NI lobbies for research cash

November 8, 2002

Northern Ireland's two universities are stepping up the fight for more research funds following the suspension of the power-sharing executive.

The universities had called for urgent talks with the then employment and learning minister, Carmel Hanna, after the executive's draft budget failed to boost resources. They will now take their campaign to Westminster.

Ulster University has called for meetings with Northern Ireland politicians, warning that government research funding for the province suffered a real-terms fall of 20 per cent between 1992-93 and 2000-01, compared with a 23 per cent increase for universities on the mainland.

The Association of University Teachers this week demonstrated outside the Department of Employment and Learning in Belfast urging a rethink of the draft budget.

UU vice-chancellor Gerry McKenna said academic research was crucial in solving society's problems. "Whether it is in the field of health, or the economy, or the environment or social problems, funding given to university research is a gilt-edged investment. It is even more important in Northern Ireland, where we need to progress at a greater rate than the other regions in the UK merely to catch up."

Sir George Bain, vice-chancellor of Queen's University, Belfast, said the province's poor-relation status within the UK was exacerbated by the strong economic performance of the Irish Republic.

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