Page last updated at 18:32 GMT, Monday, 1 November 2010

University funding

The assembly passed a motion calling on the employment minister to help university students from disadvantaged backgrounds, on 1 November 2010.

The SDLP's Pat Ramsey moved the motion, which rejected an increase in student loans and the removal of a cap on student fees.

He said his party was unable to support the DUP amendment due to a public petition the SDLP presented to the house earlier in the day. The petition opposed the Russell Group proposals for student loans.

In his debut speech as minister, Danny Kennedy paid tribute to his predecessor Sir Reg Empey.

He said that Lord Browne's recent report into university funding proposed "a revolution about how our country views universities" and that the Stuart report on funding in Northern Ireland will need to take the Browne report into account.

The Stuart report findings are due to be announced before Christmas.

Chris Lyttle expressed the Alliance Party's commitment that university should remain free at the point of delivery.

The DUP's Peter Weir said the amendment addressed four main principles; affordability, financial assistance for the economically disadvantaged, an opposition to the removal of the cap on fees and to a two-tier university system.

Jonathan Bell, also of the the DUP, said the "house must try and achieve a richly educated population and not an educated rich".

The UUP's David McClarty supported the amendment and commended both Queen's University and the University of Ulster on moving up the rankings ladder.

Sinn Fein's Sue Ramsey and Claire McGill highlighted their party's opposition to student fees. Ms Ramsey welcomed the students who stood in the rain to protest and present their petition.

The motion as amended was passed by 44 votes to 29.

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