Many Northern Irish sixth-formers will have their hopes of a university education dashed because of a lack of undergraduate places, student leaders have warned, writes Olga Wojtas.
The National Union of Students-Union of Students in Ireland is calling for at least 4,000 new student places to match those available in Scotland.
Damien Kavanagh, convener of NUS-USI, said: "Many local students will be forced to leave the north of Ireland to find a course or give up any hope of entering higher education."
The union said that about 14,000 full-time undergraduates from Northern Ireland were studying in Britain and more than 70 per cent would not return to the province.
A spokesperson for Northern Ireland's Department of Employment and Learning said it had been increasing the number of full-time student places as public spending priorities allowed. Since 1999, it had allocated more than 4,000 extra higher education places.
He said the cap on full-time undergraduate places was kept under review, although there were no plans to remove it.