Why are so many people leaving Northern Ireland for university?

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Leanne Thorpe discusses why she thinks a third of NI students leave to study elsewhere in the UK. Photo Source: The York ME Community.

Leanne Thorpe, Contributor. 

Recently, the BBC published an article focusing on how a third of Northern Irish students have started studying in other parts of the UK. Looking at data from another source, but for the same years, (2016-2017) 4% of English students are studying somewhere else in the UK, 6% of Scots, 31% of Welsh and 27% of Northern Irish. University for everyone means something a little different; for me it meant a way to kick-start an independent life, and a whole new lifestyle. For others it is merely a way to get higher education, while still remaining in the place you know and love. But I think those kinds of emotions didn’t completely dictate the decisions of the third who left Northern Ireland.

Today our generation has to be a lot more conscious of our unstable future. Tuition fees and their resulting debt, have got to be part of that decision to leave. If you are English, universities will charge you the full £9250, and Welsh people are similar, regardless of where you go. Scottish students get it free if they stay in their country. And of course, we all know here the locals get it for half price!

However, I think this is the prevailing reason why students leave; no Welsh or Northern Irish universities are above Queen’s at 36th, according to The Complete University Guide. Above that, Scottish universities have 5 places. England has the rest of the top-ranking. So, Scottish people stay in their country because it’s free, and everyone else stays, or goes, to where all the top universities are. The numbers support this: of the third who left Northern Ireland, 72% of them were studying in England.

This tells us a lot about the education culture that our generation is feeling; we are all fighting for the best places at university, hoping that the degree at the end of it will be worth the £27,750 debt. This to me screams panic; we don’t know our future, and so we’re only hoping that we’ve put ourselves in the best position to succeed in life. What a grim thought.

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