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Give us all 500 new student places, urges Magee academic

By Donna Deeney

Every one of 500 new undergraduate places should go to the University of Ulster’s Magee campus in Londonderry, its pro vice-chancellor has said.

The minister responsible for Northern Ireland’s universities, Stephen Farry, is to announce this week how the additional places for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects will be allocated.

The minister said the bulk of the places would go to the University of Ulster and the rest to Queen’s University.

However, Queen’s has not sought any additional places from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL).

Now the University of Ulster pro vice-chancellor, Professor Deirdre Heenan (pictured), has said there must not be a repeat of what happened last year when new Stem places were allocated.

She said that in December 2011, DEL allocated the UU 322 of 700 additional Stem places — just 14 more than Queen’s — with the rest going to further education colleges.

Professor Heenan added: “To avoid a repeat of what happened in December 2011 we would urge all politicians, civic leaders and those with influence to join with the university and persuade and lobby the minister to allocate all of the new student places to the University of Ulster.” Ms Heenan said she has strong support from both the business community and Derry City Council, and both bodies have also put pressure on Mr Farry to commit all 500 places to Magee.

Sinead McLaughlin, chief executive of Derry’s Chamber of Commerce, said: “One of the key factors holding back the economy of Derry is the lack of graduates in our population.

“A larger university presence in Derry would be good for everyone.

“It helps drive trade across all sectors — including in retail, property, hospitality and transport. It would create jobs and wealth, not only for graduates but for all.

“Increasing university provision is the single most important measure that can be taken to strengthen Derry’s economy.” Ms McLaughlin said that independent research has established that a university of the size envisaged in the One Plan for regeneration of the city would generate nearly £500m a year by 2030.

“Nothing else could achieve these same benefits for the citizens of Derry. Those benefits are equally important for the taxpayers across all of Northern Ireland by moving our city towards economic self-sufficiency.”

Derry mayor Kevin Campbell said that he would be lobbying Government on behalf of the Magee campus.

A DEL spokeswoman said: “The allocation of the additional Stem places is currently under consideration. It is anticipated that an announcement on the allocation will be made this week.”

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