10 Aug 2022

Magee report: ‘Public representatives should back independent university as matter of priority’

The prospect of establishing an independent third-level institution in Derry has been mooted by individuals known as the Derry University Group. In several presentations to the Irish government, including one to the Oireachtas Joint Committee sitting at Ráth Mór in Creggan last November, the Derry University Group (DUG) put forward a set of proposals for an independent university. DUG, which was set up in 2013 by Conal McFeely, Garbhan Downey and Diane Greer to campaign for an independent university for the North West, believes that stability and growth could be stimulated by incorporating Derry as a constituent college of the National University of Ireland and by fostering partnerships between Derry and individual third-level institutions in the south. Speaking to the Derry News this week, a spokesperson for DUG stated: "Derry absolutely must develop alternatives to UU as a matter of urgency. It is imperative that we establish our own university in the North West, with support from national and international partners, immediately. “It is unsustainable – and, frankly, reckless - for the North West to suggest building its future around the fourth-priority campus of Belfast’s second university.” He continued: "Next year marks the 1500th anniversary of the birth of this city’s founder, Colmcille – a man whose legacy as a scholar, builder, and international statesman is already most evident throughout the North West and beyond. “What more fitting way could there be to respect this legacy than for the North West to develop its own, independent university to mark his massive contribution to the scholastic world? "We have a duty to future generations to build a new autonomous third-level institution in the North West. “The Derry University Group has already met with the Irish government on a number of occasions regarding the establishment of an independent university here under the auspices of the National University of Ireland. We call on our public representatives to back this campaign now as a matter of priority." History Magee College, a former partner campus of Trinity College, Dublin has been providing third-level education in the city for more than 150 years. It was expected to become the site of Northern Ireland’s second university, however, in a controversial and highly contested move, the Lockwood Committee announced the second university should be built in Coleraine. Despite Derry being five times the size of Coleraine, Lockwood concluded that Derry was too small to “service” a university, viewing the city as nothing more than a “frontier town”. In 1969, Magee became the satellite campus of the Coleraine-based New University of Ulster (NUU) which later merged in the 1980s with the Ulster Polytechnic College at Jordanstown and the Belfast Art College to become the University of Ulster. Derry civic leaders have long insisted that the decision not to develop the North’s second university in Derry was a sectarian one. In the multi-agency Derry One Plan published in 2011, UU committed itself to having 10,000 full-time students at Magee by 2020. A lack of foresight and commitment to any expansion from Stormont has allowed these guarantees to be pushed back to 2025 and again to 2030 – the cost of and delays to the new Belfast campus cited as contributing factors.

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