SDLP Higher Education Spokesperson Sinéad McLaughlin MLA has called for increased North-South collaboration in order address challenges in student mobility. She was speaking after the launch of a new report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) revealed that the university admissions system in the South is disadvantaging students from the North.
In 2020/21, students from the South made up 2.4% of students in NI while students from NI made up only 0.6% of students in the South.
The Foyle MLA said:
“We all have a clear interest in minimising the barriers that young people face in accessing the higher education institution of their choice and ensuring that the doors of all our universities are open to students from every part of the island. We should be making it as easy as possible for young people who want to study across Ireland to do so, especially at a time when Northern Ireland exports an entire university worth of students to Britain each and every year.
“However, this report makes clear the significant challenges that prospective students in the North face when applying to third-level courses in the South. There is clearly much more work to do if we are to enhance cross-border mobility and break down the barriers that our young people face when it comes to pursuing a university education across the border.
“Addressing these challenges will require coordinated and focused efforts from the Irish government, particularly when it comes to addressing the financial support needed for students and funding levels for the higher education sector, as well as the housing shortage. However, it will also require interventions from our own Executive Departments in the North. For example, there is an opportunity for the Department for the Economy to ensure that all our young people receive comprehensive careers guidance which is inclusive of the options available in the South.
“Moreover, this report clearly adds further evidence to the case for increased teaching of modern foreign languages and for the lifting of the cap on student numbers here in Northern Ireland. These are all issues for a restored Executive to urgently address.”