No Stormont First Minister Without Magee Expansion

No Stormont First Minister Without Magee Expansion

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Steve Bradley started this petition to Michelle O'Neill and

SIXTY YEARS WAITING FOR A PROPER UNI

Northern Ireland's second city - Derry/Londonderry - has been waiting for a proper university since the early 1960s. Despite having the highest unemployment and lowest education/skills attainment within NI, the city has the lowest Higher Education provision of any of the 15 towns on the island with degree-awarding institutions (see link at end). Even significantly smaller towns like Sligo, Letterkenny and Coleraine have greater university provision than Derry.

LOWEST H.E. PROVISION / HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT

Derry's Magee college is the fourth priority campus of Northern Ireland's second university. It currently has only 4,300 students, whilst Belfast has over 46,000.  For more than two decades the entire city of Derry has been united in the demand that Magee campus should be expanded to 10,000 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) students.  For two decades Ulster University (UU) promised continuously that it would fulfil this ambition, but under its new Vice-Chancellor has now admitted it is unable to expand beyond 6,000. Derry is having to 'buy' a large portion of that increased number itself, through handing £85m of its City Deal funding to UU.

A proper university in Derry is the last unfulfilled demand of the 1960s Civil Rights campaign. The failure to grant the city one in 1966 was a key contributor towards the unravelling of events that ultimately resulted in 30years of The Troubles. It is unacceptable that this issue is still unresolved more than half a century later. 

NI 'BRAIN DRAIN'

Meanwhile Northern Ireland does not have enough student spaces to meet demand. Undergraduate places here are capped whilst they aren't in Britain. So a quarter of all those studying having to leave NI to secure a place - paying double the fees in the process. Two-thirds of those never return to live in NI again, resulting in a significant brain drain on our economy.

NEW DECADE, NEW AGREEMENT

In January 2020 the Stormont Assembly was revived after a 3yr absence. Key to that restart was the 'New Decade, New Approach' (NDNA) agreement between its two largest parties (DUP and Sinn Féin). That agreement contains a commitment to expand university provision in Derry to 10,000 FTE students. Despite this, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has spent the last 16mths undermining university expansion within the city - even publicly criticising Ulster Uni for deciding to move 800 health students there (which doesn't even replace the 900 students they've moved away from Magee in recent years). By their words and their lack of action the DUP have made it clear that they are NOT committed to expanding HE provision in NI's second city.

NO FIRST MINISTER WITHOUT MAGEE EXPANSION

People in Derry have had enough of being fobbed off with platitudes and false promises for sixty years. The NDNA commitment to expand student provision in Derry is a red line issue that MUST be delivered. If the DUP refuse to commit to it fully, their proposal for First Minister should not be ratified by other parties. And Sinn Féin should refuse to nominate a Deputy First Minister in-return. If a power-sharing government is unwilling or unable to deliver on its own promises and agreements, it is self-evidently no longer fit for purpose. We say there must be no First Minister ratification without a cast-iron guarantee to expand uni provision in Derry to 10,000 FTE students. Because after 60 years, we've just had enough. 

Notes :

(1) University provision by town/city in Ireland = https://sluggerotoole.com/2016/10/13/educating-ulster-northern-ireland-has-a-chronic-shortage-of-students-whilst-belfast-has-too-many-and-the-west-of-the-province-has-too-few-the-solution-is-obvious/

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