SDLP Foyle MLA Sinead McLaughlin has welcomed a call from senior Irish economist John FitzGerald for Derry to increase the number of university students and graduates. The demand was made in an opinion article in today’s Irish Times.
FitzGerald pointed to the low proportion of graduates in Derry’s population and that in NI generally, with Belfast benefiting from a much higher percentage of graduates. He pointed out that NI has the lowest proportion of graduates in its population of any region in the UK or Ireland, damaging the economy.
McLaughlin said: “I am very pleased to see such a respected economist as John FitzGerald making the same case that the SDLP has been arguing ever since its formation. Derry must have its own full-sized university.
“While the Magee campus and Derry will benefit substantially from the City Deal, this must be only the next stage of university development and cannot be regarded as the end of the process.
“As John FitzGerald has explained, the shortage of graduates and undergraduates in Derry is not just a barrier to growth for our city, but for the whole cross-border North West region. That is why the SDLP has engaged with the Irish government on this matter and why Dublin has committed to support the expansion of university provision in Derry.
“It is essential that university provision in Derry generates the maximum benefit for the city and region. This requires a genuine partnership with the council and the governments, with the optimum benefit being achieved by the greatest possible level of autonomy.
"The SDLP is very frustrated that Stormont has not progressed the commitment to 10,000 students that was contained in New Decade New Agreement on the insistence of party leader Colum Eastwood. This failure means that it has to be down to the Irish and British governments to deliver this for the benefit of the people of Derry and the wider North West. Dublin has already stated it is committed to doing this."