Call for ‘urgency’ over university places in Londonderry

The SDLP has hit out at what it says is a lack of “urgency” over the creation of 10,000 university places for Londonderry.

The commitment, set out in the New Decade, New Approach deal that restored power-sharing in 2020, has yet to be met.

There are currently 4,188 students in Magee, according to figures provided to the SDLP.

The expansion of the Ulster University Magee campus in Londonderry has been a long-running gripe among local campaigners, who see it as a key way of reviving the economic offering of the north-west of Northern Ireland.

Magee Campus. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

SDLP Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin has launched a new petition, calling for 10,000 university places in the city.

She said that such a move would be transformational for the city.

“Despite the relentless efforts of the SDLP and other campaigners we are still well short of where we need to be and in some respects are going backwards,” she said.

“The SDLP has always been committed to the expansion of university places because we know what it would mean for our city.

“Since the [New Decade, New Approach] agreement was signed we have seen no urgency to deliver on this promise.

“Despite repeated calls for progress we have had nothing but excuses and people in Derry are sick and tired of the same old story when it comes to proper investment in our city. Every year our best and brightest leave this area behind to study and work and achieve a better life elsewhere. There can be no further delays.”

Last summer the first students entered the new medical school in Londonderry.

It was hailed as historic for the city, which sits close to the border with Donegal and the Republic of Ireland.

Campaigners have long said that both sides of the border would benefit from an expanded Magee campus.

Ms McLaughlin echoed this.

“It’s not only our city that will benefit from university expansion.

“It will provide greater choice to people right across the north-west, including Co Derry and Co Tyrone, and across the border in neighbouring Donegal.

“We have the opportunity to build a major cross-border university that serves this often neglected part of our island.”