Stranmillis University College: Financial Viability

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Employment and Learning – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 3rd March 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance 2:30 pm, 3rd March 2015

The Executive have, regrettably, overturned my proposed decision on the premia. The teacher training system in Northern Ireland, however, remains financially unsustainable. There is a pressing need for reform, but reform does not need to be based just on finances. We have to look at how we can ensure that we deliver to world-class standards, address equality issues and teach our students in a shared learning environment. The current system is not delivering on all those points as it should.

The two teacher training colleges are heavily subsidised in three ways. First, they are the only teacher training colleges in the UK to receive premia payments. Secondly, they provide non-initial teacher education subjects as part of a conscious decision to give them other business to maintain their viability. Thirdly, the Department of Education essentially increases the teacher demand model to an artificially high level by giving the colleges more business than the local market can sustain. Even with those subsidies, the colleges' financial sustainability will gradually erode over time. The restoration of the premia will lengthen their future prospects, but we cannot escape the issues and the need for reform.