NWU: absent from the place where it was expected to be found

A University positioned in Derry and Letterkenny would have an adjacent population of over 200,000 people. A city that size might reasonably expect to host a University of 20,000 students. There is a natural economic zone around the Derry Letterkenny region. Derry and Letterkenny are almost like twin cities.

The North West of Ireland is a region that is difficult to politically locate because in different jurisdictions the North West is defined differently. The North West of Ireland referred to here is the North West corner of Ireland. This area has historically been under invested and troubled for various reasons. But it has great potential to grow. Growth, built in part, by the sense of homeplace that is particular to the residents of Derry and Donegal. That sense of homeplace is a strong force that may help drive the creation of the missing NWU. “For your hearts are like your mountains and down below decks we were lying”. There are of course economic arguments as well.

The NWU is an obvious but troublesome concept. There are already institutions and relationships in place. There is some misfortune and injustice in all of that. The NWU needs to draw support from both jurisdictions, the UK and Ireland in the first instance and financial support from a third place – Europe and/or America. Students should be able to study and pay fees in Euro or Sterling depending on what best suits their background funder. 

NWU has proximity to two Hospitals and that might give rise to Medical Studies as a particular area. Computing is studied to high levels in both places, Magee has significant history in Humanities and the Arts and Letterkenny has particular expertise in Design. There are excellent Business Schools in both institutions. 

Magee College/Ulster University and Letterkenny IT/ATU Letterkenny are just 30km from each other. Those 30kms cross the border between the UK and Europe – which makes it feel further in political terms. The border has prevented the natural growth, conglomeration and synergy between Derry and Donegal. In Northern Ireland, Derry, loved so well, has been consistently under invested. In the Republic of Ireland, Donegal, pride of all, under invested also. As separate entities the under investment has been bad enough but the combined effect has stifled regional development. In a sense the NWU is a union of two weak entities. In another sense it is precisely such a union that will be driven to succeed. Born of necessity.