Page last updated at 07:35 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Anger at tuition fee rise plan

Students in class
Tuition fees for students in NI could rise by up to 80

University tuition fees could rise by as much as 80 under proposals by the Employment and Learning minister, Sir Reg Empey.

The Assembly's Committee for Employment and Learning said the increase will disadvantage students from lower income families.

The chairperson of the committee, Sue Ramsey, said the fees should be scrapped altogether.

Committee members said they were concerned at the proposal's timing.

"Nearly a year ago we proposed a motion opposing any increase in student fees and, though the motion was narrowly defeated, the minister promised to hold a review of variable fees and student finance," Ms Ramsey said.

"The committee is astonished to learn that only now has the minister written to a potential chairperson to see if they would take the post and outlining terms of reference for such a review.

"Recently the minister announced measures to help apprentices who have been made redundant. Now the minister is talking about increasing tuition fees next year. Does he not wonder where families will find the extra money in these difficult times?"

The deputy chairperson of the committee, Robin Newton also criticised the proposal to increase the fees, which would be in line with inflation.

He said:"The issue of reviewing student fees and finance is of great interest to the committee and to hard pressed families whose young people are considering whether they can afford higher education."

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