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Cross-border university in Derry pitched by campaigners

Image: Colin Majury, via Shutterstock

Plans unveiled for a university that spans Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Lobbysists have set out how Brexit offers the perfect opportunity to establish a university that straddles the Irish border.

A briefing paper published by Derry University Group (DUG) outlines how Derry could become the main hub for a university that would have sites in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The cross-border university would help retain the city’s EU links after Brexit, said the group, and would serve as “a means of militating against the damage already being done by Brexit uncertainty” in the area. 

DUG has lobbied governments in London, Dublin and the US to back the university. According to the BBC, on 19 October Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested that Ireland and the UK could support the new university with a post-Brexit funding package.

“The failure to develop higher education in Derry has had a profoundly detrimental effect on successive generations,” wrote the DUG. “There is a real opportunity now to reverse the slump. The challenges presented by Brexit can serve as a catalyst to all of us in this border area, and beyond, to start planning for the next 60 years and transform the northwest of Ireland into a city-region campus.”

In Derry, the proposals would see the university take up residence in a former British army site, which the group said would make an ideal location “both symbolically and physically”. Other venues in and around Derry and across the border in Donegal would host parts of the university.

Courses would include Irish history, conflict resolution and Brexit and border studies, as well as mainstream subjects such as engineering and literature. DUG said the university would aim to create links with UK universities and join vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK, as well as the National University of Ireland.

At the moment, only Ulster University offers higher education in Derry through its Magee campus and plans for a new medical school in the city have stalled.

Labour peer Andrew Adonis has claimed university education is “in crisis” in Derry because the city lacks a dedicated university. “Each year that we delay dealing with higher education provision in Northern Ireland is a year that many thousands of young people are denied the opportunities they should have,” he told the House of Lords on 15 July.