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Explanatory Memorandum to Higher Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2005

Background and Policy Objectives

4.This Order is intended to assist in the implementation of policies which are aimed at increasing the funding available to higher education institutions. It requires higher education institutions that are charging tuition fees above a basic rate to have an approved plan and allows students taking a gap year to pay the fees that would have been in place had they started their course in 2005.

5.The Order also contains provisions relating to new powers to share information relating to student support and to the effect of bankruptcy on the liability to repay student loans. The Higher Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 provides the same treatment for higher education institutions and students as the Higher Education Act 2004. The main elements of the Higher Education (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 are that it gives powers to:-

  • require providers of higher education courses charging variable fees above the basic rate to have a plan (known informally as an Access Agreement) approved by the Department and to abide by that plan;

  • establish an independent panel to consider appeals by institutions whose plans are not approved;

  • introduce a requirement that student support authorities share information;

  • allow students taking a gap year to pay fees at the rate that would have been in place had they started their course in 2005.

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