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Vital first step to achieving equal access to third level opportunities North and South – Currie

7th December 2023 - Emer Currie

Minister Simon Harris and a Universities Ireland Working Group have taken a vital first step to harmonise third level opportunities North and South, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Emer Currie, Fine Gael Spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said a new report from Minister Harris and Universities Ireland has removed some of the barriers for Northern Irish students to study in Ireland.

“Being able to access third level places North and South expands opportunities and perspectives and gets to the heart of cross-border co-operation as envisioned in the Good Friday Agreement.

“This is an exceptionally important issue for our young people and I’m really grateful to my colleague, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, and the Working Group for prioritising it.

“Minister Harris has today published a working group report tasked with making recommendations on the points equivalencies used for A Levels in the North and the Leaving Certificate in the South.

“The aim is to make it easier for students to take up higher education courses in the South and likewise for students coming from the South to pursue third level education options in the North. I hope that the recommendations contained in the report are implemented.

“The numbers really speak for themselves. Student mobility North and South has been dismally low. In 2020/21, according to an ESRI report, just 0.6% of Northerners came South to further their education.

“That amounted to just 1,255 students while nearly 14,000 went to the UK. Systemic barriers have stopped students who live on this island and who want to study in Dublin, Cork, Galway or elsewhere from being able to do so and I think we’ve all lost out because of those missed connections.

Senator Currie who has raised the disconnect between the two systems in the Seanad and with Minister Harris continued: “I very much welcome the Reports initial recommendations around points equivalences as well as giving more choice to students in how they get those points and access places in the south.

“A focus on awareness building of the CAO system in the North is also very encouraging. Altogether it’s a vital first step in harmonising third level opportunities North and South.

“25 years ago we recognised the potential of reconciliation politics and building better co-operation North and South. We really need to get back to that.  There’s so much more that we can do,” Senator Currie concluded.

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