Naomi Long MP said: “I believe that this is a regressive move for students and universities. These plans will potentially commercialise higher education and discourage many talented students from low income backgrounds from fulfilling their ambitions and their potential.
“I do not want a higher education system where choices of whether to study and what to study are influenced more by money than merit. I want us to build on the excellence of our local universities and their successes in widening participation.
“Today’s decision has profound consequences for the Northern Ireland Assembly. There will be some very difficult decisions to be made as the consequences of reduced Government funding affects the block grant from Westminster. The Minister for Employment and Learning will need to look very carefully at how the worst affects of this can be mitigated for local students and universities whilst ensuring that our universities remain well funded and internationally competitive.
“In the short term, there will be an immediate funding gap as, due to the Assembly elections next year, it is almost impossible for new arrangements to be put in place in Northern Ireland on the same timescale as is being proposed in England and Wales, leaving a significant hole in the budget for at least one year. This is something which I have raised with the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills as I am concerned at the impact it will have.”