A fresh campaign to drive forward the expansion of Magee has been launched, almost 50 years to the day since Derry was overlooked for Coleraine.
The Facebook and Twitter campaign demanding the immediate expansion of Magee was launched at the weekend.
The Facebook page titled ‘50 years on, let’s get it done. Expand Magee now’ has attracted nearly 2,000 supporters since Saturday.
It comes ahead of the 50th anniversary next week of the publication of the Lockwood Report which recommended Coleraine over Derry.
The decision led to 25,000 taking part in a ‘University for Derry Motorcade’ to the steps of Stormont on 18th February 1965, but this last ditch effort failed as on March 4th that year Stormont Parliament voted for Lockwood.
A spokesperson for the new lobby group said the “infamous” Lockwood Report “shamefully recommended the siting of a new university campus in Coleraine, turning its back on the obvious choice of Derry’s Magee College”.
He added: “Five decades on and people are rightly asking how much has changed. Report after report urges major investment at Magee as a catalyst for economic and social growth in our city, yet its development has been slow and meagre. We demand the One Plan’s promise of 10,000 plus places be upheld. Fifty years on our message is clear: expand Magee now.”
A Department for Employment and Learning spokeswoman said the Minister was “committed to taking forward the expansion of Magee and recognises the importance of this in terms of regenerating the economy in the North West” but said the Department was facing £62million worth of budget cuts.
“The business case for the proposed £11m capital funds for the teaching block has been approved by DEL and is currently with the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP). If approval is received from DFP, the Department intends to put in a bid during financial year 2015-16. Given the timing of the business case approval and the intentions of Ulster University around construction spend, the earliest opportunity is likely to be the June Monitoring Round.”
She added: “Since taking up office the Minister has increased the number of undergraduate places at our two universities by 1,210 and 652 of these went to the University of Ulster for its Magee campus. This expansion has gone some way to meet the interim target set out in the One Plan. And DEL will continue to process bids for capital projects that are currently in the pipeline from the University of Ulster, including the Magee campus, in the normal way.
“The resourcing of the One Plan student numbers would require an investment of around £30m on a recurrent basis annually. The Department will scrutinise the business case received in order to be in a position to make any bid in relation to the 2016-2020 Budget period. Any bid would have to represent additionality and not be at the expense of undermining quality elsewhere in the higher education system.”
For more info on the campaign go to Facebook: ‘50 years on lets get it done. Expand Magee now!’ or Twitter: @ExpandMageeNow.