Magee expansion plan 'fanciful' - Farry

Published Friday, 08 August 2014
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Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry has said any plan to expand the University of Ulster Magee campus is "fanciful" following cuts to his department's budget.

A campaign has been ongoing in Londonderry to expand the Magee campus as it is believed it would rejuvenate the economy and local area.

But last week at Stormont, a £78m reduction to the departmental resource budgets was announced in the June Monitoring Round and the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) took one of the biggest hits - £16.3m with a further reduction of £18m anticipated in autumn.

In the immediate term, plans to have a total of 1,000 new undergraduate places by next year have been shelved.

The Employment Minister has said the university was aware of the scale of cuts that were coming and an expansion is no longer feasible.

"This is very simple, the money simply isn't there, we have massive mismanagement in Northern Ireland at present, it's compounded by the utter denial of reality by the SDLP and Sinn Féin with regards to welfare reform," the Alliance MLA said.

"My department's facing an in-year cut of 4.4%, the universities will have to take a share of that.

"So in the context where their budgets are shrinking, they themselves will have to take on tough decisions on how they manage these cuts. The notion that we would seek to expand a university is utterly fanciful."

Any further expansion of higher education would require significant funding, and any such investment would involve recurrent expenditure. However under the current budget circumstances, this will simply not be possible for the foreseeable future.

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry

Sinn Féin and the SDLP were involved in a protest on Friday at the campus following the news.

SDLP Mayor Brenda Stevenson said at the rally: "We saw what happened back in the 70s when the university went to Coleraine and the impact that's had on our city economically over the last four years, we are not allowing this to continue."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the expansion of Magee needs to proceed as planned.

"Comments by Stephen Farry in relation to Magee are outrageous and irresponsible," the Sinn Féin MLA said.

"Any decision on this issue is clearly controversial, has serious equality implications and will therefore need to come to the Executive where Sinn Féin will robustly challenge the DEL Minister's position.

"Sinn Féin is totally committed to the resourcing and expansion of Magee. I intend to raise this issue at the first meeting of the Executive in September."

NUS-USI President Rebecca Hall has said that Minister Farry must deliver on the plan.

"Also, the number of university places should be expanded - there can be no cut in student places," she said.

"The Minister's comments are extremely troubling. We need investment in students to help deliver the best possible educational outcomes and to help grow our economy.

"Students must not become the victims of any failure of government on agreeing on budgetary issues."

© UTV News
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11 Comments
Taxi Paul in Belfast wrote (111 days ago):
I have an idea just stop wasting money. I am a taxi driver and I have a driving licence but I need a taxi Licence as well at the cost of £150, then my taxi needs PSV'd at £138 so now I have a licence and my taxi has a licence but local bureaucracy is not finished yet I now need an operators licence to allow me to use the other two licences I have at the cost of another £400. Don't forget the £200 road tax. Then I have to keep details of every fare I lift and civil servants are now legally entitled to come into my home without giving notice and check my records. Now I admit I have not heard of them doing this yet but in theory they are legally entitled to. ALL THIS RED TAPE IS TO CREATE REVENUE TO FUND CIVIL SERVICE JOBS THAT ARE NOT NEEDED SO THESE POLITICIANS CAN PRETEND THEY ARE RUNNING DEPARTMENTS. Don't cut welfare cut the civil service, by about 30%. Trust me it can withstand it easily.
Canice in Derry wrote (111 days ago):
'Serious equality implications', ha that's ole news Marty as you well know.
James in Portavoe .. wrote (112 days ago):
We are part of U.K. wealthfare reforms should be same as the rest of U.K....S.F. can change them if they ever get a United Ireland but where will they get the cash ...from culture events and thatch cottage tourism lol.
doirecormac in Derry wrote (112 days ago):
Shame. How about you stop the expansion of the Uni of Ulster in Belfast instead?
Dorothy in Kansas wrote (112 days ago):
J in Northern Ireland wrote... "They (Sinn Fein) only got 29% of the vote! 71% of the country don't agree with them". The DUP got 30.57% of the vote in the 2011 assembly elections. That's 69.43% of the people that don't agree with them. Not a great deal of difference, I'm sure you'll agree.
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