Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin highlighting the importance of maintaining a focus on achieving the much needed expansion of Magee Campus said:
“Let 2016 be the year we see real progress on the Expansion of the University at Magee. Much work has been done to complete and revise a robust business case that clearly dictates the economic and strategic importance of the expansion to Derry and the wider North West Region.
“The city’s One Plan was developed and launched in 2011 through a very lengthy participative process that the city and region had probably not seen before. It involved hundreds of individuals and groups from across the public, private, community, voluntary and political sectors as well as individual residents from across the city and region. The result was a mission statement that placed equality at the heart of regeneration.
“The final One Plan featured a range of interdependent catalyst programmes for the economic, social and physical regeneration that is required to target the needs and inequalities that exist in the north-west.
“Whilst progress has been made with both the allocation of student places and indeed the £11m investment to the teaching block secured through the Ministerial Sub Group the project needs additional momentum, collaboration and focus to ensure that the scale of expansion required is realised in full.
“The consultation and engagement that I referred to, and the findings of the One Plan process on Higher education expansion, are robust. However, there is a need to reinvigorate and strengthen the coalition around action for university expansion.
“The imperative now is to deliver that which was agreed during the process. A target of 9,400 full-time students, including 6,000 MaSN students; a viable portfolio of courses reflective of the needs of the 21st-century economy; the establishment of a teaching and research foundation for a medical school in conjunction with Altnagelvin Hosp[tal/Western Health and Social Care Trust; an enhanced research portfolio providing a foundation for teaching excellence, local and inward spin/outward investment as an attractor to mobile academic and research staff; and, of course, access pathways, through further education for those disadvantaged and vocational students who might otherwise be excluded from higher education.
“The recent change in Leadership at University of Ulster and the appointment of Paddy Nixon as Vice Chancellor provides the opportunity for a renewed focus. That combined with a Team Derry partnership approach with North West Regional College and the new department of the Economy which come into being following the Assembly elections can deliver on this much needed investment to our economic and social regeneration.
“The one essential ingredient is that ‘Team Derry’ speak with one determined voice.” CRÍOCH/END