More student places announced for Derry university

More undergraduate student places have been announced for Ulster University's (UU) campus in Londonderry.

Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Tuesday, Sinn Féin Economy Minister Conor Murphy announced that funding would be provided to create up to 500 more undergraduate places for the UU campus, formerly known as Magee.

There are currently more than 5,000 students studying at the now named Derry-Londonderry campus.

Mr Murphy said expanding student numbers at the university campus was his "top priority" as minister and that this announcement was "only the start".

Sinéad McLaughlin
The SDLP's Sinéad McLaughlin welcomed the announcement, but says 150 students included in that 500 figure are already at the campus [BBC]

A 10,000-student target was included in New Decade, New Approach (NDNA).

NDNA restored Northern Ireland's power-sharing executive in 2020.

It stated that both the UK and Irish governments would aim to financially support the 10,000 student number expansion target.

The SDLP's Sinéad McLaughlin welcomed the announcement but also said that the 500 figure announced by the minister already included 150 places that were recruited by the university last year.

"It is really only 350 extra students this year," the Foyle assembly member told the assembly chamber.

"If we keep recruiting at that rate, by the year 2030 we will have only 8,000 students at Magee."

'Need to heighten our ambition'

Ms McLaughlin said university expansion is key for the city and wider area.

"We really need to heighten our ambition and bring more students into Magee at speed in order to make it a viable university for a city the size of Derry," she said.

In response to Ms McLaughlin, Mr Murphy said they have been "making significant progress on Magee".

"The 150 students who came in last year were funded at risk by Ulster University and, to me, that demonstrates the university's commitment to growth and expansion at Magee," he said.

"That cost has now been covered by us, and it will allow for the recruitment of 500 students in total, including those who were taken in at risk. We have to be clear about that. The intention is to ramp that up."

A taskforce was set up last year to look at expanding student numbers.

The expansion of Magee is seen by many in the north west as a key economic driver for the region.