Strike action in higher education

Lecturers' union opposes private university

20 February 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

UCU today said plans for a private university in Northern Ireland were ill-advised and contrary to what the country needs or what people want.

The news come on the same day that a UCU poll revealed that the general public vehemently opposes an increase in the role of private companies in higher education. Just one in six (17%) said they would like to see an increase in the role of the private sector in UK universities, with over a third (35%) calling for a decrease.

Renee Prendergast, UCU president at Queens University, said: 'The north does not have a strong tradition of independent education and we believe these plans are ill-advised and not what Northern Ireland needs.

'These plans have nothing to do with improving or maintaining the quality of education provided. It is clearly a case of someone spotting what they see as a nice little earner and trying to exploit it for as much money as they can. UCU has been arguing for sometime that we need more university places to meet the demand for local students and this latest announcement vindicates that position.'

UCU joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Our universities are a public good. The focus of higher education should be to provide a learning environment for students, not an earning environment for privateers. Private companies that view our universities as cash cows should think again. In England we have already seen worrying instances of private providers employing less-qualified staff on lower salaries.

'Higher education in Northern Ireland has a proud international reputation and we should not allow it to be put at risk by those more interested in profit than education. UCU will be pressing the political parties to push higher and further education up the priority list following next month's Assembly elections.'

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