University of Ulster featured heavily in the topical questions posed to Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry. When pressed by Thomas Buchanan on what the department was doing to address UUJ’s fall in the last six years from 54 to 88 in ‘The Guardian’ league tables, Mr Farry assured the member that heavy investment is being placed in the Higher Education sector and that we shouldn’t place too much importance in the league tables and how they are measured. Samuel Gardiner also quizzed the Minister on how the lack of crèche facilities at University Ulster, Magee is impacting on the study options for parents.
During the scheduled Oral Questions, Mr Farry provided an extensive update on apprenticeships in Northern Ireland, highlighting it as a “cost-effective way for a business to grow”. Currently there are only 11 apprentices per 1000 workers but it is hoped that the major review launched in February 2013 will result in new proposals to help this number increase. The Minister also stressed that there should be a “parity of esteem” between apprenticeships and Higher Education that will see apprenticeships become a plausible alternative to the traditional route of Higher Education.
ICT and teacher training were also on the agenda. The Minister revealing that ICT is a priority sector in the department and how new pilot academies on data analytics and cloud technology aim to take advantage of the 24% increase in applications for IT degrees.