Ahead of Thursday’s vote in the House of Commons, the DUP Parliamentary party gave the following statement:
“DUP MPs will be voting against the Government today in an attempt to stop their ill thought out proposals to increase tuition fees which will have a detrimental impact on the growth of the NI economy and that of the whole of the United Kingdom. We recognise the importance of higher education which improves the skills base of our economy; attracts inward investment and promotes research and the opportunities that come from that and we must not put that at risk.
However not only will it have a detrimental impact on our economy but it will also put higher education out of the reach of many. Indeed the Government has clearly recognised that increasing fees will have a negative impact on those from less well of backgrounds and will make them more reluctant to take up higher education opportunities. This is not acceptable. Our view is that people should obtain higher education not on their ability to pay but on their academic ability.
Any decision made at Westminster will of course affect Northern Ireland policy and there have already been financial consequences and a budget reduction of tens of millions of pounds based on the assumption that this bill will be passed by the House of Commons tonight. People in Northern Ireland should be mindful of the fact that had our own Employment and Learning Minister been successful in his bid to be elected as a UCUNF MP he would have been whipped in to supporting these regressive measures.
We believe that investment in Higher Education is of strategic importance to the growth of our economy and if there is a funding problem we should first of all look at how the cost of universities themselves can be trimmed. Inflated costs must not be passed onto students but instead universities should look at how they can be more efficient and how they can trim wasteful expenditure and some areas of spending.
I hope that more Tories and Liberal Democrats join us in opposing this increase in fees.”