Strict government targets for NI universities

The Northern Ireland government has issued the region’s two universities with a checklist of targets as part of its higher education strategy.

April 25, 2012

The Department for Employment and Learning wants Queen's University Belfast and the University of Ulster to offer more courses in science and technology subjects and hit specific levels of income from consultancy work.

The strategy, published yesterday and titled Graduating to success, lists 16 projects with detailed outcomes designed to improve higher education in the devolved nation.

The targets include:

• increasing the proportion of graduates and postgraduates studying “economically relevant subjects”, such as physical and biological sciences, mathematical and computer science, engineering and technology, to 22 per cent by 2020. In 2008 the figure was 18 per cent.

• by March 2013 the universities will have created proposals to “rebalance” their course portfolios to “more closely reflect the needs of the economy”

• by July 2013, the universities will have undertaken 1,140 business engagements, secured £6.94 million in consultancy and gained £863,000 in income from intellectual property

• by 2020 there will have been a doubling of inward and outward international student mobility compared to 2010

• student retention rates will improve every year until 2020

• by 2020 the recruitment of international students “should be catching up with the rest of the UK”

• by 2020 all students will have the opportunity to do a work experience placement

The two universities will also pilot “bases” in further education colleges to allow higher education students to use their learning resources.

The strategy also says that a review of the Maximum Student Number cap, which has frustrated Ulster’s plan to expand numbers on its Magee campus, will be completed by 2016.

Explaining the strategy, employment and learning minister Stephen Farry said that by 2020, “the higher education sector will be more responsive to the needs of the economy".

“It will provide higher quality learning and become more accessible. It will also support a flexible, lifelong learning environment,” he said.

The department wanted a “vibrant” and “international calibre” sector, he said, “which plays a pivotal role in the development of a modern, sustainable knowledge-based economy”.

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