Ulster University’s new School of Medicine opened in Derry with the first ministers hailing it a “momentous day”.
The new facility opened on Monday at the Magee campus in Londonderry. The school has been beset with delays, funding issues and hampered by the collapse of Stormont after it was first proposed in the mid-2000s. It was planned to open in 2019, but securing funding streams proved a difficulty.
In July 2020 the Executive stumped up £26m in capital funding and £9m per year for annual running costs.
Queen’s has been the only medic-training facility providing around 270 doctors a year. A report on medical provision in Northern Ireland by the Department of Health previously found an additional 100 were needed to address shortages.
The Magee campus opened its doors to 70 students to begin a four-year course. Healthcare degrees are to move to the campus next year.
The students are a mix of those that have completed courses in medicine-related disciplines and those completely new to the subject.
First Minister Paul Givan hailed the opening as a “momentous day not just for Londonderry but for all of Northern Ireland”.
“I am pleased to be here to mark this historic occasion, as we open Ulster University School of Medicine and see this project come to fruition,” he said.
“I commend the enormous amount of work which has taken place up until now, with tremendous effort from partners across government, academia, medicine and beyond. I hope everyone can take a sense of pride in what has been achieved.
"As our involvement ends, we hand this facility over to the students. It is they who are the most important part of this celebration.
“I wish every success to those beginning the next stage of their educational journey in medicine today - and the many future classes who will come through these doors in the years ahead.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill described the opening as a landmark announcement for Derry and the north west.
She said: "The school of medicine improves significantly the educational offering in Magee that will attract students from far and wide. It will create significant and long term economic benefits for the region as well as benefiting the wider health service.
“I commend all those who have worked to help secure this transformative investment and I wish all the new graduate entrants the very best with their studies and future careers.
“The Executive is committed to the regeneration of the north west, and we remain focussed on bringing about prosperity for all the people of the area. As a key part of the £250 million Derry and Strabane Region City Deal and Inclusive Future Fund package, this is a significant step forward on that journey.
“In opening the Ulster University School of Medicine we fulfil an Executive commitment and a key part of the New Decade, New Approach agreement. But this success only serves to fuel our future ambition as we continue working to address the regional imbalance and fulfil the huge potential of the area.”