The imposition of a cap on the number of English-domiciled students that can attend Northern Ireland higher education providers in 2020/21 is unacceptable.
That is the message from Economy Minister Diane Dodds in response to the change being imposed on a UK-wide basis by the Department for Education in England.
Minister Dodds said: “I am wholly opposed to DfE England’s intention to impose a student number control on full-time undergraduate English domiciles at Northern Ireland’s higher education providers this coming academic year 2020/21.
“I am shocked and concerned that another jurisdiction is seeking to control student numbers here in Northern Ireland and the impact that this may have on our local sector.
“This intention runs contrary to what had been agreed amongst the four UK administrations at the beginning of May in regards to a number of measures relating to admissions for 2020/21 under the UK Admissions Package.
“I believe that this proposal has the potential to break up the unified higher education market within the United Kingdom in terms of access to study based on student choice and academic achievement – it is a dangerous precedent to set and one I am wholly opposed to.”
The Minister went on to outline the negative impact on local higher education institutions: “Local institutions will have already started to determine their recruitment of English-domiciled students without any indication that the new DfE England restrictions would be imposed on them. For DfE England to bring this proposal to the fore at this stage in the recruitment and admissions cycle is not only unfair but unprecedented.”
The Minister has written to Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP to convey her views.
Mrs Dodds concluded: “I know that my counterparts in the other devolved administrations have expressed similar concerns and we await a response from Minister Donelan.”