Friday, 9 December 2011

Narnia and the Norn Iron Executive

ROLL-UP, roll-up for yer extra student places! Step forward young man, step forward young woman, because the largesse of the Norn Iron Executive knows no bounds.

Welcome one and all to the wonderful, weird world of Higher Education in Narnia, otherwise known as Stormont.

Just one step through the magic wardrobe at Parliament Buildings and you could get one of the extra 700 places being created in Norn Iron’s universities. The wonderful generosity of Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry means that not only are degree fees £5,500 cheaper than England, but there are even more places!

Excuse us if we swoon here with all this beneficence coming to our young people, it all is a little too much.

But, here comes the proverbial fly in the ointment (go on, you knew there had to be one!). It seems that at the same time that many parts of Belfast will henceforth be known as ‘Student City’ there may be no-one to fill the places.

“Surely not” you say! “Surely so”, we say. Because, Dr Farry’s Executive colleague, Education Minister John ‘High Tower’ O’Dowd is talking about drastic cuts in, not only the number of schools, but of each school’s budget...

So we may have loads of extra places in low-cost science, technology, engineering and medical degrees. But too few teachers and schools to make sure that the young ‘uns get the ‘A’ Levels necessary; that is unless the grammar sector gets some more...oh wait a minute! There be a political minefield ahead.

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