The head of the Ulster University has said he is convinced that achieving the long campaigned for 10,000 students at Magee is achievable.
Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Paddy Nixon, was speaking after addressing Derry’s Chamber of Commerce in the city this week.
He told the ‘Journal’ that he envisioned the evolution of an education corridor along Strand Road, which would facilitate expansion plans for the Magee campus in tandem with the North West Regional College.
Commenting on the business case for the Magee expansion, submitted by the University and Derry & Strabane Council in January 2016, Mr Nixon said: “My understanding is it was passed by the economists. What I am hoping for is approval of the whole business case with some reasonable milestones in there. The 10,000 students is doable but it requires the investment. Particularly in the current climate, universities in Northern Ireland do not have any investment funds. It also requires a little bit of realism about how long it takes to get to 10,000 students.”
Meanwhile, plans for anew Medical School to open at Magee by 2019 are progressing.
Mr Nixon added: “We put a strategic case into the department which is approved. We now have the business case to hand to an incoming Minister. We need a Minister.
“In parallel to that, we have passed the General Medical Council [accreditation] Stage 1 and we are about to submit Stages 2 and 3 in parallel.
“To do that we have purchased a medical curriculum from St. George’s University of London. The reason we do that is otherwise you have to develop it yourself and that adds more stages to the GMC approval. So we have paid for that, £1.8m, and we interviewed for the Dean of Medical- effectively the head. There were 14 applicants- a mix of local, UK and international.
“We also have Hugh McKenna, who is the Dean of Medical School Development. He is full-time, allocated from the University to actually do the development work.”
Speaking on the potential for expanding the university’s presence here, Mr Nixon said: “For me it’s a really exciting vision if we could have Strand Road there with ourselves, North West Regional College and then some other developments alongside it; if we can get that whole stretch going.
“I’m very adamant that I don’t want us to move far from the campus we are on. What I want is as many students in one place and then it makes it exciting, a bit of buzz.
“But if you could get a better physical relations- we already have a good personal one- between ourselves and the NWRC you have more cafes, student accommodation down there, amenities, the Innovation Centre, all that sort of stuff jointly between us, it would start to give a bit of energy to the overall environment.
“What we need to do is we need to link the development of the university to the development of the city, the idea of us being a university city and really almost putting it on the signs and selling ourselves as that would give people a real sense that we are serious as a region about the university,” he added.