I would like to challenge the politicians and the University of Ulster management on their complete ineffectiveness (politicians) and apparent lack of desire (the UU management) in terms of developing Magee into a proper university campus.
I will use two statistics to highlight how both the politicians and UU have let down the people of Derry. For the statistics speak for themselves. Let’s look at the period for which we have statistics for student numbers at Magee i.e. from 1984 to 2012.
When Magee joined the UU in 1984 it already had 526 students; 14 years later in 1998 it had reached 3,000.
In the following 14 years from 1998 to 2012 the numbers had increased to 4,446 students (3,473 full-time and 993 part-time).
So in the first 14 year period the number of students had risen by 2,474 but in the most recent 14 year period, i.e. 1998-2012, the numbers had only risen by 1,446.
In recent years we have seen various politicians taking part in PR exercises with UU management posing for photos with them at Magee with accompanying press statements featuring vague promises of growth for the campus.
If those politicians had even gone to the bother of examining the statistics they would have known that the very, very limited rate of growth initially achieved at Magee was actually slowing down substantially. Perhaps they wouldn’t have accepted the UU spin so readily.
In the 1960s Nationalists rightly complained and protested about unionists blocking the locating of the new university at Derry and giving it to Coleraine. Fifty years later, with a Nationalist MP here, a Nationalist MEP from Derry, the Deputy First Minister from Derry and five Nationalist MLAs, I would ask who do we blame for the apathy and inaction that we have now? We certainly cannot blame the unionists any more.
I don’t expect any urgency on this issue from the UU management.
They have clearly shown that they have no interest in developing Magee and all their focus has been on the Jordanstown Campus’ £250million move to Belfast.
The DEL Minister was able to inform us that the UU hadn’t even submitted a business case for expansion at Magee when challenged about the allocation of university places.
However, I would have expected our local politicians to grasp how much of a game changer the development of a properly-sized campus at Magee would be for the whole city.
Our politicians are either very, very naive and have been conned by UU or else the development of the Magee Campus is not a priority within their parties and they don’t have the required level of influence to change that. Either way it is disastrous for Derry.
It is a clear indictiment of our politicians that it has been left to Denis Bradley and Philip O’Doherty to highlight this issue.
I will finish off with one very scary statistic. The very modest target agreed to by UU for Magee as part of the One Plan for Derry launched in 2011 was 9,400 Full Time Equivalent student places by 2020.
At the rate of growth we have seen in the past 14 years, i.e. 103 extra students per year, we would reach this figure in 2060. This is 40 years later than projected and this wouldn’t even be the actual target as it wouldn’t be FTEs but a mixture of full-time and part-time students.
So that’s something that only our younger generation might eventually see!!
Shame on our politicians, shame on UU!
‘Meet the new boss’,
(Name and address supplied).