A second Ulster college has entered the fray to provide further and higher education in west Belfast. The scheme could encroach on the University of Ulster's plans for a "peaceline" campus at Springvale, which has languished on Northern Ireland ministers' desks for almost a year.
Lisburn Further Education college, eight miles from Belfast, is proposing an outreach centre to be called Glenwood Campus. The college is confident it could open in September. Belfast College of Further and Higher Education has already strongly campaigned to provide courses in the area which suffers from high unemployment.
Lisburn College principal Alister McReynolds said: "Time is short. It could take three to four years to give many of the long-term unemployed the necessary skills to benefit from the economic bonuses of the peace process."
A Government-funded organisation, called Making Belfast Work is set to back the Lisburn proposal. MBW commissioned an economic appraisal of the Glenwood proposal by consultants Coopers and Lybrand. And there has also been tentative support for the idea from the local authority, the South Eastern Education and Library Board. MBW local team leader Patricia Sloane said: "We are still waiting for further information but it is something we are looking at with interest. I don't see how it would affect Springvale which is at the other end of west Belfast and of course on a much larger scale."
Glenwood would be based in readily available accommodation close to an industrial estate at Colinbrook Training Centre, which was vacated several years ago by the Training and Employment Agency. Mr McReynolds said: "It is something we have wanted to do independent of Springvale and indeed we would hope it would complement the University of Ulster's plans. There is a big population in that community which is not being served properly at the minute. They are in our area and we have to do something about that."