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Dickson Delighted at Funding Announcement for 100 Master’s Degree Bursaries

East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has welcomed a new Stormont Fund that will cover the fees for 100 students to undertake a master's degree in the next academic year.

Speaking after the announcement, Mr Dickson said: “Last week, I met with leaders of Northern Ireland universities and further education colleges to discuss the executive’s response to Covid-19, as well as longer-term planning to ensure that Northern Ireland delivers on education and skills.

“It was a wide ranging conversation, but we did touch on the issues Northern Ireland is facing with the so-called ‘brain-drain’. It’s a thorny issue, but this step of providing bursaries for 100 students, is a good sign that the Department for the Economy acknowledges the problem, and is committed to tackling it head-on.”

Brain-drain is essentially the emigration of qualified people relocating out of their home country.

A recent study by independent think-tank ‘Pivotal’ found that there are currently around 17,500 students from Northern Ireland enrolled in courses in England, Scotland or Wales – the equivalent of an entire university’s worth of young people.

With the trend expected to continue, more than 11,000 of those young people attending universities in Great Britain are not likely to return to Northern Ireland.

Commenting on the report, Mr Dickson said: “As well as being a huge personal loss to Northern Irish communities, the exodus of our young people will unbalance our workforce and cause major issues to the growth of our economy.”

Mr Dickson concluded by saying, “This announcement is certainly a step in the right direction, but there is much more the Minister can be doing to encourage and support students in Northern Ireland, and I urge her to be as ambitious as possible in this area.

“Our young people deserve to proposer and thrive in Northern Ireland, and we should be doing everything we can to nurture and support them in that endeavour.”

The one-year bursaries, which will be administered by Queen's University and Ulster University, include up to 15 places for international students. The remaining 85 places will be offered to students in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The £1.8 million Department for the Economy fund will also award each student a £10,000 grant.

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