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Minister Simon Harris faced questions from two Clare TDs on plans for the Clare side of the UL campus. Pic Arthur Ellis.

Answers sought over UL’s Clare campus plans

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PLANS to develop lands on the County Clare side of its campus as an Economic Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) are advancing, according to Minister Simon Harris.

The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science was asked by Deputy Cathal Crowe for an update on the University of Limerick’s (UL) plans for the portion of its campus which is located in Clare. 

Minister Harris, who visited UL last week, said that while his department doesn’t have direct role in the project, meetings have been taking place between the university, Clare County Council and relevant government officials. 

“UL has indicated that, as part of its future campus planning, it is advancing an application for the designation of lands on the County Clare side of its campus as an Economic Strategic Development Zone or SDZ,” the minister said.

“UL has indicated to my Department that it sees potential for new and innovative models of teaching and learning through designation of an SDZ alongside its current campus, and in particular a further deepening of engagement with industry.

“This close partnering between the university and industry in the delivery of higher education could offer opportunities for students to be immersed in industry practice from the beginning of their studies. It could also present opportunities for new collaborations in research and innovation.

“My Department does not have any direct involvement in the plans, which are currently being progressed by UL, as an autonomous institution, in conjunction with Clare County Council.

“However, I understand that the request for designation of lands as an SDZ was received from UL and Clare County Council by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on 24 January 2022.

“I have also been advised that a meeting took place between officials of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and representatives of UL and Clare County Council on 26 April. At that meeting, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage undertook to issue follow-up correspondence seeking further details, including with regard to land use planning aspects of the proposal.”

Meanwhile, questions about the County Clare part of the campus were also asked during a Dáil debate by Deputy Michael McNamara. The Independent TD asked for an update on the SDZ plans, particularly in respect of accommodating and upskilling students. 

“The shortage of student accommodation is a widespread issue,” he said. “The Minister of State, Deputy Collins, and I both know there is a shortage of student accommodation in Limerick. What are University of Limerick’s plans to develop the Clare bank? It already has some accommodation on that, but there is a large land bank.”

The minister told Deputy McNamara that UL has indicated that “as part of its future campus planning, it is advancing an application for the designation of lands on the County Clare side of the campus, as an economic strategic zone”.

He said that UL has indicated that it sees potential for “new and innovative models of teaching and learning through designation of a strategic development zone alongside its current campus”. “There will be a further deepening of engagement with industry,” Minister Harris said.

Deputy McNamara also asked how students would access the proposed facilities if there are no light rail plans and no Northern Distributor Road. He was refused permission for a supplementary question, however.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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