In a letter in last Friday’s edition, Pat Ramsey, responding to a piece in this column, listed the initiatives he has taken in fighting for the future of Magee. I happily accept Pat’s account of the efforts he has made. He has probably been the most active of local representatives at Stormont in fighting Magee’s corner.
But the main point I was making had to do with the need for a more public campaign.
Pat writes that “the move of nursing courses to Magee represents a massive investment by the university in our city.” I don’t agree. The nursing school is contracting as it comes to Derry.
The management is looking for eight redundancies - and has no intention of filling a number of positions vacant as a result of retirement or death.
What’s more, moving nursing into Magee was, effectively, a quid pro quo for moving history out - a huge loss to the college which will do nothing to enhance its status.
One of the factors making Magee important for the local economy is that jobs at the college tend to be relatively decent for this area in terms of pay and conditions. That will change under current plans. Catering, security and cleaning have been earmarked for privatisation. We know from bitter experience here and across the water what that will mean for the workers involved.
Public representatives should be giving loud support to the unions trying the stymie the privatisation threat.
The rest of us should note that university spokespersons who regularly appear in local media boasting how well things are going and the positive impact of Magee on the region are in almost all cases the people who meantime are pushing hardest for the destruction of jobs and the downgrading of those that survive the cull.
If spin were an Olympic sport, University of Ulster competitors would be short odds-on to take medals.
None of this is intended as criticism of Pat Ramsey. But I continue to believe that a more determined public fight is going to be necessary to defend Magee and secure its expansion - and that we cannot count on support in this fight from some who advertise themselves as the very personification of the college.