Higher education finance and governance

The primary aim of the Department’s policy for higher education is to promote and sustain the development of an internationally competitive Higher Education sector, accessible to all who are able to benefit and which meets the needs of the Northern Ireland economy and wider society.

Funding higher education providers

In support of the provision of higher education in Northern Ireland, the Department provides significant funding each year to Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, the Open University, St Mary’s University College and Stranmillis University College. Higher education is also funded and delivered through the six regional Further Education colleges.

While the universities are autonomous bodies, with responsibility for how they make use of their funding, their allocations in recent years were made in the context of the following aims:

  • to enhance universities’ research capabilities and research quality;
  • to support the universities in achieving long-term sustainability;
  • to exploit fully the contribution which the universities can make to the economy and, in particular, to increase their responsiveness to the needs of business and the community;
  • to increase participation and widen access, particularly from groups who are under-represented in higher education;
  • to improve quality and standards of teaching and learning alongside promoting greater flexibility in delivery;
  • to ensure effective governance of all the universities’ affairs.

Legislation

Grant funding

The Department makes grant payments to higher education institutions under: 

The universities

The universities operate under the provisions of their establishing Charters.

The university colleges

St Mary’s University College has its origins in a training college established in 1900 by the Dominican Sisters on the present Falls Road site for the education of women students and their preparation for teaching in primary schools. The college has developed and evolved to also include training for male students (for some years on a separate site) and preparation for teaching in secondary schools.

Stranmillis University College was founded as a non-denominational institution in 1922 to provide state-funded teacher training alongside that already available at the then existing St Mary’s College.

Both institutions have since become academically recognised as university colleges of the Queen’s University of Belfast. The University has overarching responsibility for academic quality and standards and validates the courses offered by both institutions.

In 2005 Stranmillis was incorporated in its present form under the provisions of

As from 1 April 2012, Stranmillis has been classified as a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) of the Department.

Governance

The universities

The universities are governed in accordance with their Charter and Statutes.

The Governing Body of Queen’s University Belfast (Senate) consists of 27 members:

The Governing Body of Ulster University (Council) consists of 17 members:

The Governing Body of the Open University (Council), operating across the UK, consists of 25 members:

The Department for has no role in the appointment of members to the university governing bodies.

The university colleges

St Mary’s University College is governed in accordance with its Scheme of Management.

  • St Mary’s University College – (No web link available)

The Governing Body consists of 4 ex-officio Governors (including the Principal); 8 nominated Governors and 6 representative Governors (18 in total).

The Department appoints 4 of the representative Governors through open competitions run in accordance with the code of practice issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland (CPANI). Members are normally appointed for an initial period of 5 years but can be re-appointed for a second term. The Department has no role in the appointment of the other members of the Governing Body.

Stranmillis University College is governed in accordance with the Colleges of Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 and its Instrument of Government and Articles of Government.

The College’s Governing Body consists of: 2 ex-officio Governors (the Principal and the President of the Students’ Union), 2 staff representatives and 10 representatives of business, industry or any profession.

The 10 representatives (including the Chair) are selected through open competitions run by the Department in accordance with the code of practice issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland (CPANI). Members are normally appointed for an initial period of 4 years but can be re-appointed for a second term.

While the Department formally appoints all members of the Stranmillis Governing Body, it has no role in the selection of the ex-officio or staff representative members. 

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