Ulster Univeristy’s decision to scrap a dozen courses at the Magee campus was today described as “very disturbing”.
Local lobby group University for Derry (U4D) - which is spearheading the campaign for thousands more undergraduate places in the city - said there were now fears that cutting courses here would result in fewer students from less well-off backgrounds being able to afford to go to university.
A spokesman for the group said there were already massive differences in the fees and other costs associated with studying in Britain, effectively barring many students from less well-off backgrounds, while less courses here meant there would more likely to higher grade requirements here.
An Ulster University spokesman meanwhile said they had identified what he called “a small number of courses” which will no longer be offered for intake from 2015/16- 12 of which are at Magee.
A total of 53 full-time and part-time courses are to be scrapped, the majority of them from Coleraine.
The full-time degree courses going at Magee are: Irish History & Politics; Business Studies with Irish History; Computer Games, Modelling & Animation; Music with Dance; Dance With Drama; Dance; Drama with Dance.
Part-time degrees being axed are: Irish History and Politics; Irish History with Psychology; American Studies with Irish History; Irish History & Society; Dance.
Explaining their decision, a UU spokesman said: “Ulster University, like all universities, regularly reviews its course provision and makes decisions by looking at a number of factors including the number of applications, employability statistics and national student satisfaction scores.
“The most recent decisions have also factored in the current budget situation and it was important to make decisions in advance of the budget cut confirmation from DEL to ensure prospective students working to the January UCAS deadline had the appropriate course list to select from.”
He added: “The University has also followed the request from DEL to protect STEM numbers so where a STEM related course may close, the numbers will increase in other relevant STEM courses.
“It is important to note that course closures do not equate to subject closures so different courses in those subject areas will still be available.
“Ulster University is still awaiting confirmation from DEL of the actual cut to its budget and until that is received, we cannot confirm the precise number of student places to be cut in 2015/16.”
Reacting to the news, the spokesman for University for Derry said: “It is very disturbing that Magee has lost courses, particularly the only dance degree course in the whole of Ireland.
“The decision rests with the MLAs and the Executive who have decided to cut funding for the Department of Employment and Learning.
“What we need is a larger higher education sector in Northern Ireland, not a smaller one.”
He said that it was inevitable such cuts would trickle down to affect courses and places, and claimed this meant discrimination against poorer students in the north, because less courses and places would lead to “grade inflation” in Northern Ireland universities, forcing many to opt out or face university fees and costs which three times as high in Britain.
“Politicians have to decide what their equality commitments are,” the U4D spokesman said, adding that he hoped the cuts will stimulate the necessary debate about how to expand Magee and ensure the One Plan target of 9,400 full-time equivalent student places is met by 2020.
Hopes that this will be realised rested on supportive local politicians convincing their Assembly colleagues of the need for this expansion, he added.