15th May 2012 2:36 pm
Dissolution of DEL must not marginalise students
On the day that a debate is taking place at the Assembly on the dissolution of the Department for Employment and Learning, President of NUS-USI Adrianne Peltz has said that government here must provide assurances that students related matters will remain a key priority when DEL goes.
Adrianne Peltz said: “The Department for Employment and Learning appears to have been made a scapegoat during political negotiations. What about the students, colleges and universities that rely on the department for funding, policy and legislation? Are they merely the forgotten collateral damage of a major political decision?
“The saying goes that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if January’s Justice Ministry negotiations at Stormont Castle were anything to go by, a government department can certainly be destroyed in half a day’s talks. How can a decision of such magnitude with so many ramifications for people in Northern Ireland be made in this time period?
“Student affairs must not be allowed become the forgotten subject of Northern Ireland politics. Students are Northern Ireland’s future. It is troubling that the dissolution of DEL will see its powers being divided between two big departments, in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department of Education, which are both already looking after many large competing interests.
“For student-related matters like university tuition fees, Education Maintenance Allowance, skills, widening participation and teacher training to be spilt across a number of departments, and to have to compete with other very important subjects which the Ministers in those departments are already focused on is worrying.
“It would be very unfortunate were student issues to slip down the government’s agenda with the culling of DEL, and we will not let the voice of students be drowned out.
“There are a number of other big questions in relation to the dissolution of DEL, like why DEL is the only department up for abolition? Would a holistic approach to rationalisation not help to deliver better government?
“NUS-USI is not interested in the politics of the removal of DEL, we simply want students to have their needs met, and their voice heard at the highest level of government. It is now incumbent on the Stormont Executive to provide concrete assurances that the dissolution of DEL will not result in student welfare issues being sidelined by government. Further and higher education are the lynchpins of our economy and were these matters to be marginalised through this shakeup, the people of Northern Ireland would suffer greatly.”
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