College eyes Ebrington in vision for future

Leo Murphy, Principal, North West Regional College, Derry. DER4414MC046
Leo Murphy, Principal, North West Regional College, Derry. DER4414MC046
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The North West Regional College has announced that it wants to expand onto the Ebrington site.

The college’s recently installed principal and chief executive Leo Murphy said the college also plans to refurbish its suite of apprentice workshops training centre in Springtown as part of a wider regeneration project.

Mr Murphy made the revelations in a presentation during Derry City Council’s Regional Services Committee’s December meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Murphy said the college had a strong strategic plan and clear vision for the next three years, and said that the college sat very much beside the Magee campus and that the two would grow together.

To this end, a meeting has now been arranged with the University of Ulster for December 17th, he told the committee, with a view to forming “some sort of marriage” between the two institutions.

The North West Regional College (NWRC) is the biggest educational institute with over 20,000 students and 860 staff across Derry, Strabane and Limavady. It also has a turnover of £33m.

Every year around 600 students progress on to university, and Mr Murphy said there was now a job to do to refresh public knowledge about the college’s mission and values.

“There are some legacy issues we are trying to fix and move forward,” he said.

“From 1970 to 1983 the college was the only opportunity for people to advance. We want to get the town to have a love affair with the college again and realise the important role it plays.”

Mr Murphy listed other priorities as including a new ‘Not In Education, Employment or Training’ (NEET) team to help ensure young people who would usually fall through the net in terms of economic activity are reached and given opportunities. College bosses also plan to expand their work in entrepreneurship and strengthen partnerships across Europe and beyond.

Under the Innovative US Employer Support Programme, the college has had involvement in 123 small and micro businesses, with £343,243 support provided.

Phase One of the College’s investment plan includes the refurbishment of the “very old” facilities at Springtown, with a business case submitted for the new library and sporting facilities at Strand Road.

Later works will include a new technology block and looking at the college’s premises in Strabane, which was described as a “bit cold”.

Other plans include an Ebrington Innovation Campus, possibly in Buildings 81 to 83 to focus on job creation and innovation, as well as an advanced manufacturing centre and a Nerve Centre film and digital hub.

SDLP Councillor Gerard Diver said the development of the college was central to developing Derry and the region as a educational corridor.

“I think we have to underscore the major contribution makes and its proud history.”

Speaking about a recent motion passed by the shadow Derry-Strabane Council,

Colr. Diver added: “What comes across to me in terms of your presentation is we meed to look at education holistically.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper said that the new strategic approach being taken.

He also spoke of the vital role the college has played, on its own over recent years, in reaching out to those who are traditionally hard to get to, and said the NWRC must be considered alongside Magee in the business case for expansion.

DUP Councillor Gary Middleton said the college had helped many people, younger and older, into employment.

Colr. Middleton added that with many of the big employers such as Seagate and Microsoft focusing on skills the days of academia first were gone.