TWO local principals are confident their pupils will continue to attain places at the two leading universities in the North despite student numbers being cut by 1,100.
As part of the fall-out from the draft budget the Department of Education and Learning is set to lose £81m in its budget, resulting in our two major universities cutting student places from September.
Elizabeth Armstrong, principal of Enniskillen Collegiate admitted Queen’s University and the University of Ulster were popular choices among her students.
“We have noticed an increase in the number of Year 14 students opting to study at Queen’s and the University of Ulster over the past few years: The strong reputation of our local universities and the range of courses available are a significant factor alongside the reduced fees. However overall our pupils still opt for a wide range of universities across the UK and Ireland.”
When asked about the impact of the cuts on local students she told the Herald at this stage it was hard to judge.
“In terms of the recent cut in the number of places available at the universities it is difficult to quantify fully the impact of this until we know which faculties and disciplines will have fewer places. It is interesting to note that quite a few of our students already have offers from Queen’s and the University of Ulster in this year’s UCAS cycle.”
Portora Royal School principal Neil Morton concurred with Ms Armstrong regarding the popularity of studying close to home.
“The local universities are increasingly popular with our students, particularly engineering courses. This is largely a function of the lower fees and the potential to have the university experience somewhere and still return home at weekends with dirty laundry.”
He does not expect the cut in the number of university places available to have an impact on Portora students, most of whom he believes will continue to achieve A Level grades to enable them to continue winning places in a more competitive environment.
“We are fortunate in that the results in our STEM subjects are very strong. Our Technology department must be the best in the country. I expect that to be sure of a place in courses at Queen’s, a student will have to achieve A and B grades over three subjects . If they have a fourth AS grade at C or better, this will prove to be very supportive of their application.”
When asked if the cuts could encourage a further Fermanagh brain drain, Mr Morton on the contrary, said it presented an opportunity to grow South West College.
“I think it offers opportunities for South West College to develop new Foundation Degree courses to meet the needs of students whose A levels are inadequate for courses at Queen’s and the University of Ulster.”
He did however recognise one potential problem.
“One possible impact will be the subjects the South West College can offer to the schools through the Fermanagh Learning Community. It is likely that the college will have to withdraw courses which are proving too expensive for them, like The Moving Images. Up to now, they have tried to accommodate all requests from schools. With the cutbacks they are not likely to be able to continue to act so generously. This will impact on the range of subjects available for post-16 and A level study.”
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