Promise of 10,000 students for Derry revised by Vice Chancellor as UU set to receive £85m from North West City deal
Members of Derry University Group, Conal McFeely and Garbhán Downey, have slammed Ulster University claims that UU will no longer be able to fulfil the agreement of 10,000 students in Derry by 2030.
People Before Profit’s Shaun Harkin had already criticised Ulster University Vice-Chancellor, Paul Bartholomew, after the Derry and Strabane Council's Strategic Growth Partnership meeting last Friday.
Professor Bartholomew addressed Derry City & Strabane Council regarding developments at the University's Magee campus.
Councillor Harkin said the comments regarding the plans for Magee Campus were insulting to Derry and the North West.
Prof Bartholomew addressed the importance of growing student numbers in Derry, with a target increase of 6000.
Councillor Harkin said that the revised target number of students backtracks the original promise of 10,000 more students as outlined in the 'New Decade New Approach.'
McFeely and Downey have also criticised this target as breaking the terms of the contract made with Derry.
They said: “UU’s announcement was always coming. If all the winds blow in the right direction, and if Belfast doesn’t need any more students, cash or time, it is just possible that Magee will have a notional 6000 students by 2030 - no doubt the majority part-time – instead of the 10000 fulltime students promised.
“The covenant that the UU has repeatedly struck with the North West has again been broken – by UU – and our job now is to make sure that never happens again.
"The only way to do that is for this region to establish its own independent university, by securing the support of Dublin and London, and by lobbying Europe and the US – to establish an independent university in the North West under the auspices of the National University of Ireland.
“Much of this work is already being done, or has been done. Both governments have accepted the need for a North West university and have made public statements on the issue.
“A cross-border university, they both believe, will stand as a symbol of North-South cooperation. And both administrations are also keen to honour the late John Hume – and there could be no more appropriate way to do so, than to build a permanent to his memory.
“Both London and Dublin are also keen to honour the commitments they made in ‘New Decade, New Approach’, which stated categorically that there would be 10000 students in Magee by 2030.”
McFeeley and Downey claim that the Derry University Group research shows that an independent university – as in the case of Lincoln – can add 25% to a region’s economy within the space of a decade.
“The optimists among us choose to believe they’ve been told good news is on the horizon. The pessimists, and realists, who are unfortunately in the majority, know we have been deceived again.
"The repercussions for this region – unless we develop an immediate alternative – will be generational.
"The Council needs to stop all City Deal pay-outs to UU, which has broken the terms of its contract with the city, disconnect the Zoom lines to Belfast PLC, and pick up the phone to the NUI.”
Councillor Harkin said that the comments of Ulster University Vice Chancellor Paul Bartholomew at Friday's meeting “fly in the face of government commitments to Derry and the North West.”
“Bartholomew made clear an increase to 6000 students is the top-end of his plans for Magee expansion. New Decade New Approach states 10,000 students as the strategic goal for Magee expansion.
“Bartholomew described this as an unachievable 'aspiration'. This is an insult.
“If 'rules' are an obstacle to a crucial government objective they need to be changed. It should be remembered 10,000 sliced in half the original ambition of a 20,000-student university for Derry.
“Bartholomew's dismissal of NDNA agreements is all the more jarring because Ulster University is set to be the beneficiary of nearly £100m of City Deal funding.
“That the Stormont Executive has not already made a priority of seeing a major commitment to Derry and the North West delivered on is a disgrace.”
In response to Councillor Harkin's comments, a spokesperson for Ulster University said: "We wouldn’t look to add anything beyond what the Vice Chancellor said in his presentation about the University’s position, ambitions and the wider context."
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