IN a defiant move, the ‘University for Derry’ group has urged the Northern Ireland Executive and the University of Ulster to fully implement the One Plan programme for the expansion of Magee campus, which would result in 9,400 full time equivalent students by 2020.
A Freedom of Information Act request by U4D established that Queen’s University had received 180 of the 500 additional students in the recent allocation, yet had made no formal or written request for extra places. It transpired that the response from the Department for Employment and Learning also made clear that the University of Ulster has not made official representations since submitting its Strategic Outline Case.
In subsequent communication, DEL officers defended their decision to not allocate a greater proportion of additional places to the University of Ulster for use at the Magee campus, saying: “At present, only a Strategic Outline Case has been agreed in relation to the potential expansion of that campus. That in itself would not constitute a sufficient basis for any exclusive award of additional places to one institution or to one campus. That could only be determined following the submission of a full business case and assuming a positive outcome of a rigorous economic appraisal of that proposal.
“The University of Ulster did not make direct representations to me or my officials on the places until Deirdre Heenan joined a cross-party delegation of Foyle MLAs.”
Responding, U4D chairma,n Padraig Canavan, said: “It is frustrating and absurd that the Department for Employment and Learning blames the lack of greater progress on the expansion of Magee on the University of Ulster - while the University blames the Department for Employment and Learning.
“Now is the time to break to log-jam. We urge both parties to act urgently to enable the Magee expansion to take place on the timetable and to the size specified in the One Plan. To enable this to happen, we call on the Executive to commit explicitly to the implementation of the One Plan with regard to the Magee expansion. And we call on the University of Ulster to produce a full business plan that is acceptable to the Department for Employment and Learning for the expansion of places at Magee to the 9400 full time equivalent level by 2020, along with the establishment of the proposed Institute for Sustainable Technologies and the Institute of Health and Wellbeing.
“To avoid further delays the Executive should also explicitly request the University of Ulster to urgently submit this business plan.
“We also call on Derry City Council and Ilex to support the University and DEL to make progress on these matters, including by holding discussions with the Special European Union Programmes Body regarding the possibility of Interreg funding and with appropriate charitable trusts for support. We appreciate the engagement of Foyle MLAs and urge them to join with us in redoubling efforts to achieve the goal of making Derry a proper ‘University City’.
“Insufficient progress is being made on university expansion at present. We reiterate yet again that the substantial expansion of university provision is the single most important initiative possible to improve the economy in Derry-Londonderry. That was made clear in the One Plan, backed by strong economic evidence.”