SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has welcomed moves by Learning Minister Stephen Farry to allay fears over the future of the expansion of Magee.
The Minister has now written to Mr Durkan committing to applying for funding from the five-year Executive budget from 2016 if the forthcoming business case for the expansion satisfies the necessary requirements.
Mr Durkan had written to the Employment and Learning Minister voicing concerns over recent comments Mr Farry made with regards to the expansion plans.
There are long-standing plans to double the number of full-time student places at Magee to around 10,000.
There have also been proposals to expand the University of Ulster campus footprint out onto lands currently occupied by Foyle College, once they depart for their new school in the Waterside.
Mr Farry however last month said the Magee expansion would be delayed indefinitely due to the Executive’s failure to reach agreement on budgets.
In the recent letter to Mr Durkan however he states: “I fully acknowledge the importance attached to the expansion of the campus as envisioned in the One Plan and its importance to the social and economic regeneration of the city.”
While adding a note of caution that cuts to his department’s budget made it difficult to see how he could expand specific sections of higher education, Mr Farry said he has explained at meetings with the university and delegates from Derry that he is “sympathetic” to the potential expansion of Magee.
He said the forthcoming business case for Magee will be scrutinised and added:
“Should the business case satisfy the requirements laid down in the Northern Ireland Guide to Expenditure Appraisal and Evaluation, I would be in a position to make a bid for resources in the 2016-2020 budget period.”
Mr Farry said he hoped this would go some way to “allaying the anxieties around the expansion of Magee” and urged everyone to work together to make it a reality.
In response to the letter, Mr Durkan said: “I welcome the fact that the terms and tone of this letter are more consistent with the working spirit of the meeting between the Minister and the civic delegation on August 14th than some commentary since.
“We need to sustain one civic voice around the compelling priority of Magee’s expansion. That spirit of purposeful partnership needs to extend to the Minister and his department, and also marshalling the policy and budgetary priority needed from the Executive.
“The Minister has already indicated he is willing to meet with the City’s Strategy Board to discuss this and other areas of his brief that relate to key issues in the One Plan.”