Engagement should take place between Departments of Education north and south on proposals for a cross border university in the North West region, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Cork North Central Deputy Colm Burke said a proposal for a new university based in the North-West which was recently set out in a command paper published by Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, should be given consideration by the Irish Government.
Deputy Burke said: “On July 14th, Brandon Lewis published a command paper alongside a speech in the House of Commons on addressing the legacy issues of Northern Ireland’s past. In this command paper, the argument for a cross-border university was also put forward.
“The Command Paper suggested that this proposal ‘could symbolise the importance of north-south co-operation, representing an important step in achieving social cohesion and ensuring that the North-West receives the investment into social enterprises that it so richly deserves’.
“It went on to state that ‘such an initiative could also help to address the longstanding issue of ‘brain drain’ in Northern Ireland, add immediate value to Northern Ireland’s economy by providing more skilled jobs, attract research funding and promotion of businesses, helping to level up the least prosperous sub region of the UK.’”
Deputy Burke continued: “The Derry University Group fully supports the concept of a cross-border university with a main campus in Derry. I have been working with them in advancing the concept.
“I have suggested that the university might be called the John Hume Memorial University in recognition of the contribution that John Hume made to peace building, to democratic politics, to community development and to education.
“A cross-border university is fully in line with the Shared Island approach of the Irish Government. I would hope that the Irish Government could give consideration to the proposal put forward by Brandon Lewis.
“A separate proposal for a Connacht-Ulster Technological University is being considered by the Institutes of Technology in the region.
“Before decisions are made on this proposal, the Department of Higher Education should engage directly with the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and with Brandon Lewis and the Northern Ireland Office, to examine with an open mind all options for higher education in the North-West region. All education and community stakeholders in the North-West should be engaged in the debate on the future of higher education in the region.
“I believe a cross-border university, with a main campus in Derry, would introduce a new and very positive development dynamic, not just in Derry City but in the wider region.
“It would have benefits not just for the North- West but for the whole of the island. It would also right a wrong done in the 1960s when Derry was passed over when a decision was made to establish a second university in Northern Ireland.
“Calling it the John Hume Memorial University would give it immediate name recognition and international standing. A cross-border university for the North-West is an idea whose time has come,” Deputy Burke concluded.