Belfast papers reveal fears over exodus of Protestant students in 1982

Vice-chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast was asked for view on Northern Ireland ‘exporting its brainpower’

Sir Peter Froggat of Queen’s University Belfast said there was a considerable exodus to other British universities, especially on the part of the Protestant community

Sir Peter Froggat of Queen’s University Belfast said there was a considerable exodus to other British universities, especially on the part of the Protestant community

Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 01:00

British fears of a Protestant “brain drain” from Northern Ireland in the early 1980s were discussed at a meeting between a Northern Ireland Office official and the vice-chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Sir Peter Froggat, in 1982, according to papers released in Belfast.

In a memo dated April 5th, 1982, the official, WE Bell, said he had asked the vice-chancellor for his view on the extent to which Northern Ireland was “exporting its brainpower”.

In reply, Sir Peter had said the extent to which grammar school pupils opted for university education in Britain was well documented. This was partly the result of “free trade” – an incentive for the best qualified candidates to bid for places in English and Scottish universities. But he said the tradition was now reinforced by a considerable exodus to other British universities, especially on the part of the Protestant community.

Mr Bell told Northern secretary Jim Prior: “I regard this discussion as another step towards assessing quietly the extent to which the Protestant community is ‘opting out’ of Northern Ireland.” He said he intended to consider potential counter-measures.