9k Magee places by 2020 will cost £41m

UNIVERSITIES Minister Dr Stephen Farry has estimated increasing places at Magee to 9,400 by 2020 will cost £41.5m and has refused to commit to the target saying he supports the ‘development’ of the One Plan for the city rather than its guaranteed realisation.

Increasing the amount of students at the Londonderry campus is one of the aspirations of the One Plan.

For the last year for which figures are available (2010/11) there were only 2,870 undergraduate full-timers at Magee.

This will have to more than treble within the next ten years if the One Plan is to be satisfied. And it will cost £7,313 to fund each new place.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood asked the Minister if he supported the 9,400 commitment, how much it would cost, and whether he would seek funding from the Executive to make up the numbers.

But Dr Farry only agreed to support the ‘development’ of the “‘One Plan’ for the regeneration of Derry/Londonderry, incorporating the key sites at Fort George and Ebrington.”

He also explained the sums behind the proposed numbers.

Dr Farry stated: “The One Plan has an aspiration for a university campus which serves 9,400 Full-Time Equivalents including 6,000 full-time undergraduate students.

“In the 2010-11 year, the last year for which figures are available, there were 2,870 full-time undergraduate students and 565 part-time students at Magee.

“This would equate to around 3,152 full-time equivalents. By 2015-16 this number will have risen to 3,724 once the 572 additional full-time places allocated in December 2011 and November 2012 have been made available.

“This means that an additional 5,676 full-time equivalent students would be required to reach the 9,400 target by 2020. This represents an average increase of 1,419 places in each of the four years between 2015-16 and 2019-20.”

Dr Farry said the average cost of supporting one full-time undergraduate place in the current academic year was £7,313.

“This includes both institutional grant and student support costs. The full annual cost of an additional 5,676 full-time students would be in the region of £41.5m (assuming each full-time equivalent costs the same as a full-time undergraduate place), or around an additional £10.4m accumulating each year over the four years,” he stated.

He said he was aware of a One Plan target of 1,000 additional undergraduate places by 2015 and that thusfar he has been able to fund 572 additional places for the overall University of Ulster organisation.

“Towards that I have been able to allocate funding for 572 additional places to the University of Ulster,” he said. “I will take every opportunity to secure additional funding for higher education in Northern Ireland and the University of Ulster and by implication its Magee campus should benefit from this.”

He said it was up to the University of Ulster to decide whether those places went to Magee, Coleraine, Jordanstown or York Street.