By Irish Echo Staff
Mitchell scholars will not be studying in Northern Ireland in the 2016-17 academic year.
Given severe cuts in Northern Ireland’s budget, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, has informed the US-Ireland Alliance that his department will have to end funding for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship program, this according to a statement from the Alliance which runs the scholarships named after former U.S. senator George Mitchell.
“This does not affect the Mitchell Scholarship program in Ireland, only Northern Ireland. And we will not be decreasing the overall number of scholarships we will award,” said Alliance president, Trina Vargo.
“We share the minister’s view that this is an unfortunate situation. As we have been following the budgetary crisis in Northern Ireland, this news did not come as a surprise.
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“For those who do not follow Northern Ireland politics, there is an overall budget impasse. The entire higher education system has suffered and universities in Northern Ireland have had to decrease their student numbers as a result,” Vargo said.
And she continued: “While this will not affect the two Mitchell Scholars who will attend Queen’s beginning in the fall, it does mean that applicants for the next Mitchell Scholarship selection round (those who will apply by the October deadline) will not have the option of selecting Queen’s University Belfast or the University of Ulster for their year of study (fall 2016-spring 2017).
“As most do not submit their applications until September, they will have time to reconsider the many options in the Republic of Ireland. For those few who have already submitted, we will review applications and if Northern Ireland universities were selected, they will have the opportunity to resubmit.
“Queen’s and the University of Ulster are great partners in this program and we know that they find themselves in much the same position. The Mitchell Scholars who have attended Northern Ireland’s universities, and all the Mitchells who have visited during their year on the island, have been greatly enriched by the experience.
Vargo said that the Alliance was working to restore the program’s North connection.
“While the timing of the selection process is such that we have had to take this immediate step, we will continue to reach out to individuals and companies that may desire to see Northern Ireland remain a part of this prestigious program in hopes that interest and resources will reverse this situation in time to include Northern Ireland Mitchell Scholars in the Class of 2018,” she said.