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Farry launches “Big Conversation” on Higher Education

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Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, today launched a ‘Big Conversation’ about the sustainability of higher education in Northern Ireland.

Speaking in the Assembly, Minister Farry said: “Higher education makes a vital impact on our economy and society here. It drives our knowledge economy by equipping our people with the higher level skills which companies, both local and newly investing, need to grow. It generates billions of pounds of spending in our economy and supports over 18,000 jobs for people in Northern Ireland across a range of occupations.

“It is one of the surest ways for people, regardless of their backgrounds or personal circumstances, to improve their life chances and employment prospects. It is a crucial enabler of social mobility, social cohesion, and social change.

“However, the model we currently use to support higher education here is no longer sustainable. We need an innovative solution. To find this we need an innovative process. That is why today I am launching ‘The Higher Education Big Conversation’.

“The Big Conversation is an experimental and innovative approach to engaging with people about the important choices facing our society. It will comprise of a two staged process. The first stage will focus on promoting the value of higher education to individuals, the economy and wider society. It will outline how the existing higher education system works and the challenges it faces and highlight ways in which higher education is delivered and funded across the globe.

“The second stage informed by stage one will be similar to a public consultation exercise where opinions and solutions will be sought from key stakeholders and the wider public as to how Northern Ireland can secure a sustainable higher education system in the future.

“I will be presenting the findings of the ‘Higher Education Big Conversation’ to my Executive colleagues, outlining the ways in which higher education could be sustained in the future. We must all work together to agree a clear way forward for higher education in Northern Ireland, the status quo is no longer an option. Research shows that higher education is intrinsic to the social and economic fabric of our region and I want all those who are interested to join the discussion and have their say.”

The Higher Education Big Conversation will run until 23 October. To participate in the ‘Big Conversation’ visit HE Big Conversation.external link

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