the ‘Big Conversation’ visit: https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/department-of-finance-and-personnel/higher-education-big-conversation