NI parties clash over student finance

May 24, 2002

Claims about a six-year delay on a review of student finance have sparked a political storm in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein has alleged that a decision to put off a review until 2008 had already been taken.

But higher education minister Carmel Hanna refuted the claim and said she had submitted a bid for extra cash to raise thresholds on fees and grants.

Sinn Fein's higher education spokesperson Mary Nelis said Ms Hanna's policies signalled a return to educational elitism.

The Social Democrat and Labour Party minister said she was awaiting the outcome of the Department of Education and Skills' review into student finance before examining its implications for Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, there are indications of growing tensions between Ms Hanna's Department of Employment and Learning and the Department of Education headed by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.

The Northern Ireland Assembly's scrutiny committee on higher and further education is concerned that a careers guidance structure for the further education colleges could be delayed because of Mr McGuinness's proposed shake-up of the 11-plus transfer system.

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