Ministers welcome aerospace initiative<br/>

Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry and Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster welcomed the announcement by the Prime Minister to create 500 additional MSc places in aero-engineering at UK universities.

Speaking at the opening of the Farnborough Airshow, the Prime Minister said the introduction of the places, which will be jointly funded by business and government, is in response to industry feedback that the current level of provision of graduate courses at UK universities is not sufficient to meet the future skills needs, competiveness and long-term opportunities for growth of the sector. While university fees for Aerospace MScs vary, courses tend to be expensive and cost is considered to be a key factor in the lack of students applying.

Dr Farry said: “I welcome this initiative announced by the Prime Minister today and I am delighted to be part of a UK-wide programme meeting the higher level skill needs of an industry with a historical connection to Northern Ireland and of particular importance to the local economy.

“My Department will provide funding for 20 bursaries for students wishing to study in Northern Ireland. Queen’s University, Belfast, which has a track record of research excellence in aeronautical engineering, is seeking accreditation from the Royal Aeronautical Society to introduce a new Aerospace MSc from October 2013. The University of Ulster also views this announcement as an opportunity to develop a unique Aerospace MSc programme capitalising on their advanced materials/composites research experience and complimenting that of QUB and the new NIACE centre.

“This initiative fits well with a number of my Department’s key priorities – meeting the need for people with higher level skills as identified in the Skills Strategy, increasing the number of postgraduates in STEM subjects, and supporting more economically relevant activity as highlighted in Graduating to Success, the Department’s Higher Education Strategy.”

Speaking from Farnborough Air Show, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said: “The availability of highly skilled graduates with the necessary engineering expertise is a key issue for the Northern Ireland aerospace industry. For this reason, Invest Northern Ireland is working with the Department for Employment & Learning, the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites & Engineering Centre (NIACE), Queens University, the University of Ulster and Bombardier Aerospace to establish arrangements for the delivery of up to 20 MScs every year over the three year period of the initial Bursary and to secure Northern Ireland’s participation in this exciting new National programme.

‪“Jobs in the aerospace industry are highly skilled and highly paid and add significant benefit to the Northern Ireland economy. An increased knowledge base will generate further opportunities for foreign direct investment as well as growth and innovation within our local sector. I warmly welcome this new initiative.”

Welcoming the announcement, Queen’s University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: “The aerospace industry is worth £1 billion per annum to the Northern Ireland economy and is expected to grow to £2 billion within the next 10 years. Through the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites Centre, Queen’s will play a leading role in shaping technological developments in the aerospace sector, as we have done through our involvement in the Rolls Royce led environmentally friendly engine programme. Northern Ireland will require an additional 7,500 engineers at all levels to support this growth and Queen’s University is committed to playing its part in making this a reality. Through its new MSc in Aerospace Engineering Queen’s will make a valuable contribution to the local economy, considerably strengthen its engagement with local employers and support the Northern Ireland manufacturing sector.”

Dr Alistair McIlhagger, Senior Lecturer at the Engineering Research Institute at the University of Ulster, added: "The University of Ulster through the Faculty of Computing and Engineering has a long history of research collaboration with the aerospace industry and through this has developed educational materials at a range of academic levels including a Masters in Composites/Polymers. Staff have also developed and delivered a bespoke industrial programme through the Bombardier Transformation Programme, now in its fourth year, at differing academic levels."