Free Magee 500!

editorial image

The Provost of Magee, Professor Deirdre Heenan, has said that Derry must continue to put on the pressure to secure an extra 500 student places at the campus.

She told the Journal last night: “This is potentially a fantastic boost for Magee and for the city, but it’s important that our local politicians and other stakeholders ensure that the campus gets this entire allocation - as it should.

“Magee is the only show in town.”

Lobby group U4D (University for Derry) estimates that 500 additional student places is worth £25m a year to the local economy.

The 500 extra places for STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – subjects were announced last week as part of stimulus plans for the North’s economy.

However the Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, has only said that the University of Ulster - who have pledged their full allocation to Magee - will get the “ largest share” of the new places.

Yesterday a Department for Employment and Learning spokeswoman told the ‘Journal’ a decision on how many places would be allocated to the University of Ulster would be made in due course.

“The Minister will be having more discussions with officials and the various higher education providers over the course of the week before any figures can be finalised,” she said.

Padraig Canavan, chair of U4D, said the minister must acknowledge that Derry needs the places more than anywhere else in the north.

“U4D is calling on the Minister, Stephen Farry, to allocate all the extra 500 places to Magee. It is Derry-Londonderry that needs the places more than anywhere else in Northern Ireland and the University of Ulster is the only higher education institution to have bid for extra places, “ he said.

“An extra 500 places at Magee could generate about an extra £25m to Derry’s economy every year. Added to the previously announced 300 additional places, that would be about £40m of extra spending here, going into our retail sector, cafes, hotels and so on, and help our depressed property market.”

The U4D chair said if all the places came to Derry it “would help create the skills needed by local high value added companies - increasing local average earnings and attracting new employers here and supporting local firms to expand.”

“All of this feeds potentially into a substantial boost for local job creation,” he says.

Pressure mounting on Minister - read more on page 7