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Economy Minister Diane Dodds has outlined the need for more national support for the local higher education sector as a result of Covid-19.

The UK Government today announced a UK-wide package to address the ongoing admissions issues regarding entry into higher education institutions across the UK this year.

Minister Dodds said: “I welcome a coordinated approach across the UK higher education institutions to address the unwelcome practices of some higher education institutions pressurising students with unconditional and incentivised offers this year. No student should be placed under any more pressure this year than they already find themselves in as a result of the pandemic.”

However, concerns remain regarding the financial stability of the higher education sector in regards to Covid-19.

“Whilst the financial measures are welcome, I will continue to press the UK Government on the need for additional funding measures to address the wider financial pressures the higher education sector here faces as a result of Covid-19.

“Our local higher education sector is a key contributor to the local economy and will be of vital importance to our economic recovery after this pandemic.

“We will need the UK Government to commit further funding in the coming months to address the specific financial pressures our sector is facing. This must include measures to stabilise the sector and support the important field of research and development.

“I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the position of the Northern Ireland sector is fully understood and taken into account in all future discussions with the UK Government regarding this issue and I will endeavour to deliver on behalf of our sector.”

The package of measures announced today by the UK Government draws on proposals from the UK universities sector to stabilise university admissions this autumn.

Within the package, the UK Government has confirmed that higher education providers are eligible to apply for its support packages developed in response to Covid-19, including business loan support schemes.

Further guidance has been published as to how providers should access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to safeguard staff jobs.

Tuition fee payments will also be bought forward to help universities better manage financial risks over the autumn.

Further information on the full announcement can be found at: