University template 'could generate millions'

A CAMPAIGNER for a dedicated university for Londonderry says emulating the Lincoln experience could generate billions of pounds for the local economy.

Local economist Paul Gosling - a consistent advocate for improved university provision here - points out that the direct economic benefit to Lincoln since the establishment of its own university comes to billions.

The city - with a population of 85,000 - has witnessed a direct spend from the university's students and through a skilled labour market of around 200m a year.

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And in the time since the university moved to the city Lincoln's economy has gained by between 1b and 2b, Mr Gosling pointed out.

The University for Derry (U4D) lobbyist said the efforts of the Lincolnshire Co-operative Society and the drivers behind the dedicated campus have provided an ideal template for this city.

"Lincoln's experience has not gone unnoticed. In my adopted home city of Derry, a group of people has come together to try to copy the Lincoln experience, calling ourselves U4D – University for Derry," he wrote.

"Although there is a university campus already in the city, Magee College, there are only 3,700 students and most students originate locally.

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"Courses are of limited value to the local economy, not providing the skills for the city's employers or to attract high value inward investment. The economic impact of the campus is marginal," he added.

Mr Gosling acknowledged that with its seemingly intractable unemployment, economic inactivity and poverty Londonderry needs a major boost such as that experienced in Lincoln over the past decade.

"Traditionally, much of the local employment was in textiles - which has now moved production overseas to even lower cost centres. There has been some respite in recent months, with the weak value of sterling encouraging cross-border shoppers.

"And there is hope of greatly increasing tourism and leisure income for the historic city, its marvellous river and the other attractions," he wrote.

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"Despite this, it is difficult to see these sectors as correcting the overall weakness of the city's economy. Without a full-blown university presence, the city's economy will not recover," he cautioned.

The local journalist said the Lincoln blueprint was ideal for Londonderry and pointed out that U4D has already engaged people such as David Chiddick - a key planner - as an adviser.

"Our situation is more difficult than that in Lincoln in one respect - we do not have the Lincolnshire Co-operative as a local business. In fact, as far as I know, we are the only region in the UK that is not properly serviced by any co-operative society, with the nearest retail co-op store the best part of an hour's drive away," he commented.

"Supporters of U4D include leaders of some of the city's largest businesses - but in an area of economic weakness, these are not as large as a successful co-op society. However, Lincolnshire Co-operative can be assured that they have helped inspire community activity far across the other side of the UK," he concluded.

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