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UU University of Ulster in shock campus move

The University of Ulster is planning to move the majority of its Jordanstown courses to its Belfast campus, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.

The university will formally announce details of major “strategic development plans” involving the Belfast and Newtownabbey campuses in the New Year. Expansion of the city centre campus is one of the options being considered and most likely to get the go-ahead.

Jordanstown is the largest of the four UU sites – with 13,200 students and 1,700 staff. This compares with 1,200 students and 300 staff based at the Belfast campus in the Cathedral Quarter.

Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim Ken Robinson said today he was “extremely concerned” about the potential loss to the local economy if the move to Belfast goes ahead. He said that he will raise concerns with party colleague Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey.

The Belfast Telegraph has learned the UU is involved in negotiations to buy the Interpoint building near York Street campus as part of the radical Belfast expansion plan.

Jordanstown — which is seven miles north of Belfast — will remain as one of the four university campuses and is likely to concentrate on sport and engineering. Double Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe officially opened its new £20m world-class sports facilities last month.

The students’ halls of residence will also remain on the site and currently provide accommodation for more than 700 students.

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Among the departments likely to move to Belfast — which recently benefited from a £30m refurbishment and redevelopment programme — are Business and Management and Rehabilitation Sciences (including physiotherapy and occupational therapy).

The Belfast campus currently consists of two separate buildings connected via a suspended walkway above York Street.

It is home to the School of Art and Design and the School of Architecture and Design although other disciplines are increasingly being taught there – including programmes offered by the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

A university spokesman said: "We can confirm that the University of Ulster is in advanced discussions about strategic development plans which will have positive impacts for all four of our campuses. However, we are unable to comment further at this stage until progress is made on a number of issues."

Mr Robinson said: “I would be extremely concerned if such a move was being contemplated. East Antrim already has the lowest number of public sector jobs out of the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies.

“Any substantial relocation of university-generated positions would represent a further potential loss to the local economy and could impact adversely on shops and businesses which have built up a vibrant commercial sector in this part of Newtownabbey.”

A spokesman for the Department for Employment and Learning said: “The location for any of its courses is a decision for the University of Ulster and its governing bodies.”

The NUS-USI student organisation said it did not want to comment and UU student union president Nora Duncan said she wanted to talk to the university and the student council before giving her reaction. The University and College Union did not respond to a request for a comment.

In total, the University of Ulster employs over 3,400 staff and more than 23,000 local, national and international students study at undergraduate to postgraduate degree levels in Coleraine, Newtownabbey, Belfast and Londonderry (Magee).

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