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Coleraine at 50
Professor Alan Sharp

Professor Alan Sharp

Professor Alan Sharp came to Coleraine in January 1971 and joined the History department as a lecturer. He moved to Magee in 1994 to become the Chair of Politics and International Studies. Alan returned to the 'beautiful' campus of Coleraine in 2002 as Head of School of History and International Affairs. Then finally he became Provost of the Coleraine campus in 2006, retiring in 2009. Alan has had a long and rewarding career at Ulster University and he expressed his appreciation of his time at Coleraine.

What is your most enduring/standout memory of life at the Coleraine campus?

"It was very exciting, it was a new university with no traditions, no barriers to doing things that you wanted."

Back in ‘Phase One’ the staff had more room for innovation, Alan said:

"We had a very supportive Head of Department in Professor Bill Wallace who was very keen for people to produce innovative courses so it was a very exciting time."

When Coleraine started it was a small University with 1,500 undergraduates, with the majority of staff being young and most of them coming from outside Northern Ireland, Alan said:

"They hadn't that many ties here, so the links and friendships were made across the departments."

He continued to explain how the University had a staff football team, which included two future vice-chancellors and various other people who went on to distinguished careers, so it was a very nice time to be here.

He joked:

"Our parents weren't very pleased about us coming to Northern Ireland in 1971, but it was a job in a university and it was great to be here."

What was the best thing about working at the campus?

"The campus itself, it’s beautiful."

Alan talked through the changes that he has noticed throughout his time at Coleraine. He said:

"When I first came, it was a windswept blasted heath, there were hardly any trees that stood, and those that stood were leaning in one direction. The transformation to the current campus has been fantastic.

"It was one of the great pleasures of driving into campus every morning, it cheered you up."

The transformation of the campus was started by Palmer Newbould and Amyan Macfadyan who were the two first professors in Environmental Studies, and were very keen to develop the campus both academically and physically.

Alan also spoke of David Willis, the superintendent of the grounds, he said:

"He must have planted thousands of trees, which have now matured, and he was responsible for the daffodil garden, which is sadly more neglected now.

Alan spoke of the daffodil garden fondly, he said:

"That was a unique collection of daffodils, many of which were bred in Northern Ireland, in fact many of the daffodils in the world are bred in Northern Ireland.  The daffodil garden was world famous and people came from all over the world to see it.  It was a unique feature of the campus,  a great teaching opportunity, and I would love to see it given a new lease of life!"

What are your hopes for the campus as we look to the future?

"I think Coleraine will continue to develop."

Alan believes that the campus will flourish. He said:

"There are very different academic offerings on the campus to when I was here.  The subjects that are being offered are doing very well, and will continue to do well. We invested a lot of money in the campus in the last few years and hopefully will continue to do so."

Interview by Coleraine@50 student ambassador, Lauren Wilson.

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