Northern Ireland further and higher education minister Sean Farren yesterday announced a review of student finance as the province's fledgling executive and assembly faced suspension, writes Olga Wojtas.
The move ensured the issue will not be lost, setting up an interesting challenge for a future Labour minister should direct rule be returned.
The review will be carried out by officials of the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, whether or not the executive is suspended following the failure of the Provisional IRA to decommission.
Writing in today's THES, Mr Farren reveals that his consultation paper on student finance, including tuition fees, will be published in March.
Officials intend to have talks with Andrew Cubie, who reported to the Scottish Executive on Scottish student finance before Christmas. They will also visit the Student Loans Company in Glasgow, and consult Northern Ireland's two universities and 17 further and higher education colleges.
Mr Farren, who says the review is aimed at widening access, has also announced the go-ahead of the Pounds 70 million Springvale Educational Village project. The joint project between Ulster University and the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education aims to provide 3,000 full-time equivalent student places.