NI: higher education and research

What would UCU like to see?

UCU’s manifesto has called on the next Westminster government to look again at student finance, and support proposals which make higher education more accessible and less costly for individuals from all backgrounds.

UCU would also like to see measures put in place to better support part time, mature and postgraduate study in Northern Ireland. Postgraduate students are vital for the replenishment of the higher education workforce, and more funded studentships are required. Greater flexibility in funding for part-time study is also needed to ensure that higher education is accessible to everyone.

In terms of research, UCU would like to see a real terms increase in the research budget to around 3% of GDP, bringing the UK in line with other countries such as Germany and the US, as well as an increase in the number of research council-funded studentships.

UCU feels the time is right to consider a long-term, UK-wide review of research policy, with a broad membership base and opportunities for genuine consultation with staff, students and employers. Such a review should be undertaken by the next government at the earliest opportunity.

What is each party proposing?

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

  • Support Northern Ireland’s universities in drawing down greater levels of science and research funding from both the Research Councils and the European Union
  • Support regional industries by boosting research, skills, infrastructure and innovation across the entire UK
  • Support investment in research and development for improving renewable technologies

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Democratic Unionist Party

  • Make higher education affordable for all

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Social Democratic and Labour Party

  • Expand higher education, including the expansion of the University of Ulster’s Magee campus to 10,000 student places
  • Build upon the cross-border cooperation between colleges and universities to meet the needs of students and business
  • Press for support for a research and development hub in the North for low energy carbon products
  • Encourage take-up of STEM subjects at all levels of ability

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(1 votes. Average rating: 10.00 out of 10)
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Sinn Féin

  • Nurture innovation and research through an ‘island economy’ approach

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(2 votes. Average rating: 5.50 out of 10)
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Ulster Unionist Party

  • Demand greater liaison between business, second and third level education, focused on marrying the individual young person and the needs of rebalancing our economy
  • Continue to invest in research, development and innovation

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(3 votes. Average rating: 6.67 out of 10)
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UCU analysis

The SDLP has called for higher education to be expanded and specifically for the University of Ulster’s Magee campus to be increased to 10,000 student places, as well as emphasising the need for cross border co-operation between colleges and universities to meet the needs of students and business.

The DUP has called for higher education to be made affordable for all but has not outlined specifics on how they plan to do this.

All the parties have placed emphasis on the need to support Northern Ireland’s science and research base, with calls by the Alliance for increased investment through the UK Research Councils and the European Union, and SDLP pledging to encourage STEM study at all levels. Sinn Fein has suggested that the best way to nurture innovation and research would be through an ‘island economy’ approach.