Diane Dodds commitment to expansion of ‘either’ Magee ‘or’ Coleraine ‘unacceptable’ given explicit ‘New Decade, New Approach’ pledge to Derry says MLA

Universities minister Diane Dodds has said she is committed to working with Ulster University on the expansion of ‘either’ its Coleraine or Magee campuses.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 12:14 pm
SDLP Councillor Sinéad McLaughlin.

Ms. Dodds was asked about the commitment in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ (NDNA) agreement to increase the maximum student numbers cap and to expand Magee College by the Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin.

Last year the Executive parties agreed in NDNA to ‘bring forward proposals for the development and expansion of the UU campus at Magee College, including the necessary increase in maximum student numbers to realise the 10,000 student campus target and a Graduate Entry Medical School.’ No mention was made to the Coleraine campus.

Nonetheless when asked about the commitment by Mrs. McLaughlin the minister replied: “Under the NDNA agreement, the Executive committed to bring forward proposals for the development and expansion of the Ulster University (UU) campus at Magee College, including the necessary increase in maximum student numbers (MaSN) to realise the 10,000 student campus target and a Graduate Entry Medical School.”

The Minister said however that with exception of the Graduate Entry Medical School, no further proposals have been brought forward.

“I remain committed to working with the University around the consideration of any expansion proposals for either its Coleraine or Magee campuses following its decant from Jordanstown. At a meeting on 03 February, I asked the University to provide me with its strategic plans for all of its campuses.”

Ms. McLaughlin claimed: “Expanding the Magee campus in Derry is like pushing a very large, very heavy boulder uphill. Minister Dodds has just made that boulder even larger and even heavier. ‘NDNA’ contained the explicit agreement for the expansion of the Magee campus to 10,000 students. Now Minister Dodds is trying to downgrade this to ‘working with the university’ to consider expansion proposals ‘for either its Coleraine or Magee campuses’. This is an unacceptable walking away from cross party agreement that enabled ‘NDNA’ to be signed and government to resume.”