Planned Magee expansion is ‘a touchstone issue’ for Derry

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Delargy on why the planned expansion of student numbers at UU Magee is key

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 3:46 pm
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill visits the Magee campus with Foyle MLAs Pádraig Delargy and Ciara Ferguson.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill visits the Magee campus with Foyle MLAs Pádraig Delargy and Ciara Ferguson.

As a recent graduate, I faced the same choices that many of our young people face today about whether to stay at home or move away to pursue university education, writes Padraig Delargy.

Clearly, there needs to be more opportunities and choices for our young people in terms of university education in a city of this size.

Magee needs to expand to become the university this city deserves. That need, and, of course, the historical injustice of Derry being effectively denied a university campus in the first place, is why it has become such a touchstone issue for the city.

There is now an Executive commitment, through New Decade New Approach, in place to expand Magee to 10,000 students.

But, as with all agreements, implementation is key and no-one should be under any illusions that progress will still require hard work and determination to ensure it is delivered.

Unfortunately and disappointingly, the Magee expansion has, at times, been met by varying degrees of reluctance and resistance from a variety of quarters and for a variety of reasons.

However, that has not and will not deter Sinn Féin from pursuing the commitment to expansion.

Sinn Féin has been instrumental in removing the blockages to date and a strong Sinn Féin team from the city, working with our Ministerial colleagues, will only strengthen our hand to realise Magee’s full potential and deliver 10,000 students.

A lot of progress has been made, but a lot more is required.

The foundations have been laid and I have no doubt that, through constructive and critical engagement, together with the political strength that Sinn Féin will bring to bear, we can deliver the progress required.

That has been key to the results achieved already. For instance, the Magee Medical School is now open and, by 2025, there will be 400 medical student places.

This simply would not have happened without the intervention of the Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy who provided recurrent funding for this important initiative when others prevaricated, putting the project at risk.

Meanwhile, the relocation of Allied Health Professions courses to Magee this year will deliver 800 plus places while the Paramedic Degree will add a further 120 by 2024.

Lessons are there to be learned and now is the time to identify our next steps.

Magee expansion is a key element in the development of our city and is too important to be reduced to a political football. The work to date has delivered, but now we need to redouble our efforts in a constructive and critical manner.

The logjam of the cap on student numbers will need addressed, a process which has been made more difficult by the loss of EU funding as a result of a reckless and damaging Brexit that has been forced upon us all.

Decisive political leadership is needed now more than ever and I am confident that a strong Sinn Féin Assembly team will be in the position to deliver that leadership.

As we have seen before, when the Magee expansion required decisive action, Sinn Féin ministers stepped up and made it happen.

That is the attitude that delivered the Medical School - and it is that very same approach that will deliver 10,000 students at Magee.