A burgeoning social media campaign demanding the immediate expansion of Magee was launched at the weekend in advance of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Lockwood report, which rejected Londonderry as a site for Northern Ireland’s second university.
The Facebook page ‘50 years on, let’s get it done. Expand Magee now’ attracted nearly 2,000 supporters within days of going live on Saturday.
A spokesperson for the campaign said: “Next Tuesday (February 10) is the 50th anniversary of the publication of the infamous Lockwood Report. “This shamefully recommended the siting of a new university campus in Coleraine, turning its back on the obvious choice of Derry’s Magee College.
“Five decades on and people are rightly asking how much has changed. Report after report urges major investment at Magee as a catalyst for economic and social growth in our city, yet its development has been slow and meagre.
“The purpose of this campaign is to highlight the positive opportunities ambitious investment at Magee can deliver. The people of Derry - all of us together - have to keep pressing the Stormont Executive and Ulster University to deliver for Magee, immediately and substantially. We demand the One Plan’s promise of 10,000 plus places be upheld.
“Fifty years on our message is clear: Expand Magee Now!”
In an election year and one that significantly marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of Magee as a Presbyterian theological college, local politicians have once again called for the institution’s rapid expansion, after University Minister Dr Steven Farry, reiterated his position that he doesn’t have the funds to expand Magee at present.
Foyle MP Mark Durkan said: “We need to see the higher education budget uplifted because we need not just an expansion of Magee within the existing student numbers in the region but in the context of a strategic expansion of higher education in the North.
“Expansion at Magee is the best way of delivering and sharing the benefits of higher education growth in the North so that we don’t continue to export a university every year.
“Competing as a region cannot simply be based on a headline rate for corporation tax but must build skills and capacity through further and higher education as we have seen in the South and as we are seeing in ‘city regions’ in Britain.
“Stephen Farry told us last August that if the Executive had a strategic policy commitment to expanding higher education at Magee and framed this in its budget then he and his department would do all that they could to deliver it.
“We all have do everything to hold the Minister to his word about his willingness to hold the University of Ulster to the commitment it has voiced and to encourage and assist the Executive and Assembly in developing the policy and delivering the budget support it needs.”
Following a recent meeting with the Minister Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said he had said he was committed to expanding Magee in the future.
“Martin McGuinness and myself held a very positive meeting with Further Education Minister Stephen Farry at Stormont (January 27) to discuss progress on expansion of Magee University campus,” he said.
“Minister Farry reiterated his commitment to take forward the expansion of Magee and the importance of this in terms of regenerating the economy in the north west.
“He also confirmed that he expects to bid for the necessary funding in the June monitoring round for the construction of the new £11m teaching block at Magee. Sinn Féin will obviously be supporting him in that.
“The Minister committed to engage and work closely with Foyle representatives over the time ahead to deliver on the expansion of Magee as an economic driver as outlined in the One Plan,” he added.
The new campaign for Magee’s expansion is being promoted on both Facebook and Twitter.