The principal of the North’s only Catholic higher education institution has expressed concern that an education review could pose a threat to the future of his college.
Prof. Peter Finn, head of St Mary’s University College, Belfast, has
also accused the North’s Higher Education Minister Stephen Farry of
being “on a mission” to shut the teacher training facility.
Minister Farry has said the existing system of five separate teacher
training providers in the North is unsustainable and has appointed an
expert panel to examine the case for reform.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic this week, Prof. Finn said the review
is both “opportunist and politically motivated” and called on the
Northern Ireland Executive to “uphold the right of a small Catholic
higher education institution to continue to exist and to develop in a
“The planned growth of St Mary’s through academic diversification was
stopped by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) in 2008 and
replaced by a funding mechanism which included premia to acknowledge
the small size and specialist nature of the institution,” Prof. Finn
“To threaten to withdraw those premia now would be an act blatantly
designed to force the closure of the institution or its merger, which
amounts to the same thing.
“There is a very important principle at stake here, namely upholding
consociationalism or accommodation of diversity which is at the heart of
the Good Friday Agreement.
“The allocation of student numbers or a funding mechanism are levers
which can be manipulated by those who have power so I have appealed to
political and other leaders to not have the wool pulled over their eyes
by the review which has been put in place by the DEL Minster,” he said.
“Not for the first time in history catholic education has to defend
itself,” he added.