Northern Ireland Assembly
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Open University is important part of Northern Ireland higher education

The Assembly's Employment and Learning Committee has welcomed a move to officially integrate the Open University into Northern Ireland's higher education system.

The move came as funding for the Open University transferred from Westminster to the Department of Employment and Learning which already funds the other Northern Ireland based universities. Some 4,500 local students currently study over 5,000 modules using flexible distance learning techniques.

Chairperson of the Employment and Learning Committee, Robin Swann MLA said: "I am very pleased that funding for the Open University is now being brought formally into the Department of Employment and Learning. This move recognises the important place that the Open University has in the higher education mix for Northern Ireland.

"We have a world class higher education system and the Open University is a no less prestigious institution. For some people, particularly those juggling family or employment responsibilities, it represents the best way to improve skills and qualifications. For some it may be the only way that they can work at their own speed and convenience.

"Another advantage to the Open University's offerings, and one that can not be overlooked in these financially challenging times, is that the cost of completing a degree is attractive; coming in at between £4,200 and £5,700. This compares very competitively with other local institutions and could help encourage people to begin to study for higher qualifications.

"If we want to improve the skills and qualifications of all our people we need to make available as broad a range of options as possible. This move acknowledges what the Open University can bring to the mix of higher education and we, as a Committee, welcome it."


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