A total of 50 university students from California will be coming to Derry to study Irish over the next few years as a result of a new partnership.
The new agreement between Ulster University and the University of California Berkeley will result in 20 US students coming to the Magee campus to their Irish Language Summer School in 2017, and a further 30 in 2018 and beyond.
The announcement follows meetings with Berkeley officials by delegations including the city’s current Mayor, Elisha McCallion and her predecessor, Martin Reilly, over the past few years.
At the Council’s Business & Culture Committee meeting in Strabane on Tuesday, council officers sought approval to proceed with discussions with Berkeley about developing a formal ‘Sister City’ relationship.
A Sister Cities summit will take place in Dublin on 21 and 22 April 2016 to commemorate the significant centenaries that occur in 2016, and also to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of Sister Cities International by President Eisenhower.
Vice President Joe Biden has been invited to join the Taoiseach at the summit and an invitation has been extended to the Mayor of Berkeley to visit Derry before the conference.
The report states that an “on-going relationship has developed with Mayor Bates from the City of Berkeley
with visits by previous Mayor, Colr. Martin Reilly during the Clipper Race stopover in 2014 that led to an invitation to the current Mayor to visit Berkeley to discuss specifically the possibility of Derry City and Strabane District formalising a Sister City Agreement”.
“During the visit to Berkeley an agreement was reached between Ulster University, Magee and the University of California, Berkeley to send 20 students to Magee to their Irish Language summer school in 2017 and a further 30 in 2018 and thereafter.
“This is worth £80,000 in fees alone to the University in 2016 and £120,000 each year thereafter. This will see further spend in the local economy and create a lasting alumni connected with Derry and Strabane in the US. Ulster University academics are clear that the securing of this opportunity was a direct result of the Mayoral and civic engagement we have undertaken.”
Speaking after the meeting, SDLP Councillor Reilly said:
“This is an example of the success of our city’s investment in the Clipper Race which not only brings so many visitors to our beautiful River Foyle but will also now bring many international students to our city and the consequent economic spin-offs.
“As part of the Clipper Race programme, I, along with Invest NI, met Mayor Tom Bates in both 2012 and 2014 where we discussed what a partnership with the city of Berkeley could bring in terms of economic benefits to Derry and the North West.
“I welcome the efforts by our current Mayor to build on this initial work and am supportive of our Council continuing to progress this through the Sister City summit in Dublin in April.
“I hope that Mayor Bates will be able to visit Derry later this spring where we can explore other benefits that such a relationship can bring.”