Petition to expand Magee uni campus

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMaeve McLaughlin on Magee

A petition signed by thousands of people calling for the expansion of the University of Ulster at Magee has been presented to the assembly.

Sinn Fein's Maeve McLaughlin MLA had accused the authorities of failing to deliver on the expansion.

She singled out the University of Ulster, which, she claims, has yet to provide a robust business plan to expand the campus at Magee.

The university have said the Sinn Fein's comments were an "insult".

Professor Deirdre Heenan, the provost of Magee, told BBC Radio Foyle that the petition was 'not the way forward' and it was down to the executive to make a business case for the expansion.

Professor Heenan also criticised Sinn Fein for a letter they sent to a newspaper that, she claims, implied Magee was "not a real university".

Strength of feeling

"We were referring to a letter published first in the Belfast Telegraph where they (Sinn Fein) referred to wanting a 'real university' in Derry and we felt that that was a slur on us and the work that we are doing," she said.

"Is the suggestion that Magee is not a real university? We would refute that very strongly. We are a real university."

Asked about the allegation that they did not have a business plan in place, Professor Heenan said that was not the issue.

"I appreciate and share the strength of feeling in the city about the expansion of Magee," she said.

"We have submitted a case to DEL that we would have another 1,000 students by 2015. We have achieved 57% of that target.

"I want to put this business case idea to bed. It is smoke and mirrors.

"Sinn Fein are speaking as if they have no power, as if political decision making is something they are not involved in.

"What we are saying is - you are the government, you know that we cannot expand our student body because there is a cap on students.

"Sinn Fein have implemented £23m of cuts in higher education last year. Money needs to be released to expand higher education.

"We are committed to expansion at Magee and we are looking for any way to expand."