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Adams welcomes Empey commitment on Conversion Fund for St. Mary’s

23 June, 2008

West Belfast MP Gerry Adams MLA, has welcomed the announcement in the Assembly today, by the Minister for Employment and Learning Reg Empey, that he is to extend the conversion fund for St. Mary's University College for an additional year.

This means that the fund will now run for two years.

There has been widespread concern about decisions by the Minister, particularly on limiting enrolment for the Liberal Arts course provided by St. Mary's, could have a serious and detrimental impact on the viability of the college.

Today's announcement is the outworking of intense discussions that have been going on involving Gerry Adams, Sue Ramsay the Chair of the DEL committee in the Assembly, St. Mary's and Reg Empey and the Minister of Education Catriona Ruane.

Mr. Adams said: "I am hopeful that today's announcement, along with ongoing intense discussions, will secure the future of St. Mary's and its Liberal Arts degree course, as well as increases in other courses."

Note to editor:

St. Mary's is an important educational resource in west Belfast. It makes a vital contribution to the catholic maintained school sector.

In recent years the University College has demonstrated an increasing ability to adapt to circumstances and to respond to change. It is at the centre of An Ceathrú Gaeltachta, and the strongest, urban Irish language community in Ireland.

The College has responded to the decline in demand for teacher training by introducing non-teacher training courses. Its Liberal Arts degree is one of the courses favoured by young people from west and north Belfast.

As a result St. Mary's has earned the distinction of becoming the University with the second highest level of participation of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds in universities throughout the six counties, and Britain.

The official statistics demonstrating this were released recently by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), which measured the rate of participation.

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