24th April 2012 12:34 pm
Higher Education Strategy must support students and deliver Students' Charter
On the day that Northern Ireland’s first Higher Education Strategy was launched, NUS-USI President Adrianne Peltz said that the strategy should place a stronger emphasis on support for students to help increase course completion rates. She welcomed plans for a Learner Agreement but said the creation of a Students’ Charter could better protect student rights and also said that plans for work placements must lead to job offers and not be about cheap labour for companies. She said that widening access and participation is also crucial so that people from lower income backgrounds are not deterred from studying at university due to costs.
Adrianne Peltz said: “While it is welcome that we now have a Higher Education strategy here, that in itself is not enough. We need to see strong emphasis placed on increasing support for students. This issue is of vital importance to help us address non-completion of courses due to financial and other pressures which students currently face. The creation of a Learner Agreement could be useful; however, ultimately we would like to see the creation of a Students’ Charter which ensures students receive the highest standard of teaching and are given strong support by institutions during their studies.
“The strategy talks about greater opportunities for work placements. These placements must not be about cheap labour for companies - There have to be employment opportunities at the end of placements where possible. The enthusiasm and expertise of our students must be rewarded by job offers and this cannot be a one-way process. Companies simply must not operate on a take, take, take basis.
“We believe that it is very important that people are given the flexibility to enable them to tailor their study to suit their lifestyle and time pressures, as many people have to hold down full time jobs and are raising a family when studying. The fact that more modular and part-time study have been discussed in the strategy shows that there is a realisation that courses need to be adaptable and must meet the changing needs of people and society today.
“It is very important that we widen access and participation in higher education so that people from lower income backgrounds receive more encouragement and are not deterred from studying at university due to costs.
“International links are also critical to boost our institutions, to optimise the level of opportunities for foreign exchanges for students and also to attract investment and more high skill jobs to Northern Ireland, which will be of great benefit to today’s students in the future. This appears to be an ambitious strategy and I sincerely hope it can deliver positive change in our higher education system.
“Our students are the future leaders of Northern Ireland. It is critical that our higher education system is fit for purpose and meets the 21st century needs of all students. This ultimately must be the end product of the HE strategy. This is a very detailed and comprehensive strategy and I hope its outworking delivers results for all our students across Northern Ireland.”
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