Early last week UCC unveiled an exciting €350m investment plan. The project is going to take place over the next five years, and is aiming to create 500 new jobs in the construction industry for Cork. Professor Patrick O’Shea, President of UCC, outlined the key aspects of this landmark project, as well as explaining the sources from which funds were procured.
This investment plan is to be the biggest expansion programme in the history of the university. Last year, the university confirmed that it had successfully obtained a €100m loan from the European Investment Bank. On top of this, the project is being funded by a combination of commercial loans, philanthropy and UCC’s own resources. Former President of UCC, Dr Michael Murphy, stated that this plan is vital to UCC’s future as a world class institution, with the university currently in the top 2% of third level institutions worldwide. He also went on to explain that the ‘EIB funding is a real expression of confidence in UCC’.
The main pillars of the project, as detailed in the University’s ‘Strategic Plan 2017-22’, are campus space, student numbers and curriculum development. Heavy focus is being put on the infrastructural element, with a goal of expanding our campus by 20%. The investment includes €110m allocated for the Cork University Business School, a further €64m supporting Student Accommodation projects and the construction of the new Student Hub, which is already underway. Additionally, a large portion of expenditure is allocated to a state-of-the-art outdoor sports centre, with further funding being corralled for increased flood protection measures.
Talking about the impact this would have on the Cork and wider region, UCC President Professor O’Shea said: “Our creative spirit will enable our University to be entrepreneurial in creating more value than we consume for the moral, cultural and economic health of our people. We are a University in the community, of the community and for the community, committed to delivering value in a trustworthy and transparent fashion.
“If we were to ask what our people wanted from life in Finbarr’s time it would simply have been to be healed and housed, fed and fuelled while living in a just society, where they were safe and free. Today, these aspirations are both local and global, and it is our duty to enable the realisation of these aspirations for humanity, now and into the future.”
Professor Patrick O’Shea is aiming to increase both Irish and international student numbers. Measures are being put into place to try and increase the current number of students from 21,000 to 23,000 – with a projected 1,000 of these students coming from abroad. To boost student numbers, the project hopes to obtain a 26% intake through access admission routes (for instance, students gaining access through the HEAR and DARE schemes).
The academic targets for 2022 include sustaining an annual research income of €90m and achieving a 92% retention rate of first and second year students. The project will implement a strategy to deliver an outstanding, student-centred teaching and learning experience.
“We are committed to ensuring that UCC becomes the location of choice for Irish and international students. Like myself, many of us are first-generation university graduates, and we are passionate about ensuring access to higher education,” said O’Shea.
The announcement of this project has inspired discussions on other aspects that could be considered. Members of the UCC branch of the Green Party have argued that the college should prioritise cycling infrastructure as part of the investment. Calls for increased accessibility and improved security have been made. Justin Fleming, (MPlan) Masters in Planning & Sustainable Development student and Green Party representative in the Cork City South Central ward, said the new plan should ‘absolutely include a substantial number of additional bike parking spaces on campus in central and convenient locations.’
Although not every aspect and department of UCC can receive a portion of this investment, the university as a whole will benefit massively from this project. With works already underway, the five-year plan is set to make an incredible difference to both students and staff at UCC.