The percentage of school leavers who intend to attend university degree courses continues to increase in Northern Ireland.
Trial figures from the Ministry of Education show that the percentage of students who say they go on to higher education fell from 43.1% of leavers in 2017/18 to almost half to 47.9% in 2019/20.
At the same time, the number of school leavers who intend to pursue vocational education at one of Northern Ireland’s regional colleges is falling, from 33.5% of school leavers four years ago at 29.2% in 2019/20.
The statistics were released by Education Minister Michelle McIlveen after a question from SDLP MP Justin McNulty and show that there is still work to be done to promote the benefits of the continuing education system.
If we look at the physical number of school leavers heading to university, the overall figure has increased from 9,283 in 2017/18 to 9,907 in 2019/20. At the same time, the number of people intending to pursue higher education increased from 7,225 to 6,039.
There was a sharp increase in the proportion of school leavers whose destination was registered as higher education in 2019/20.
The ministry said this appears to be the result of an increase in the number of students achieving the A-level grades required for admissions and an increase in the maximum number of students allowed into higher education institutions in Ireland. North.
Where Northern Ireland begins to succeed is in keeping young people leaving school in the country to continue their education.
Concerns have been expressed about a ‘brain drain’ with students choosing to travel to the UK or further afield to continue their education, but statistics show more and more are choosing to stay at home.
The number of students who intend to stay in Northern Ireland to attend university has increased from 67.3% in 2017/18 to 73.5% in 2019/20.
Those looking to travel to other parts of the UK to take university courses declined over the same period, from 30.2% in 2017/18 to 24.3% in 2019/20.
There has been a similar drop in the number of people intending to travel further for continuing education courses.
Some 89.6% intended to stay in Northern Ireland in 2019/20, up from 87.2% two years earlier.
Last month, the head of North West College said people in the higher education sector were ready to offer more to provide the talent needed for Northern Ireland’s economic future, but additional support for the sector was needed.
“Each year our industry, which injects £ 126million per year into the local economy, helps over 60,000 students reach their full potential regardless of the career path they choose,” said Leo Murphy , director general and director of the college.
“This is made possible through dedicated courses and relationships with over 9,000 employers across the country who are well positioned to provide valuable on-the-job training to our learners and enable them to be ‘ready for work. »As well as a training of leading speakers. our students in what our employers need.
“Reviews of the education system show that after 16 years more guidance and investment needs to be directed towards vocational studies that offer young people options beyond academia and provide the key skills and knowledge to take on roles in many key sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, fintech and healthcare.
“This can be done through the in-depth implementation of the long-awaited 14-19 strategy and investment in courses that provide students with access to that real-world work experience that sets our learners apart and equips them with the skills. vital to making them the main drivers of our economy. “
Work must begin to ensure that young people are informed about the range of resources, courses and qualifications on offer at the six higher education institutions, he said.
He added, “There is a lot of talk about the perceived ‘brain drain’ of our young people leaving for college. Our solution to this problem is to increase awareness of the local continuing education system and what it can offer our young learners at a fraction of the cost.
“Our schools have a duty to work in partnership with local higher education institutions to provide our young people with information on the options that are best for them. This will help put some of our younger generations on the right path, which will both be good for them and create added value for our local economy and, therefore, society. “