Ulster University spreads its resources thinly

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Ulster University (UU) has so many campuses maybe it should be in the Guinness Book of Records. Perhaps it already is.

It has students in Derry, Coleraine, Jordanstown, Belfast city centre, Birmingham, London and possibly in other places. Did you know there were UU students in Birmingham and London? Well, there are. They’re from countries outside the EU. Visas are granted by UK immigration officials and there is some concern about visa holding ‘students’ dropping out of their courses. “The enrolment of foreign students provides a lucrative revenue stream for universities,” reported the Irish News.

Meanwhile university student numbers in Derry have increased painfully slowly over the near half-century since Magee became part of the UU. The prospect of a new teaching block, if sufficient funding is available, is a step in the right direction but it won’t, in itself, increase student numbers. There’s no direct link between foreign students being recruited for England and slow growth at Magee, but it is a fact that the UU spreads its resources thinly.

Incidentally, did you know university education has been going on in Derry since 1865? It’s irritating to hear frequent reports that Magee was formerly a college for training Presbyterian ministers. Yes, a fair percentage of ministers were educated there but arts courses were always open to students of all faiths and none. Many distinguished citizens, as well as clergymen, were educated there. When I was a Magee student in the 1960s, theological students were in a minority.