The Cross-Border University Initiative

Soham Shingapure investigates the cross-border university in Derry.

The initiative for a cross-border university between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been lauded as a way to “rejuvenate” the Northern Irish region. It ensures strong post-Brexit relations between the two regions.

This plan was included in the deal constructed by the UK and Irish governments to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved government. It involves the Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Donegal and the Ulster University's Derry campus.

The Irish government has confirmed that it is “willing in principle” to commit investment to the project alongside the UK government. 

Gerry McKenna, vice-president of the Royal Irish Academy and former Ulster vice-chancellor, has praised this initiative. He said it would be “an excellent vehicle for post-Brexit cooperation on the island of Ireland” and would “rejuvenate the entire northwest region of the island”.

A lack of investment in infrastructure on both sides of the border has left the north western region of the island underdeveloped compared to its eastern counterpart. 

On the northern side of the border, a local campaign has been urging for the construction of a standalone university in Derry. The campaign has highlighted the “decades of neglect” when it comes to higher education in the region. The initiative of expanding Ulster’s Derry campus hasn’t come about yet, as the university prefers to focus investment on its main location in Belfast.

Derry University group spokesman Garbhan Downey, said that the organisation supports the idea of a cross-border university. He commended the idea for not only addressing the “historic underdevelopment” in Derry but for also allowing  the region to “retain its identity as British, Irish and, ultimately, European”.

The Derry University Group believes that “a new and independent, cross-border university for the northwest” is the best way forward and will support it “as a priority”.