An artist’s impression of what the expanded Magee campus will look like in the years to come.
The location of Ulster University’s Medical School at Magee has not been finalised despite the belief that it would be located on land next to Derry council headquarters for years.
It has been widely reported that the long-awaited School of Medicine would be situated on the Strand Road adjacent to the council building.
However, in an FOI response to the Derry News, the local council indicated that Ulster University (UU) still has to decide on its ‘preferred and intended location along the riverfront for its proposed medical school and innovation campus’.
Derry City & Strabane District Council is awaiting a decision from UU before finalising its own planned £20m-£25m move from the Strand Road to Foyle Street.
UU was asked where the Medical School will be based and if Fort George is being explored as an option.
The Derry News also queried whether the university has ambitions of siting any facilities in the city centre with a growing realisation from experts that city centres need to be reimagined due to the demise of retail stores.
A UU spokesperson said: “Ulster University’s Magee Campus sits in the heart of the beautiful university city of Derry and also extends beyond the campus boundaries with Education and Research provision onsite at Altnagelvin Hospital.
“We have had initial, outline conversations with the Western Health and Social Care Trust about options for our healthcare expertise within the Fort George hub, and look forward to developing more detailed plans in time.
“Separately, we’ll update you on plans for the permanent location of the School of Medicine as they are confirmed.”
UU’s vision is to build a high-tech hub for health and innovation which stretches from the current council headquarters to Fort George.
The first step is the opening of the School of Medicine next month which will be run from buildings on the existing Magee campus.
‘Globally ambitious community-focused doctors’ will be trained in Derry for the Northern Ireland health service.
UU has publicised its plans to expand the campus footprint in Derry through infrastructural developments.
It will receive around £85m of the local council's City Deal and Inclusive Future Fund to invest in the campus.
The UU website states: “This will stimulate economic growth in the city and region.
“Through the Derry & Strabane City Deal centres of excellence in robotics and artificial intelligence will be built in the city centre.
“An innovation corridor will develop along the Riverfront stretching to Fort George.
“Derry City Council has visionary plans to create a world-class riverfront space.
“A host of investment and employment opportunities will follow.”
In the proposed health and innovation hub, nurses, medical researchers, GPs, podiatrists, sport scientists, will learn and live side by side, preparing them for their future careers in the multidisciplinary environment that is the health service.
From this September, Magee will educate the next generation of paramedics through a new course, BSc Honours in Paramedic Science.
In 2022-23 around 850 Health Sciences students will study disciplines including radiography and physiotherapy at the Derry campus.
A new Health Research Institute (HRI) will be located beside the School of Medicine.
At the HRI, medical researchers will pioneer a new health innovation project, sequencing the DNA of the people of Derry and the region.
They will sit alongside the ‘multi-award-winning’ School of Nursing which was recently ranked number one on the Island of Ireland and 6th in the UK.
These plans will take a number of years to come to fruition, as the council has stated that business cases could take up to two years to be signed off at central government level.
Speaking in February UU Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Bartholomew said there were currently 4,098 students at Magee - 3,640 full-time.
In 2014/15 students at Magee totalled 5,098 of which 3,383 were full-time – that is the highest they’ve ever been.
The Vice-Chancellor has previously stated that growth to 6,000 students at Magee is ‘broadly achievable’ by 2022/23 but going beyond that will require a ‘different operating environment’ as it has different ‘governmental and political parameters to it’.
That came as a disappointment to campaigners who want to see growth to 10,000 students in Derry as promised in New Decade, New Approach.
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