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Magee doesn't feature in long-term financial strategy

Derry University Group urges UU to immediately hand over lands and budgets to city-region

Magee doesn't feature in long-term financial strategy

Artist's impression of an expanded Magee campus along the river front

Ulster University’s most up-to-date financial strategy and strategic plans make no mention of Derry’s Magee campus.

Its strategic plan centres around funding for the Greater Belfast Development with no mention of its Magee or Coleraine campuses which have witnessed student numbers drop significantly in the past five years.

The University’s most recent Financial Statement for 2017/18, outlines its long-term financial strategy.  UU’s five-year strategic plan ‘Five and Fifty’ sets the vision and mission of the University. 

It states: “As Northern Ireland’s civic university, Ulster University will deliver outstanding research and teaching that encourages the innovation, leadership and vision needed to help our community thrive.”

It details ambitions to deliver an “operating surplus” to support a sustainable investment strategy in both the University’s physical resources and information technology facilities.

This includes the generation of “sufficient cash reserves” to allow for the allocation of £20m per annum to capital projects of which £10m per annum is towards the Greater Belfast Development and the repayment of loans to fund this project.

A spokesperson for the Derry University Group has urged UU to immediately hand over its lands to city-region, saying: "UU is demonstrating all the hallmarks of a struggling multi-national business running down a neglected outpost.

"Ulster needs to hand over the lands and budgets at Magee to the city-region immediately to allow us to develop university provision here autonomously. Ultimately, we can sit and watch UU die slowly in the regions while it moves to Belfast, or we can take proper control of the situation ourselves and start building for the future, with a vengeance.

"The idea of Council partnering in a multi-million pounds development City Deal with organisation such as UU is frankly ludicrous.

"Imagine you were about to invest £105m and performed due diligence on your partners and found out they had UU's record. You would leave the table immediately. Council must do likewise."

'Significant problems'

The University’s approved financial strategy aimed to ensure the financial viability of UU.

Any borrowings were not to exceed that approved in the Business Plan for the Greater Belfast Development and any other projects that may arise which are confirmed as self-funding.

The strategy also aimed to support the development of activities that generate income for growth.

However, since the 2017/18 financial statement was published the Northern Ireland Audit Office released a report showing that the Greater Belfast Development has encountered "significant problems", and delays, meaning it "now needs to attract substantial additional external finance to bridge a major funding gap."

It is anticipated to run £110m over budget.

The business case, approved in March 2010, envisaged that the expanded Belfast Campus would be open to students in September 2018 at a cost of £254 million.

Funding was to come mainly from the UU’s own reserves and external borrowing, with the Department for the Economy (DfE) contributing £16m capital grant.

UU has earmarked cash reserves of £70m built up since 2008, to support the project and committed a further £20 million over the next three years. This is over and above the £61.8m spent by UU to date.

The total cost of the project is now estimated at £363.9m including 20 per cent VAT which is irrecoverable.

 

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