Extra degree places promised in Northern Ireland

November 17, 2000

Higher and further education have featured strongly in Northern Ireland's programme for government.

The first detailed policy document drawn up by locally elected politicians after 30 years of direct rule promises an additional 200 university places. It has long been a concern that the lack of higher education places forces young people to leave the province.

The proposals from the Stormont executive also pledge priority for the issue of student support.

The proposals will be subjected to an intensive debate over the next six weeks by the assembly and its scrutiny committees.

David Ford, chief whip of the cross-community Alliance Party, said the number of additional undergraduate places was "low".

He also questioned the fact that postgraduate degrees had not been mentioned and said that provision of an information technology commission should be included in the programme.

First minister David Trimble said there had been a significant expansion in information technology postgraduate places.

Gerry McKenna, vice-chancellor of the University of Ulster, said the programme was "a major step forward".

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