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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Controversial college merger approved
The catering industry is opposed to the merger
The catering industry is opposed to the merger
A controversial merger between a catering college and the University of Ulster has been approved by Northern Ireland's minister for employment and learning.

There had been protests at the proposal to amalgamate the Northern Ireland Catering College in Portrush, County Antrim with the university.

However, the minister, Carmel Hanna, gave the go-ahead for the merger on Monday despite misgivings expressed by the hotel and catering industry.

The industry is concerned that moving hotel management degrees from Jordanstown near Belfast, may reduce the popularity of the courses.

Minister for Employment and Learning Carmel Hanna
Carmel Hanna: Confident her decision is the "right one"

Many in the catering and tourism industry said it was wrong to move the training and the students away from the area where most bars, restaurants and hotels were located.

About 80% of the submissions to an assembly consultation on the proposals were opposed to it.

The minister said she had considered the arguments in detail, and was confident that her decision was the right one.

She said she was only able to make a decision on the merger and had no powers to tell the university what courses it should run or where they should be located.

It is understood the Department of Employment and Learning will monitor the development of the merger over the first 12 months.

SDLP assembly member John Dallat, whose constituency is close to Portrush, congratulated the minister on her decision but David Hilditch of the DUP said there would be disappointment at the decision.

'World class'

Ulster Unionist member Ken Robinson said there were concerns about the long term viability of the merger and the possibility that it might have disastrous results.

The announcement ween welcomed by the university and the catering college which, it was claimed, could not have survived without the merger.

The university promised to create two professorships in tourism and in hospitality if the merger was approved.

It would also set up an advisory committee to make sure the centre is "of world class standard".

The university has said it would invest 1.5m in the merger and hoped to have approval before the new term starts in September.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's education correspondent Maggie Taggart:
"The decision has been welcomed by both the university and the college"
BBC NI's education correspondent Maggie Taggart:
"The minister said she had considered the arguments in detail, and was confident that her decision was the right one"
See also:

24 May 02 | N Ireland
10 Feb 00 | N Ireland
26 Nov 99 | N Ireland
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