Page last updated at 14:41 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

Magee expansion gets go-ahead with school land deal

The Foyle lands (red) will add 30 acres to the current Magee site (green)

The University of Ulster has signed an agreement with Foyle and Londonderry College which will enable them to expand into the school's lands.

The sites on the Northland Road will become vacant when the school moves across the river Foyle in 2012.

The 30 acres will give the Magee campus space to add new faculties and bid for an expansion to student numbers.

The university's Vice-Chancellor, Richard Barnett, said it was an "important milestone".

"The university has always made it clear that a pre-condition for the expansion at Magee was the acquisition of additional land, and we have submitted a bid to expand our student numbers.

"With the news that we have secured an option on these sites - and once the government gives us permission - we can commence our build-up of student numbers.

"The University of Ulster is a primary force in delivering the skills base, driving social and economic regeneration and contributing to the cultural vitality of Northern Ireland.

The Magee development plan
An Institute of Sustainable Technologies
An Institute of Health and Wellbeing
Expansion of Computing, Electronics and Software
Expansion of Creative Technologies and Animation
Expansion in Business and Professional Services

"Today's agreement opens the door to a new era in the life of Magee," he said.

The headmaster of Foyle and Londonderry College, Jack Magill, said the school had long supported the university's expansion.

"We all know it is the key to the future economic wellbeing of the city, and the Foyle Governors have always seen the university as the preferred inheritor of our land as it keeps it in the education sector.

"This tacit understanding between us has now been given a shape and a timescale.

"I look forward to seeing the area revitalised by the university creating a broader campus with new departments and new architecture," he said.

The design of the new school at the former army base at Clooney is already underway, and preliminary investigative work has been completed.

The acquisition of the Foyle and Londonderry lands will almost double the university's physical presence in the city.

A group campaigning for an alternative university model has questioned the land deal.

Padraig Canavan, the chairperson of University For Derry, said the site was best suited to sports facilities.

"The university should focus its attention on moving towards the city and becoming a more integral part of the city fabric, and in that was establish Derry as a university city," he said.

The Magee campus has over 3,500 students, the majority of which are full time.

In 2008 the university unveiled a development plan, which anticipated 2,000 extra students on the campus.

These places cannot be created unless a government cap on student numbers is relaxed.

Sir Reg Empey has said he is prepared to re-examine the effect of the limit on student numbers on Magee over the next few months.

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Londonderry Sentinel Magee milestone reached - 15 hrs ago

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