Queens University has attacked an MP's claim that Northern Ireland school leavers are being forced to go to mainland universities because their places are being taken by students from the Irish Republic.
John Taylor, Ulster Unionist MP for Strangford said recent parliamentary questions had confirmed there are now 2,200 students from the Irish Republic at Queens and the University of Ulster. "Not only are these students denying places for our own children, they are imposing an Irish ethos within the campuses and there is now a culture at Queens which no longer reflects Ulster's society," he said.
He claimed around 40 per cent of Ulster students leave to study at English, Scottish and Welsh institutions but only 11 per cent return.
Queens University dismissed the allegations and said that 88 per cent of its intake is from the province. "This proportion of intake is among the highest of any UK university in terms of its local catchment area. All students from European Union countries by law have to be treated in the same way as home students and virtually all those entering Queens were admitted on the basis of academic merit," said a spokeswoman.
Only 204 from last year's intake of 2,845 students came from across the border and the total percentage of students from the republic is likely to rise this year to some 7 per cent - an increase from just below 6 per cent five years ago.
A member of Queens senate, councillor Alex Attwood, who is a member of the Nationalist SDLP said: "At a time when we all have a duty to build relations, Mr Taylor wants to crush that potential."