Derry City Council is taking Universities Minister Dr Stephen Farry’s advice and carrying out a proper economic appraisal of the proposed expansion of Magee to 9,400 student places by 2020.
The local authority is inviting tenders for the contract to carry out the appraisal, which is scheduled for completion in September.
Last summer Dr Farry warned the One Plan’s 9.4k student target for Magee by 2020 was “aspirational” and not part of the current programme for Government, which runs to next year.
Dr Farry said an economic appraisal and full business case would be needed to prove that there is sufficient demand for higher education places in Londonderry.
It would also need to prove the expansion of Magee would not be to the detriment of higher education in other parts of Northern Ireland.
He warned: “There is a risk that a business case would be unable to prove this and approval for expansion may not follow.”
Derry City Council now intends hiring consultants to “carry out an economic appraisal on the requirements of the Treasury’s Green Book (2003) and the Department of Finance’s (DfP) guidance for the University of Ulster (UU) campus in Londonderry to serve 9,400 Full Time Equivalent (including a maximum of 6,000 as full-time undergraduate) students” by 2020.
Once this is completed “the appraisal will be submitted by the UU to the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) for consideration with the objective of securing commitment from DEL and the NI Executive for inclusion of the preferred option in the next Comprehensive Spending Review and Programme for Government 2015/16 to 2020.”
In 2011 Dr Farry said it would cost £8m a year to fund 1000 proposed extra students at Magee.