Friday, 18 September 2009

DUP seek university recruitment based on religion

Alex Easton and Jonathan Craig, DUP MLAs for North Down and Lagan Valley, respectively, have tabled an Assembly motion which might have sprung directly from the 1950s. They call on the Minister for Employment and Learning (Sir Reg Empey) “to bring forward measures to attract and ensure that students from a Protestant background are encouraged to opt for universities in Northern Ireland as their first choice rather than universities in the rest of the United Kingdom”.

Setting aside the feasibility of such ‘measures’ in the light of equality legislation (one imagines the message ‘go ye not out among them English’ thundering down, Amish style, from Free Presbyterian pulpits), what type of message does the DUP wish to send out to youngsters? From the unionist perspective, are we advising eighteen year olds not to consider the rest of the UK their home? Do we not believe that integrating with the rest of the Kingdom is an important part of our membership of it?

And why on earth should we be seeking to encourage students of a particular religion to attend a particular university? It is the Minister’s role to persuade students to attend Northern Irish universities, irrespective of their perceived background. By promoting Northern Ireland as a possible destination for prospective students from the rest of the UK, and elsewhere, Empey has taken the correct approach.

If Easton and Craig consider Queens, or the University of Ulster, bastions of Irish republicanism, they should attempt to foster persuasive, constructive unionism amongst the student body, rather than suggesting recruitment drives based on religious background.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

And whats your point?

Surely we in NI should try and encourage more of our young people to stay at home?

Gaelic Con said...

Absolutely correct prognosis in the last line Chekhov.

The trouble is the DUP find it absolutely inconceivable that a Catholic COULD be a Unionist.

Either that or they don't WANT them to be unionist.

Which is it Easton?

Either one, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Kevinho said...

Sounds like the DUP can't accept that they find themselves on the periphery. QUB is a good uni but finds it difficult to recruit students and staff from outside NI. Out of interest, whats the tuition fee situation in NI?

Chekov said...

Queens charges £3225 / year afaik. Think that's the maximum before top ups?

rutherford said...

I see Queen's is now 47th in the Times league table thing - how does that square up with Russell Group membership?

The DUP would be making better use of their platform seeking a better university to draw students in regardless of creed.

Kevinho said...

Yep, that's almost what LSE charges too - this year we charge £3,290 to a home/EU student and £13,680 to an overseas. Was interested to hear if they had the same problem as the Scottish ones of tuition fees for 'domestic' students being restricted to some devolved govt set level, which has caused real funding probs for Scottish unis.

Incidentally, I know a Management Professor from Queens and a lecturer from Ulster (both Northern Irish themselves) and they co-operate closely with academics from Trinty and UCD etc. There really is no such thing as isolation in academia.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with Rutherford: the real issue here is to push QUB (and Ulster) up the quality league table of research universities - and that means giving it enough money to recruit top academics.

The benefits would be (i) to attract more of the best students to NI universities (from NI and elsewhere); (ii) to better attract the top academic talent; (iii) spin off benefits to the economy.

The last of thesse is very important - great research universities have positive offspin for their local economies.

As such student fees should rise in NI when they rise in England. Higher fees will allow QUB the finance to improve its research position in the league table, and maintain teaching quality. The higher fees must be accompanied with assistance so that people from low income families are not put off.


The DUP will oppose this, of course, as its not a populist policy. I hope the UUP would consider it.

There are not enough places for students here. Why do we only have 2 universities when Scotland (3 times as big in population) has at least 11? Should University of Ulster be split into 2 (Magee University, comprising Coleraine and Derry, and Belfast St Annes University, mainly based at the new UU site at Belfast Cathedral) to allow more competition between universities in attracting students?

Slug

PS If you look at the figures, the numbers going from NI to Scottish universities has neen in decline for the last few years.

fair_deal said...

"Setting aside the feasibility of such ‘measures’ in the light of equality legislation" "It is the Minister’s role to persuade students to attend Northern Irish universities, irrespective of their perceived background."

Eyes roll

If you could bother to examine an issue rather than just react because the issue is raised by the DUP then you may have found out that the equality commission says that the poor educational standards of one section of the protestant community and export of talent at the other is having implications for equality in the job market (Bob Collins spoke about this at the recent SDLP civil rights summer school).

However, the issue lies beyond the legal framework and tools the Commission has to work with. So no it didn't spring from the fifties in sprung from the noughties. This isn't the DUP waving the sectarian flag but calling for action on what is an independently identified equality issue.

You would also have found out that a simple measure to start tackling this issue is to remove the cap on local students attending which restricts choice for students. This would not hamper their ability to chose a University elsewhere in the UK nor would it be a breach of Section 75.

However, if the UCUNF position is they don't give a fiddlers about this equality issue then let the Minister say so. However, as I understand it this would be an inaccurate representation of the Minister's views and I don't expect many UUP MLAs to be lining up in today's debate to bash it. Hansard will no doubt tell us.

fair_deal said...

It is also in keeping with the UUP manifesto pledge of:
"securing equitable access to university for all"
Protestans are not securing such access

fair_deal said...

FYI

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said there were 10,000 fewer university places in NI than there were students.

"Our concern is that we are having a lot of very bright students going across the water to university, because they have no choice in many cases," he told BBC News.

"But a very high proportion of those - at least two-thirds - are not coming back.

"It is good to have a flow of people going away and getting new ideas and coming back.

"The problem is that other regions - Scotland, Wales, the north-east of England and many of the states in the US - have strong policies to try and bring those students back with their expertise.

"Unfortunately, at the moment Northern Ireland doesn't have such a policy."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4533530.stm

Chekov said...

SRE has made a fair point, in fair language. He has pointed out that there are too few spaces and too many people stay away, which has an effect on the job market. He didn't embroider his observations with religious categories like the DUP. The intention isn't crude 'standing up for Prods' rhetoric, which is is exactly why your contemptible party forwards motion such as this in this type of language.

fair_deal said...

Chekov

You made three attacks on the DUP motion.

1. The use of the term Protestant in the motion. I must ask why is it ok for Bob Collins to talk in such terms but not the DUP?
2. You raised equality concerns. As I have demonstrated these are spurious as it is the equality commission which has highlighted the issues.
3. That regional versus the national schtick yet Sir Reg and the UUP were doing just that.

Your first is the usual find a means of dressing up something the DUP does as the worst thing since sliced bread. Your second attack line has been shown to be false. Your third attack line is what Sir Reg has publicly advocated - the promotion of the regional.

"contemptible"

It's called intellectual honesty, if the problem lies with Prods say so, if it lies with another section of society say so. PC paranoia around the use of the word Protestant is purile. It also gets in the way of a decent and honest conversation about equality issues.

Chekov said...

1. The use of the term Protestant in the motion. I must ask why is it ok for Bob Collins to talk in such terms but not the DUP?

The implication in the motion was quite clear. I must say that other readers seem to have grasped it instantly. We’re the party for prods. Nothing more and nothing less.

2. You raised equality concerns. As I have demonstrated these are spurious as it is the equality commission which has highlighted the issues.

You mentioned one measure by which these concerns might be addressed. I believe the motion mentioned measures. If we are seeking to boost representation from a particular community in institutions artificially there are likely to be equality concerns.

3. That regional versus the national schtick yet Sir Reg and the UUP were doing just that.

There’s a starkly different emphasis in SRE’s comments. He actually stresses that a broadening of horizons is good for students.

Your first is the usual find a means of dressing up something the DUP does as the worst thing since sliced bread. Your second attack line has been shown to be false. Your third attack line is what Sir Reg has publicly advocated - the promotion of the regional.

The crux of my complaint is a crude piece of religious politicking by a crude sectarian party.

It's called intellectual honesty, if the problem lies with Prods say so, if it lies with another section of society say so. PC paranoia around the use of the word Protestant is purile. It also gets in the way of a decent and honest conversation about equality issues.

What unadulterated garbage! The DUP shouts ‘more Prods in our universities’ and you call it intellectual honesty! It is crude, sectarian and entirely in character. Case closed.