Further doubt over Magee growth plans

Further doubt has been cast on the plans to expand Derry’s Magee campus of the University of Ulster.

Ulster Unionist MLA Basil McCrea, who chairs Stormont’s Employment and learning committee, said yesterday that financial constraints could hinder the University’s plans.

“The higher education budget as it currently stands is going to be contracting rather than expanding,” he said.

“The pressure will be on the University of Ulster to maintain its three university campuses, never mind expanding. So this is something that is going to be quite difficult in the medium term.”

The latest twist comes only days after the ‘Journal’ reported that a delay in Foyle College’s move to the Waterside could curtail growth at Magee.

Professor Deirdre Heenan, Provost of the University of Ulster’s Magee Campus and Dean of Academic Development, said Magee’s expansion is “inextricably bound up with the successful and timely transfer of Foyle” to its proposed new site at Clooney.

Uncertainty shrouds that move however, as Education minister John O’Dowd has stated a decision on the Foyle move would be made in September after he reviews the department’s capital builds projects.

SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey, who along with Sinn Fein junior minister Martina Anderson met with the north’s Employment and Learning minister Stephen Farry last week, says expanding Magee is key to Derry’s wider regeneration.

“Overall responsibility for approving for the expansion by providing the financial support rests with the Executive, and it is now time that all Ministers work collectively to enable the DEL Minister to help Magee expand for the benefit of everyone in this constituency.”

Last week the ‘Journal’ also revealed the University received 6,428 applications for the next academic year for approximately 900 full-time undergraduate places at Magee - a sign of the potential for expansion there.