Ulster to unify FE &amp

April 9, 1999

Northern Ireland education minister John McFall is to consult on a key proposal from the Dearing committee for a tertiary funding council for the province.

Northern Ireland is anomalous within the United Kingdom in having only an advisory higher education council. Mr McFall is seeking comments by June 18 on bringing further and higher education together under a single buffer body.

The consultation paper includes a possible model of a single funding council with separate standing committees for further and higher education.

Mr McFall said: "We must look to the future and, while the existing structures have many strengths, the government aims to create a more coherent tertiary sector within Northern Ireland."

The Northern Ireland Assembly will consider the consultation responses and decide what action to take, he said.

Mr McFall also announced an extra Pounds 34 million for the province's two universities over the next three years as a prelude to the forthcoming funding allocations.

The financial package includes funding for an extra 2,000 students in the universities and colleges of education by 2002, and a premium of Pounds 500,000 in this year's funding formula to help recruit and retain students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

There is Pounds 15 million capital to boost the universities' estates and information technology and research infrastructure, and the government will contribute to a Pounds 6 million library at Ulster University's Jordanstown campus.

Jordanstown provost Anne Tate said building work would begin in September.

"Conditions in the library are quite cramped at the minute. Jordanstown is the largest Ulster University campus, with more than 13,000 students. The students should be relieved to hear there will be an extra 900 reader spaces," she said.

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