31/05/2002

Committee calls for review of university’s finances

An assembly committee has called for an immediate update on the finances of Queen’s University in Belfast.

The call made last night follows the news that four departments within the university may have to close due to a lack of funding.

At least four academic departments, the Institute of Irish Studies, Ancient and Classical history, Byzantine Studies and Philosophy are under threat of closure or job cuts.

Committee Chairman, Dr Esmond Birnie said: “I will be seeking an immediate briefing from the Minister for Employment and Learning on these worrying recent reports. I do not wish to see a reduction in courses, staff or student intake, which would all have a negative impact on the local community and reduce access to Higher Education. Should this prove true it would be a very worrying development and one which my Committee will wish to fully explore.”

Issuing a response statement the university said: “Like any successful organisation Queens’ reviews its range of activities on a regular basis. It is currently involved in its strategic planning procedure. When it is completed it will be presented to the Senate.”

Dr Steven King, who is a member of the university senate, said any damage to Irish Studies would be a disaster.

"The Institute for Irish Studies is a five star department and it is one of the strongest research departments within the university," he told a radio programme yesterday.

"It is costing the university a very small amount of money relatively speaking.

"It would be an appalling act against Ireland if Queens was to close the department."

Meanwhile it has emerged Lanyon II, the new Student union building has been delayed.

The university said the designs were finalised but that actual work would have to wait until resources were found.

Queen's new student centre, will go ahead when funding becomes available, the University said today. The first phase of the project has been completed, but the University is not seeking planning permission at this stage.

In a statement the University said: “The gap in funding, which was to have been filled by philanthropic sources, was already ambitious. That gap has now been extended even further. The University is actively pursuing a number of options, but it would not be prudent to go ahead without having all the funds in place.”

(AMcE)

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