Ulster University Magee staff slashed by almost 25% in five years

The University of Ulster at Magee, Derry. DER3115MC002
The University of Ulster at Magee, Derry. DER3115MC002

Magee staffing levels have been slashed by more than 100 posts since 2010, figures obtained by the Derry Journal have confirmed.

Information obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act reveals that the number of full-time and full-time equivalent staff posts at the Derry campus has shrunk by almost 25% from 435 staff in 2010 to 333 staff as of this year.

The University of Ulster at Magee, Derry. DER3115MC001

The University of Ulster at Magee, Derry. DER3115MC001

The University has attributed the losses to budget cutbacks over recent years, coupled with some outsourcing of services.

The number of senior managers at Magee has risen from two to three over the five year period, while the sole Ulster University nurse at Magee post has been scrapped this year.

The number of professor posts has dropped from 21 in 2010 to 19.2 this year.

While staff numbers at other campuses across Ulster University have also diminished, the drop in staff numbers at Magee may be viewed as pouring cold water on multi-agency ambitions to grow jobs in the university sector.

The Journal had submitted a request for information two months ago today to ascertain whether the university had agreed, or was in talks, to cull 1,200 student places, and if so, whether Magee would be protected.

Two weeks later University bosses went public with an announcement confirming the cuts were expected.

Having now responded to the FoI, the University told the Journal that it has “not yet concluded the process of identifying the specific areas to be reduced but an announcement is planned for late August/ early September”.

The latest figures show that the number of students at Magee has been rising by a few hundred each year. This year there were 3,833 full-time students and a further 1,265 part-time students at the Derry campus- almost equal to that of Coleraine, which has a combined total of 5,344 full or part-time students.

The number of full-time students at Magee has grown by 1,188 in the past 12 years.

The central target of Derry’s multi-agency One Plan had at its centre the key target of growing full-time student numbers to 9,400 by 2020. The current figure is less than half of this.

A new business case to support the expansion has now been presented to Higher Education Minister Stephen Farry.

Addressing the cuts in staffing and future student places cull, a spokesperson for Ulster University said: “During the period 2011 and 2012 the University had to make staff reductions across all campuses following cuts to the University budget by Department of Employment and Learning.

“This together with posts not being replaced accounts for the reductions in staffing during 2011/12.

“During this period student numbers were protected but due to ongoing cuts it is no longer possible to sustain that protection.

“In 2013 the University outsourced its Catering and Facilities Services across all campuses and this had an impact on the number of staff employed directly by the University at each Campus.

“The staffing figures for 2014 and 2015 remain stable.”

When asked how many staff the university envisage employing each year from now to 2020 to facilitate the aim of the One Plan, the Ulster University spokesperson said:

“It is impossible to predict staffing numbers to 2020 and especially so in light of the further cuts from Department of Employment and Learning to the Higher Education Budget in Northern Ireland.

“Further, these cuts do not take account of any further possible reductions to the Northern Ireland Higher Education budget that might emanate from the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review or the Chancellor’s summer and autumn budget statements.”

When asked if the university was committed to the Magee expansion and if itbelieved the One Plan target was achievable, University bosses have responded:

“Ulster University remains committed to the development of the Magee Campus although the current economic climate has presented further challenges to that ambition.

“The University continues to discuss how expansion will be achieved with all key stakeholders. “Central to that discussion is a recognition that the expansion of the campus is not only central to the development of the city but that that expansion will be reliant on the engagement and commitment of all key stakeholders.”