Friday, 20 August 2010

NI 1 rest of UK nil

WE have a lot of smart young people in Northern Ireland. This week ‘A’ level results showed our students consistently outscored their counterparts in England and Wales.

Grades were higher and a shed load of young people recorded A* and A grades.

Encouragingly there was an upsurge in students taking the science, technology and maths subjects.

Disappointingly there are too few places for our students in our universities. Those battling through clearance to find a slot somewhere – anywhere – deserve our thoughts and sympathy. But most of all they deserve our admiration after two years of hard slog studying.

The cap on university places has meant that there are too few places for too many students.

Surely this is wrong-headed planning for the future.

Yes, there are some daft courses out there...and please we don’t need any more media studies graduates, but most courses teach critical thinking along with the skills of their chosen niche.

Such critical thinking may invite some to consider whether university funding is a devolved matter or not.

If Northern Ireland is to develop and build for the future, the Department of Employment and Learning must, surely, invest in our bright students.

They are the ones that can help economically; they learn the skills that can help those not fortunate enough to leave school with ‘A’ levels, or even GCSE’s.

Instead there is a paucity of places and an apparently shrinking budget in too many courses.

Critical thinking students may, at some point, ponder the fact that India produces more Maths PHDs in a year than the entire EU in five years.

The Asiatic and Sub-Asiatic countries realised years ago that the more graduates and post-graduates that can be supported, the more their country as a whole will benefit.

While China, Korea and India are now close to becoming the real power-houses of world creativity and achievement, we here, are seemingly denying students opportunities to study at home.

Instead we have slavishly followed the path of cuts to third level education and have allowed education to become embroiled in seemingly endless rows and bickering. At least some undergraduates may be able to write a thesis on how it got this bad.

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