Cross-border Irish university ‘would regenerate region’

Experts say Derry-Donegal institution could support access and post-Brexit research collaboration

January 15, 2020
Northern Ireland road sign
Source: iStock

A proposal for a cross-border university spanning Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been hailed as a way to regenerate the region and ensure strong post-Brexit collaboration.

The plan, involving Ulster University’s Derry campus and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Donegal, was included in the deal put forward by the UK and Irish governments to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland.

In the document, the Irish government said that it was “willing in principle” to commit investment to the project alongside the UK government.

Gerry McKenna, vice-president of the Royal Irish Academy and former Ulster vice-chancellor, said that a cross border university would be “an excellent vehicle for post-Brexit cooperation on the island of Ireland”.

He added that such a university would “rejuvenate the entire northwest region of the island”, which has suffered from a long-standing lack of infrastructure investment on both sides of the border.

A local campaign on the northern side has been calling for the creation of a standalone university in Derry after what it describes as “decades of neglect” when it comes to higher education.

A proposed expansion of Ulster’s Derry campus is yet to materialise, with the university preferring to focus investment on its main base in Belfast.

Garbhan Downey, a spokesman for the Derry University Group, said that the organisation would support the idea of a cross-border university because it would not only address the “historic underdevelopment” in Derry but would also allow the region to “retain its identity as British, Irish and, ultimately, European”.

The group believes that “a new and independent, cross-border university for the northwest” is the best way forward and would support it “as a priority”, he said.

The specifics of how the joint initiative will work have yet to be confirmed. The government proposal mentioned the “campus” at Magee, rather than the university, so the specific involvement of Ulster University is not yet clear, but the Derry University Group has made clear that it expects the institution to be independent of the university.

A spokesman for Ulster University said that the Derry campus “plays an important role not only in the city of Derry/Londonderry, but also in the wider city region, including Donegal. The university enjoys a number of cross-border educational partnerships across both research and teaching.”


Print headline: Cross-border Irish university a Brexit ‘priority’

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Reader's comments (1)

What an excellent idea! They should go for it, irrespective of whether or not the UK government, who doesn't seem to care much about education or in mitigating the effects of Brexit, are supportive of the concept.

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