Extra student places were allocated to Queen’s University Belfast without any formal request for extra numbers, Derry’s U4D lobby group has revealed.
Extra student places were allocated to Queens University Belfast without any formal request for extra numbers, Derry’s U4D lobby group has revealed.
U4D chair Padraig Canavan says it is unbelievable that the Belfast University should be awarded places on the basis of “informal conversations.”
Information obtained by U4D through a Freedom of Information request shows the University of Ulster - who made a commitment to locate all additional places at Derry’s Magee campus - was the only institution to make a formal application.
“It is undeniable that the economic need of Derry is greatest of anywhere in Northern Ireland. That’s why the One Plan identifies that we need more undergraduates and ultimately more graduates in order to turn around our economy,” Mr Canavan says.
“Derry needs local businesses to grow and for inward investment to flow. Increasing graduates in the vital science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines is the key to unlocking this door.”
Extra student numbers for Magee is the core element of the regeneration plan for Derry, the One Plan - endorsed by ministers, the City Council, the University of Ulster and the community and included in the Programme for Government.
The FOI request shows that in 2010,2011, and 2012 “no documentation held in relation to written requests from Queen’s University” held by the Department of Learning.
“Yet we now find out – but only because of a Freedom of Information Act request – that Queen’s was allocated a substantial number of additional students, agreed as essential in Derry~Londonderry, without making a formal application and without making a business case,” the U4D chair says.
“Despite the University of Ulster presenting a strategic outline plan and the One Plan containing a business plan for expansion, Queen’s was handed extra students on the basis of an informal conversation. This is not how government should operate.”
SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey also obtained information via an FOI request on the allocation of student places by DEL.
He says he has been left outraged after learning “the Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast made verbal representations to the Minister for a share of the additional places. As such, there is no documentary information held by the Department.”
“I cannot understand how in allowing a verbal communication from the Vice Chancellor of Queen’s - possibly even a phone call, to grant places when Magee and UU and the political as well as business leadership in this City have put great effort into the submission of a campaign to complement the Business Case, that the Minister is reducing the number of graduates going abroad - they cannot get spaces in Magee so they are forced to leave Derry,” Mr Ramsey says.