A Labour MP has branded the failure to build an independent university in Derry a “social and sectarian scandal”.
The comments were made by Lord Andrew Adonis, who has called a debate in the House of Lords for today.
This follows a fact-finding visit to the city last month by Labour MPs Mike Kane and Mike Amesbury.
Taking to Twitter, Lord Adonis declared: “Shamefully, Derry/Londonderry doesn’t have a university whose main campus is in the city - the only city of its prominence in the UK which doesn’t have its own HE institution.
“I am calling a debate on this long-running social & sectarian scandal in the House of Lords on Monday.”
Responding to a twitter user he also said that when the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill goes to the Lords, he will consider putting forward an amendment calling on the Secretary of State to commission a review of Higher Education provision in NI.
The Derry News recently highlighted the fact that student numbers at Ulster University’s Magee campus have declined in recent years despite university chiefs pledging to deliver 10,000 students by 2020.
UU promised to have 10,000 full-time students at Magee by next year under the 2011 One Plan for Derry.
In reality, since 2014 student numbers at the Derry campus have slumped from 4,658 in 2014/15 to 4,313 in 2018/19, according to figures gathered under the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation.
In the past ten years 122 courses have been cut or transferred, however, Ulster University has stated that 110 courses have opened in that time. It did accept that it is not possible to match these courses like for like.
Derry is an unemployment blackspot and meaningful university expansion has long been considered the simplest route to improving its economy and skills.
Yet significant courses such as the undergraduate degree in Psychology, which from 2014 – 2016 attracted around 300 full-time students annually to study in Derry and about 20 part-time students, have been uprooted and moved to other campuses - in that instance Coleraine.
The Irish History & politics degree which attracted students from across the border has also closed.
Courses transferred to UU's Belfast campuses most recently include LLM Commercial Law, BSc Sociology Majors, and Peace and Conflict Studies - a subject area synonymous with Derry as the city where the Civil Rights movement began and recognised by international experts, policy-makers, researchers and peace activists.
In a statement to the Derry News at the time, UU attributed a reduction in student numbers and “expansion challenges” to higher education budget cuts.
It should be noted that upwards of £250m has been spent relocating Ulster University’s Jordanstown campus to York Street in Belfast, a move previously described as a “vanity project” by local politicians.
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