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Ulster University students vote by a landslide to reject changing Magee campus name

By Rebecca Black

Ulster University students have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to rename the Magee campus as the City of Derry, despite the vast majority of students there identifying themselves as Catholic.

It is in contrast to the move of Derry City Council 30 years ago to rename itself from its original name of Londonderry.

Almost 80% of students said no to the move put forward in a Students' Union vote forced by Ogra Sinn Fein. In total, 978 students voted in the referendum.

Of these, eight abstained, 192 (16%) voted in favour of the City of Derry name change, and 778 (79%) voted to keep the name Magee.

Magee was originally opened in 1865 as a Presbyterian Christian arts and theological college. Since 1953 it has had no religious affiliation. In 1969 it became part of the Ulster University.

According to figures from the Department of Employment and Learning, there are three times as many Catholic students at the campus as Protestant students.

In the most recent figures available, in 2012/13, the Stormont department recorded 2,260 Catholic students registered at the campus, 635 Protestants and 355 who described themselves as other.

Across its four campuses in 2012/13, Ulster University had 8,800 Catholic students, 6,460 Protestant students and 1,775 other. The Coleraine campus is the only campus where there were more Protestants (1,870) than Catholics (1,615).

At the Jordanstown campus, there were 6,240 Catholic students compared to 3,685 Protestant students, and at the Belfast campus there were 705 Catholic students and 505 Protestant students.

The pattern was similar at Queen's University Belfast.

In 2012/13, there were 8,800 Catholic students and 6,460 Protestant students, along with 1,775 who described themselves as other.

Around 12,000 undergraduates leave Northern Ireland to study at universities overseas every year. The majority of these are Protestants.

The referendum at the Ulster University last week comes a month after Ogra Sinn Fein forced a referendum at Queen's University on a united Ireland.

Students voted against it, with 1,264 students voting for and 1,285 votes against.

Instead, they voted overwhelmingly for a motion calling for the Students' Union to remain independent on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, with 2,596 students voting for this and just 409 students voting against it.

Last year, another controversial Ogra Sinn Fein motion at Queen's to ban the sale of poppies in the Students' Union building also failed.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell welcomed the result of the Magee vote as "common sense", and urged the university authorities to work on attracting more protestant students.

"Whereas a name change to City of Derry would have made the difficult task they already have even more difficult.

"This follows on from a similarly politically loaded question posed at Queen's recently," he said.

"I am glad that common sense seems to have prevailed," the East Londonderry MP added .

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