University of Ulster

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Group.png University of Ulster  
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Ulster University coat of arms.png
HeadquartersNorthern Ireland
The largest university in Northern Ireland

Ulster University (Ollscoil Uladh) is a multi-campus public university located in Northern Ireland. It is often referred to informally and unofficially as Ulster, or by the abbreviation UU.[1] It is the largest university in Northern Ireland and the second-largest university on the island of Ireland, after the federal National University of Ireland.

Established in 1968 as the New University of Ulster, it merged with Ulster Polytechnic in 1984, incorporating its four Northern Irish campuses under the University of Ulster banner. The university incorporated its four campuses in 1984; located in Belfast, Coleraine, Derry (Magee College), and Jordanstown. The university has branch campuses in both London and Birmingham, and an extensive distance learning provision. The university rebranded as Ulster University from October 2014 and this included a revised visual identity.

It has one of the highest further study and employment rates in the UK, with over 92% of graduates being in work or further study six months after graduation.[2] The university is a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities,[3] the European University Association, Universities Ireland and Universities UK.


In 1963, the government of Northern Ireland appointed a committee to review facilities for university and higher technical education in Northern Ireland, modelled on the committee on higher education in Great Britain chaired by Lionel Robbins which had reported that year. The Northern Ireland committee was chaired by Sir John Lockwood, Master of Birkbeck College, London. The Robbins Report had recommended a substantial expansion of higher education in Great Britain, partly triggered by the Anderson Report of 1960, which increased demand by instigating a student grants scheme.[4] The Lockwood committee was expected to recommend a second university in Northern Ireland, after Queen's University Belfast.

In Derry groups led by the University for Derry Committee hoped that Magee University College would become the new university. Founded as a Presbyterian training college in 1845, Magee was associated with the Royal University of Ireland which existed between 1880 and 1908, and then with the University of Dublin until 1953. However, the Lockwood Report criticised Magee's cramped site, complacent culture, and "eccentric" and "barely workable" administration; it found its claim to be based on historical entitlement rather than planning for future. Instead, the report recommended a greenfield university in Coleraine and closing Magee. This was controversial, with many nationalists suggesting the unionist O'Neill ministry favoured a unionist-majority area rather than nationalist-majority Derry. Disgruntlement fed the Northern Ireland civil rights movement which helped spark the Troubles.[5] The "New University of Ulster" (NUU) enrolled its first students at Coleraine in 1968. Magee was not closed but incorporated in the NUU, which obtained a charter in 1970.

Following a review of higher education in Northern Ireland under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Chilver in 1982 the Northern Ireland Office decided to merge NUU with another Lockwood Report foundation, the Ulster Polytechnic in Jordanstown. The NUU charter was surrendered and the merged University of Ulster (dropping "New" from the name) got its charter on 1 October 1984. Later the Belfast School of Art and Design (founded in 1849) became part of the university.

Campus One, the Virtual Campus of the university, was launched on 8 October 2001 which successfully facilitated the provision on undergraduate and postgraduate level courses via distance learning. The university now simply refers to this as distance learning.

The university formerly had a laboratory named 'The University of Ulster Freshwater Laboratory' at Traad Point on the shore of Lough Neagh in Ballymaguigan. The Freshwater Laboratory, although not a campus, was a site of the university and consisted of on-campus accommodation, classrooms and testing labs. Courses offered were in agriculture, the wildlife of Lough Neagh, water testing and other aquatic courses. The site is now owned by Magherafelt District Council. By 2010, the area had become popular with the locals for camping, fishing and sailing.

In autumn 2011 Vice-Chancellor Barnett announced a programme of financial restructuring with the aim of reducing the number of staff employed by the University from 3,150 to 3,000.[6] Staff at the University expressed concern about the proposed means and impact of the restructuring, citing "the use of the threat of compulsory redundancy to bully and intimidate staff" and the belief that the University was "abdicating its responsibilities to the wider community that funds it".[7]

In April 2012, the Ulster University branch of the University and College Union (UCU) declared a formal dispute with university management over its implementation of the restructuring, stating that the recourse to "premature deadlines and unwarranted threats of compulsory redundancy" was "unreasonable as well as contrary to University policy and corporate goals".[8]

The reasons for cuts are not, however, unique to Ulster University. First of all, there was the Great Recession that began in 2008 and engendered a change in government and a sharp reduction in public spending. Secondly, there were issues pertaining to tuition fees. As a result of political devolution in the United Kingdom (mandated from 1998 onwards), fees differ in the four countries that make up the union. For undergraduate tuition they are currently £9,250 in England but only £4,030 in Northern Ireland. For a while, the low fees in Northern Ireland were hailed as a triumph for devolution and seemed a tool to facilitate access for less advantaged students. Universities in Northern Ireland fared reasonably well financially. However, as Pritchard and Slowey point out, if the government does not make up the shortfall, low fees left Northern Ireland universities at a disadvantage compared to their English counterparts. In 2015, the government reduced the funding allocation for Higher Education Institutions by 8.2%. Both Northern Ireland universities had to make cuts. Queen's University announced immediate job cuts of 236 and student number reductions of ca. 290 (1,010 over the next three years). Ulster also announced its intention of cutting over 200 jobs and 250 student places in 2015/16 (1,200 over the following three years).

Noted academics and alumni

Ulster has a large body of notable alumni, including MPs Kate Hoey, Gregory Campbell, Michelle Gildernew, Roberta Blackman-Woods and former deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Mark Durkan, MLAs Alban Maginness, Basil McCrea and Seán Neeson, writers and authors including Anne Devlin, Dinah Jefferies, Colin Duriez, Calum Neill and Aodán Mac Póilin, poets including Gerald Dawe and Brendan Hamill, and artists including Jack Coulter, Colin Davidson, Oliver Jeffers, Freddie Freeburn, Victor Sloan, Andre Stitt, John Luke and John Kindness. Other alumni include composer Brian Irvine, musician David Lyttle, comedian Omid Djalili, former hostage and writer Brian Keenan, historian Simon Kitson, biomedical scientist and former Vice-Chancellor Gerry McKenna, visual artist Willie Doherty, photographer Mary Fitzpatrick, film producer Michael Riley, rugby player Brian Robinson, radio and television personality Gerry Anderson, nursing academic Alison Kitson, CEO of Cognizant Brian Humphries and senior police officer Barbara Gray.

Notable current and former academics who have worked at Ulster include historian Antony Alcock, political scientist Monica McWilliams, poets Andrew Waterman and James Simmons, literary critic Walter Allen, physicist and subsequently Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Gareth Roberts, mathematician Ralph Henstock, solar energy technologist and President of Dublin Institute of Technology, Brian Norton, law professors Brice Dickson and Denis Moloney, Professor of Nursing Research Brendan George McCormack. Turner Prize-nominated video artist Willie Doherty, Official War Artist Paul Seawright and live artist Anne Seagrave.

Academics who were elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy while based at Ulster include Bertie Ussher (Classics), Norman Gibson (Economics), Amyan Macfadyen (Biology), Bill Watts (Chemistry), Gerry McKenna (Biomedical Sciences, Genetics), Sean Strain (Biomedical Sciences, Nutrition), Marshall McCabe (Geology), Peter Flatt (Biomedical Sciences, Diabetes), Séamus MacMathúna (Celtic Studies), Robert Anthony Welch (Literature), Vani Borooah (Economics), Máréaid Nic Craith (Celtic Studies), Graham Gargett (French), Helene McNulty (Biomedical Sciences, Nutrition), Pól Ó Dochartaigh (German), Robert McBride (French), Ullrich Kockel (ethnography), John McCloskey (Geosciences), and Rosalind Pritchard (Education).


An Alumnus on Wikispooks

Mark Durkan26 June 1960PoliticianWEF NI politician who voted to support mandatory Covid certification