University of Ulster: Course Moves
- Mr Beggs asked the Minister for Employment and Learning for an update on the scheduled move of some courses from the University of Ulster Jordanstown campus to the Belfast campus. (AQO 6597/11-15)
Dr Farry: The relocation from Jordanstown to Belfast will see the vast majority of activities transferred to Belfast by 2018. The exceptions will be student residences, the high-performance sports centre and the fire safety engineering facility. The development in Belfast will cost £250 million. My Department is providing £16 million, while the university has secured a £150 million loan from the European Investment Bank as well as a financial transaction capital loan of £35 million. The remaining funding is being raised by the university from a variety of sources.
Good progress is being made with the development across many fronts, and the university remains confident that the project will be delivered on time and within budget. The demolition phase was completed on schedule, and the physical structure of the new university buildings is beginning to emerge. The university is finalising the procurement process to appoint a contractor to construct the main campus building. The university is engaging with the local community in the vicinity of the new campus to ensure that it is involved in a meaningful way, so that the new campus will provide tangible benefits for the local area. The Department is working closely with all stakeholders through inclusive implementation structures to ensure a coordinated approach to the relocation and to maximise the opportunities arising from the development.
Mr Beggs: The loss of university courses at the Jordanstown site will result in the loss of jobs for lecturers and a wide range of support staff. Will the Minister advise us what action he is taking to encourage the university to develop alternative job opportunities at that site? In his answer, I did not hear him specifically mention the business incubation unit that was used in the past by spin-out companies. That site and the adjacent Trooperslane site are excellent for such high-tech companies, and both are shortly to have their communication links with Belfast upgraded in the A2 upgrade.
Dr Farry: I am happy to reflect on the comments made and to pass them on to the university for it to consider directly. As for jobs, this is not a reduction in provision; it is a relocation of the vast majority of the Jordanstown campus to Belfast. It is an investment for the future. That said, universities are obviously in a very difficult situation at present. A wider funding challenge predates the current Budget situation facing the Executive, and this year I have had to pass on to the universities cuts approaching 4%. That will be for them to manage, and they will be under a degree of pressure in maintaining existing services. It goes without saying that, when we are talking about cuts of that magnitude, there will be pressures on employment. People need to be very alert to that. However, we will reflect on what the Member said about the future use of the Jordanstown campus. Indeed, I will encourage the university to do so as well.