Magee ‘must have autonomy to survive’

The Ulster University Magee campus, Derry. DER3115MC002
The Ulster University Magee campus, Derry. DER3115MC002

There has been a shocking legacy of courses being wound up or moved away from the Magee campus of the Ulster University, according to new research conducted by Derry University Group.

The group’s preliminary findings reveal that up to two thirds of Arts, Computing & Engineering and Life & Health Sciences courses offered at Magee have been “eradicated” over the past five years.

A Derry University Group spokesperson branded the findings unearthed so far as “both stark and staggering” and called for a new Derry-centred management team to be set up “as a matter of urgency” as an interim measure to concentrate on Magee.

He claimed: “Derry’s university has effectively been closed down while the city slept.

“This issue has to be redressed immediately under the new Programme for Government.

“We are not talking about expansion here, we are talking about a complete rebuild of Magee- or, alternatively, a new university entirely,” he claimed.

A university spokesperson has responded that it remains “fully committed” to the expansion of Magee and have engaged with a range of stakeholders to make this happen.

The spokesperson added that a number of new courses have also been brought to Magee.

She said: “Last year additional MaSN (Maximum Student Number) places approved by the then Department for Employment and Learning were allocated by the University to Magee and as part of a readjustment of provision, places on courses including computing and business were moved to Magee.”

Magee will never be revived under current Belfast-centred structures, influential research and lobby group, Derry University Group, has claimed.

Representatives from the group made the comment as they released details of a litany of Magee course closures or relocations since 2011 uncovered during ongoing research.

The group claimed the cuts have virtually decimated the campus’ offer, eradicating courses in Computing/IT/Design,Irish History, Modern European Languages, The Professional Certificate in Legal Studies , Business, Politics, American Studies, Psychology and Sociology, Community Development and Dance.

The full findings are still being tabulated, however, the group said the newly collated information on closures comes on the back of a series of cuts at Magee over the past 20 years which has seen other major losses including Hotel & Tourism Studies, International Business, Housing Management, Peace & Conflict Studies and Computing/Technology courses.

A Derry University Group spokesperson claimed: “As a matter of urgency, Stormont and the UU must liaise to establish a new Derry-centred, management and administration team for Magee. It must have its own autonomy if it is to serve the North-West.”

The group said the number of students currently enrolled was well shy of the targets set out for the city, and claimed that “almost one billion pounds” had been spent on developing UU’s Belfast presence over the past five years.

“Derry needs to secure at least a similar amount under the new Programme of Government to ensure that the North-West achieves some parity with Belfast and hits its 10,000 student target within the next 10 years,” the spokesman said, adding: “We are forwarding this latest research to our political leaders, many of whom promised at the recent election to make Magee their number one priority.

“Our message to them is simple: Magee needs autonomy if it is to survive and grow. And also, we in the Derry University Group will continue to hold you to account for your promises, just as we have done in the past.”

Responding, an Ulster University spokesperson said: “Ulster University remains fully committed to expansion at Magee and we have engaged with stakeholders across Northern Ireland who can help us realise our ambitions, including the creation of a medical school at the campus.

“Last year additional MaSN places approved by the then Department for Employment and Learning were allocated by the University to Magee and as part of a readjustment of provision, places on courses including computing and business were moved to Magee.” She added: “It is entirely incorrect to say that £1 billon has been spent on developing the Belfast campus and we would challenge the source of that figure.”

Commenting in response to questions on how many students are currently physically based at Magee for their studies, she said: “More than 4,000 students are currently registered at the Magee campus. Distance learning, long term absence including sickness or study breaks for personal reasons and many courses, including nursing, which incorporate regular off-campus placements, cause fluctuations in the numbers of students located physically on campus at any one time. This is not unusual and is a trend across all Ulster University campuses and indeed other similarly sized universities.”