29 October 2009 Edition
The Mitchel McLaughlin Column
Magee University could hold key to economic regeneration of north-west
WITH the textile industry and other sectors of traditional employment having all but disappeared in the north-west, a radical approach to the development of the further and higher education sector could hold the key to the economic regeneration of this region.
The expansion of the University of Ulster campus at Magee should be one of the key drivers of economic growth for the north-west. I welcome the emergence of the ‘University for Derry’ (U4D) group which has given impetus to the campaign for a new approach to how the expansion and development of the Magee campus as an economic driver can be delivered.
Sinn Féin believes that the current economic difficulties create an imperative for political, economic, educational and community leaderships to be involved in a discussion on the development plans for the Magee campus. We need to be in a position to support expansion plans and to emphasise the need for sustained and co-ordinated growth on the Derry campus if skills and employment levels are to be brought to a level that can help replace the declining traditional local industry.
It is clear that if the University of Ulster is to contribute in a substantial way to the economic regeneration of the region, there needs to be significant expansion of economically-relevant courses.
New faculties need to be developed in areas such as advanced business studies, STEM subjects such as medical sciences, engineering, maths and sustainable technologies, etc. Expansion is also required across the general undergraduate programmes and in the area of research and continued development of related science park provisions.
Ireland is blessed with an abundance of natural resources required to develop renewable energy – what is required is focused development and use of our skills and expertise to make the most of them. Why not a Renewable Energies Research & Development Department at Magee? It is the industry of the future.
We need to fully explore the potential of renewable energy for job creation. We could become world leaders not just in the generation of renewable energy but also in developing the technology and producing and selling our products across the world.
We need to encourage more participation in third-level education in the north-west region as it is well below that of the rest of the North. The importance of the further education sector cannot be overstated in its importance as a contributor to economic regeneration in terms of providing a skilled workforce, attracting inward investment and assisting with new business formation and business growth.
It also has a role to play in helping to address social inclusion, regeneration, community and cultural development through engagement and learning and by impacting on the community, cultural and arts based activities of the city and region.
It is recognised worldwide that major investment in learning, research and innovation is critical to the structuring of a successful economy. I believe that structured expansion of Magee campus could hold the key to economic regeneration of Derry and the north-west.