Minister ‘committed’ to Magee plan

Magee, Derry. DER3115MC001
Magee, Derry. DER3115MC001

Learning Minister Stephen Farry remains committed to the development of Magee- but only if can be proven to make economic sense, his department has said.

A spokesperson for the Department for Employment and Learning confirmed that it received a first draft of the business case 10 months ago.

The business case has since had to be reworked however and last week Derry & Strabane Council’s Business and Culture Committee agreed to spend £19,000 on updating it, on top of the £66,000 spent to date.

The One Plan and various other key reports have singled out the expansion of Derry’s unviersity provision as the single most important factor in advancing the economy of the city and the wider north west region.

In answer to a series of questions around the business case, which argues for this expansion, a DEL spokesperson said: “A first draft of the business case was submitted on 19 December 2014 and comments fed back on it in January 2015. A meeting was held with Ilex representatives and the consultants in March 2015. The business case was resubmitted in June but some issues required further work as is the norm in any complex business case. A request was made in early July for the business case to be revised to deal with these issues. We now await the resubmission of the business case.”

The DEL spokesperson added: “The Minister is committed to take forward the expansion of Magee and recognises the importance of this in terms of regenerating the economy in the North West.

“The Minister has undertaken to make a bid for the necessary funding should the business case provide sufficient evidence that this is in the best interests of the North West and Northern Ireland generally.

“Any bid would have to represent additionality and not be at the expense of undermining quality elsewhere in the higher education system, and also needs to be considered in conjunction with other investments required to consolidate the world-class standards of universities and the wider development of skills in our economy in areas such as apprenticeships.”

Mr Farry recently launched a ‘Higher Education Big Conversation’ to seek people’s views about the sustainability of higher education in the North. To participate, see https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/department-of-finance-and-personnel/the-higher-education-big-conversation-haveyoursay.