Magee numbers bid shot down

A bid to boost student numbers at Magee campus by 1,000 undergraduate places has been shot down by the North’s Executive.

Lobbyists for the hike in student numbers at the Derry campus reacted angrily last night after Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry admitted the expansion plan would not go ahead. Following a parliamentary question from SDLP Employment and Learning spokesperson Pat Ramsey, Mr Farry confirmed that around £3m will be available in 2014/15 - allowing for only up to 600 extra undergraduate places spread across all of the North’s university campuses.

Mr Ramsey said the North West had been “let down” by the Executive. “Once again the Executive has abandoned the North West. The minister stated to me that only a couple of hundred extra student places will be made available across Northern Ireland. This is not what the SDLP or Magee have been working towards and this decision will have ramifications for the people and economy of the North West.”

Padraig Canavan, chair of U4D, said he was “extremely disappointed”, especially in light of decision in favour of lower tuition fees in the North than in the UK which is expected to lead to a big increase in demand for student places in Derry. “We already have a situation where there are vastly more people wanting to go to Magee and other Northern Ireland university campuses than there are places for them.

“That situation will get worse.” He said the decision would have serious ramifications for parents and students from deprived backgrounds, who risk being “squeezed out” from Northern Ireland universities. Mr Canavan said the minister must recognise the need to address the rising demand and boost supply at Magee to help “create a major stimulus” to the local economy.

Professor Richard Barnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster, said the lobby will continue.

“I don’t think it makes economic sense for Northern Ireland that many of our young people will not be able to go into higher education, and we will continue to press the case for expansion of student numbers at Magee.”