University Campuses / Religious Breakdown

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 8th April 2002.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:15 pm, 8th April 2002

16. asked the Minister for Employment and Learning what is the religious breakdown of students on university campuses.

(AQO 1072/01)

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

Religion is recorded only for Northern Ireland-domiciled students at Northern Ireland higher education institutions. A table giving the breakdown of religion by campus has been placed in the Assembly Library. However, the information is incomplete, because the question is not compulsory and, on average, 26% of students have not responded.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I have not really got an answer. I understand that tables are available, and I have seen a reply from the University of Ulster’s Magee campus. The religious breakdown in that university shows that a very small proportion of the students are from the Protestant community. There is a chill factor in universities for Protestant students, and I want to know what the Minister intends to do to encourage more young Protestant students to take up third-level education in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

As I have already said, the accuracy of the tables cannot be guaranteed because it is not a compulsory question. However, I have to say that religion is not a factor in the universities’ admissions procedure. Under section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, universities have a duty to ensure equality of opportunity and a neutral environment.

Photo of Lord John Kilclooney Lord John Kilclooney UUP

Does the Minister agree that the idea of a chill factor for Protestants in Northern Ireland universities is greatly exaggerated, and that there has been a considerable increase in the number of Protestant students from grammar schools throughout Northern Ireland attending Queen’s University of Belfast and the University of Ulster?

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

I do not disagree with the Member. Like him, I have to go by the tables, and it is difficult to have accurate information. However, I do not believe that there is a chill factor in Queen’s University.