Universities in Northern Ireland should have been much more vocal about the implications Brexit would have for their students, the leader of the Stronger In campaign in the North has said.
Tom Kelly was speaking as he addressed a recent Brexit debate held at Pilot’s Row as part of the Gasyard Feile.
Mr Kelly said he felt the universities had not been to the fore of the argument for remaining in the EU.
“I was disappointed in universities in Northern Ireland not being more vocal. They were afraid to upset the Stormont regime,” he claimed.
“The two main beneficiaries should have been out crying from the rooftops”, he said.“Already they are telling us they are struggling for funding, that they are going to have to put up fees”.
Those attending were told that further and higher education colleges also could have been more visible in the lead up to the vote.
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson spoke at the debate about how in terms of research & development alone, groups associated with Queen’s University and Ulster University were in receipt of multi-million pound support from the European Union.
Ms Anderson cited one case however whereby a letter of offer has been partially stalled because as yet there is no certainty as to whether the North will be in the EU after 2018. “This is already happening before Article 50 is triggered,” she warned.
She said that in light of this,the voluntary and community sector, which are heavily reliant on funding from Europe “are going to be in a mess” if Brexit is triggered.
Tom Kelly agreed: “The reality is there is only set funding for two more years and you can’t make any long term planning.”
The North, like Scotland, voted to remain in the European Union, while England and Wales voted to leave.