More fireworks expected as schools challenge public sector leaders over tuition fees


More fireworks are expected tomorrow (Tuesday 8 November) when pupils from St Columb’s College in Derry challenge leaders of Northern Ireland’s public sector in a debate at Queen’s University Belfast chaired by former-MP Lembit Öpik. 

The pupils will argue for this motion during a special debate against a team of prominent public sector leaders organised by the Chairs’ Forum and CIPFA.

The young team will be advocating scrapping tuition fees in favour of traditional public funding of higher education. The schools’ team will be cheered on parliamentary style by a hall full of students from schools across Northern Ireland and from Queen’s University Belfast who will participate in the debate to support their peers. 

Not to be intimidated by these young minds, Chairs will robustly argue for the changing face of higher education and the need for university tuition fees.

Bangor born, former MP and political celebrity Lembit Öpik will keep the event in order and will need to call upon all his parliamentary experience, as well as a touch of humour, to chair the debate.

Seán Hogan, Chairman of the Chairs’ Forum, said:

“This unique debate will give a strong voice to our young people – Northern Ireland’s leaders of tomorrow.  It will give them the opportunity to present their views on issues that are hitting the top of the public’s agenda.”


Notes to Editors:

About the event

The debate is being organised by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) in partnership with the Chairs’ Forum and Queen’s University Management School.  To represent Northern Ireland schools, St Columb’s College won an essay writing competition on the theme of the debate. 

About the Chairs’ Forum

The Forum is an influential group of Chairpersons of public bodies in Northern Ireland with over 40 members and is the first association of its type in the United Kingdom.  The purpose of the Forum is to support and enable chairs of public bodies appointed through the public appointment process to maximise their effectiveness as chairs.


CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. Our 14,000 members work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed.