Call to ring-fence Magee students

The Magee campus of the University of Ulster in Derry.
The Magee campus of the University of Ulster in Derry.

Derry and Strabane Council have passed a motion calling on the University of Ulster and the government to ring-fence student numbers at Magee in the face of massive cuts.

The move was proposed by SDLP Councillor Gerard Diver in the face of £80m cuts to the Department for Employment and Learning coffers for 2015/16.

As well as expressing concern at this, the motion also expressed concern at the recent announcement that 1,100 student places at Magee and Queen’s could be lost as a result of this.

Colr. Diver said that the Executive and the University also needed to work collaboratively to enure the One Plan targets regarding Magee expansion plans are delivered.

Speaking to the motion at this week’s monthly meeting of the full council, he said that Magee Provost Deirdre Heenan has highlighted that given the 18% cut over the past year to the UU, these latest budget cuts will mean it won’t be business as usual.

“This is a stark vision painted by someone that we know well, and a commentary on a place that already has the smallest higher education sector in comparison with any other point on these islands,” Colr. Diver said.

“If we want an example, look at Galway, a city with a population of less than 80,000 which boasts three higher education institutions and 16,000 students.”

He added that the government hear needed to learn from other countries such as China, India and Germany where they were investing heavily skills, research and innovation for the future.

An addendum to the motion was proposed and accepted by UUP Councillor Derek Hussey, urging that on all future development of the Magee campus a proactive approach is taken to “redress the imbalance” on a religious basis.

A second amendment by Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper called on the University of Ulster to prove its commitment to Magee by “reallocating student places and administrative functions to the Magee campus”, and was also adopted.

Speaking on this, Colr. Cooper said that Minister Farry had a duty to make the case to the Executive in the coming year for student numbers at UU and Queen’s to be protected.

Colr. Cooper said the recently presented business case made for interesting reading, and showed Magee to be heavily discriminated against in terms of staff allocation, and courses available which were likely to lead to jobs, when compared to other campuses.

The motion was backed by the majority of councillors.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher abstained from the vote and questioned whether the council itself could do more about the issue.