The University of Ulster’s Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett tonight welcomed the Employment and Learning Minister’s £16 million pledge towards the development of a new campus in Belfast city centre, describing it as a significant milestone.The Minister made the announcement during the opening session of the Belfast City of Quarters conference.
The Vice Chancellor, who also participated in the session, told the conference: “The University of Ulster welcomes the commitment the Minister has made tonight towards supporting the ongoing development of our city centre campus in York Street.“This commitment has been made following a detailed and comprehensive review of the University’s economic appraisal for the Greater Belfast by both the Department for Employment and Learning and the Department of Finance and Personnel. This marks another important milestone in the development of a new Greater Belfast campus.
“This is not only good news for higher education. The new campus we are developing will play a significant role in the academic, cultural, social and economic regeneration of the city of Belfast. The relocation of 12,000 students from our Jordanstown campus to join the 2,000 students currently studying in York Street will not only boost the city centre but will also link in well with other exciting developments across the city including the opening up of Belfast’s cultural offering in the Cathedral Quarter, the Gaeltacht Quarter and Titanic Quarter and the educational, economic and cultural benefits should ripple right throughout the province.”In February 2009, Professor Barnett announced plans for the University to relocate the bulk of its courses from Jordanstown to an expanded campus in York Street.
The main motivation was a Government commissioned report in 2006 assessing the state of the higher education estate in Northern Ireland. This identified the main Jordanstown building as the biggest estate challenge facing higher education in the province and a further report commissioned by the University reinforced the view that Jordanstown was reaching the end of its economic life.After exploring a number of options, including rebuilding at Jordanstown, it was apparent that it would be more cost effective and sensible to develop a new campus around the current York Street campus.
Professor Barnett said: “The Greater Belfast Development Plan envisages a rebalancing of student numbers between Jordanstown and Belfast – with most existing activity in Jordanstown moving to York Street. It is our plan to build on the success of our elite sporting facilities including the £20 million state-of-the-art High Performance Centre which is being used by some of the country’s top athletes and professional sports stars for training, fitness and rehabilitation.“It is important to stress we are not seeking from government permission to increase student numbers in Belfast. We are simply talking about maintaining existing student levels. However there is no doubt the relocation of full-time, part-time and postgraduate courses to a vibrant urban campus will have a significant impact on Belfast city centre and other parts of the city. The University is committed to encouraging communities which have tended to shy away from third level education to follow an educational path to university. That is an important principle to us as we develop our Greater Belfast and North West campuses.
“Ulster continues to work with the Department for Employment and Learning to develop its plan to expand Magee. In December we signed an option agreement with Foyle and Londonderry College to secure 30 acres of land for expansion and we are focussing on a plan which builds on successes at Magee like the Intelligent Systems Research Centre with has the largest robotics floor of any university in Europe, the School of Creative Arts in the Foyle Arts Building and the International Conflict Research Centre – a joint venture with the United Nations University.“These are exciting times for Ulster across all our campuses as it develops confidently in the 21st century as a modern, outward looking, innovative institution. That confidence and modernity was borne out yesterday by the appointment of the actor James Nesbitt as our new Chancellor who will be a strong advocate for the University.
“We look forward to the development of a new, vibrant city centre campus in Belfast which will make a meaningful difference - not just to the lives of people in this city but the lives of people across the province.”