The Higher Education Big Conversation - Have Your Say

Closed 23 Oct 2015

Opened 6 Oct 2015

Feedback Updated 15 Nov 2018

We Asked

The Big Conversation invited you to have your say about the financial sustainability issues facing the higher education sector in Northern Ireland. In particular, you were invited to consider what alternative models of higher education funding and delivery might work better in the future.

You Said

Hundreds of you responded to the Big Conversation and expressed your concerns about the underinvestment in higher education. The vast majority of you agreed that a sustainable solution for higher education should be a key priority for the Department, and a range of creative and constructive proposals were made with regards to how that might be achieved.

We Did

The responses to the Big Conversation have already helped the Department to make the case for additional funding for higher education in the 2016-17 financial year. Looking beyond that, the Department has published an Options Paper, outlining a range of options regarding the future funding of higher education in Northern Ireland, which will be considered by a new Northern Ireland Executive after the May 2016 elections. The options paper can be viewed on the following link:


Higher education is crucially important to our economy and society in Northern Ireland. But in the context of significant public spending constraints, the sustainability of our higher education system has come under serious pressure over the last number of years. This is now having a significant impact on the size of Northern Ireland’s higher education system, the quality of its provision, and its ability to compete with its closest competitors and on an international stage. The Big Conversation is an innovative and experimental approach to engaging with people about these critical issues.


Why We Are Consulting



The Big Conversation is split into two sections.

This first stage – Did you Know? – tested how much you knew about why we need higher education, how we deliver and fund it, and the impact of our disinvestment.

Now the second stage will allow you to Have your Say about the future of Northern Ireland’s higher education system.

What Happens Next

Thank you for responding and having your say on the future of our higher education system. Your response will now feed into the consideration of a range of options to put Northern Ireland's higher education system on a sustainable footing.


  • Parents
  • Higher education students
  • Prospective higher education students
  • School students
  • Academic staff
  • Research staff
  • Non-academic staff
  • Government Department
  • Local Government
  • Statutory Body
  • Private Sector
  • Research
  • Charity, Community and Voluntary
  • Utility
  • Press/media


  • Higher Education
  • Part-time Study
  • Postgraduate Study
  • Part-time Student Finance
  • Postgraduate Student Finance
  • Student Loans