The drive for an expansion of student numbers at the Magee campus of the University of Ulster will continue, campaigners have declared, despite an Assembly vote rejecting plans to increase places. Expansion of student places at the Londonderry campus is central to plans for city regeneration.
The chairman of the University for Derry (U4D) lobby group said yesterday that the Assembly’s rejection of the plans must not deflect from the determination within the north west.
Padraig Canavan said people across Northern Ireland still had to be won over if the fight for fairness in third level provision was to be realised.
His comments came after MLAs voted 49 to 27 against a resolution tabled on Tuesday by Foyle SDLP members calling for 1,000 additional student places at Magee.
He said: “Tuesday’s vote and the unfortunate comments by some MLAs speaking against the proposal must not deflect us from our determination to achieve the substantial expansion of Magee.
“The North West is united in favour of Magee’s expansion.
“We have won the argument here, but we still have to win the hearts and minds of many people further afield.
“We must continue to explain to them that improving the economic and social conditions in Derry-Londonderry is not merely of benefit to ourselves but to the whole of Northern Ireland.
“A prosperous North West contributes to a prosperous Northern Ireland.”
He added: “We must once again stress that Northern Ireland needs a stronger graduate base in the modern economy skills if we are to attract more inward investment, assist local businesses to ex
pand and get more spin-off enterprises created through the universities.
“The argument seems obvious to many of us, but sadly not to everyone within Stormont.
“Some 27 MLAs — many from east of the Bann — supported the resolution for the moderate increase in student numbers at Magee.
“The whole of Derry City Council voted for a similar proposal.
“We at least have a solid political base to continue working with. U4D would like to continue working with these politicians, not least to ensure the amendment of the Programme of Government to include the One Plan in its entirety — including the substantial expansion of Magee.”
The Magee campus had to reject almost 5,000 students in the current academic year, most of whom came from Northern Ireland — adn more than the entire student body at the Derry campus.
The University of Ulster has been lobbying the Department of Employment and Learning for years to lift the cap on student numbers to allow for expansion plans at Magee.