Will education control be local, regional or national? THES reporters monitor moving battlelines
Ulster University has hailed a Pounds 1.5 million award from the Millennium Commission as the first step towards an "educational village", bringing social and economic benefit to north and west Belfast.
The university denies that this is a climbdown in the wake of lack of government backing for its "peaceline campus" proposal for Springvale, claiming that the original idea has now evolved into a broader strategy bringing together further and higher education.
The university mothballed the Springvale campus plan, estimated at around Pounds 100 million, following lack of support from the last Government.
But it had won pledges of around Pounds 30 million from other sources, and there were hopes that the Labour administration might revive the scheme.
Northern Ireland education minister Tony Worthington said: "The proposal is no longer even under consideration. A project of this nature was proposed but has been overtaken by events."
Wallace Ewart, director of the university's Springvale project, said the Millennium funding, matched from other sources, would fund a community outreach centre which aimed to plan a programme to plug the gap between educational ability and achievement in the area.
The university's new plan, which would involve a wide range of community interests, includes a series of possible links between Ulster and the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education. An economic appraisal of the scheme will shortly be put before ministers.
Patrick Murphy, director of BIFHE, the single largest education provider in the province, said: "The proposed new college would build on the strength of community groups as a force for change in society, and attempt to use the Springvale site as the hub of a dynamic community education movement."