Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman and member of the Stormont Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee, has called on the Alliance’s Employment and Learning Minister to “categorically ensure the future” of the Northern Regional College’s Ballymoney Campus.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also North Antrim UUP Chairman, said it would be “an academic disaster for the local community” if the NRC’s Ballymoney Campus was closed.
Mr Swann made his challenge to the Minister for Employment and Learning after being contacted by a large number of Ballymoney residents and College employees.
He explained: “As soon as I was alerted of their concerns I raised a series of important question to the Executive Minister.”
Assemblyman Swann had asked the Minister to outline his plans for the long-term sustainability of the Northern Regional College campus at Ballymoney; which courses are currently taught at this campus, and what additional courses will be developed and delivered at this campus in future.
Mr Swann added: “In his response, the minister told me the Northern Regional College (NRC) and the Southern Regional College have jointly submitted a Strategic Outline Case (SOC) for the development of their estates.
“The SOC has been approved by his Department and by the Department of Finance and Personnel. The SOC, which is a high level examination of the issues and a range of options, has proposed a rationalisation of NRC’s campuses, including the possible co-location of Coleraine and Ballymoney.
“Co-location on a permanent basis will require further examination through the completion of a more detailed Outline Business Case, which is likely to take the colleges at least 18 months to complete.
“No decisions will be taken on the future of the Ballymoney Campus ahead of the Outline Business Case being concluded and considered.
“The minister emphasised it is important that an open mind is maintained with respect to the options for future provision in the Ballymoney area.
“In the current academic year, according to the minister, the Ballymoney campus is offering 56 full and part-time further education courses across a range of academic and vocational areas. Two higher education courses are also on offer and full details of these can be found at the NRC website.
“Regarding future course provision, the minister added while his Department sets the strategic direction for the Further Education Sector, it is the responsibility of the individual colleges to design and deliver a curriculum offering that meets the needs of learners and employers across their areas.
“Northern Regional College will, therefore, be responsible for deciding the provision that will be made available at its Ballymoney campus.
“However, it is essential for the long-term future of the FE sector in the Ballymoney community that the borough’s campus is maintained,” said Assemblyman Swann.