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Catholic majority on UU campuses

Simon Doyle Education Correspondent s.doyle@irishnews.com

CATHOLIC students significantly outnumber Protestant undergraduates in three of Ulster University's four campuses, new figures reveal.

At least half of all degree students at two UU campuses - Magee in Derry and Jordanstown - are Catholic.

The north's two universities have shown a strong religious imbalance in student numbers for many years.

Previous figures from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) showed that just one third of about 35,000 students attending the north's universities were Protestant.

There were considerably more Catholic students at both Queen's University and Ulster University.

These earlier statistics prompted calls from unionist politicians for the main institutions to do all they could to encourage more admissions from Protestant students. New figures from DEL, which detail the religion of Northern Ireland domiciled students, show the disparity remains.

The DUP's Nelson McCausland tabled an assembly question asking higher education minister Stephen Farry to reveal the number and percentage of undergraduates at each of UU's four campuses who were Protestant, Catholic or other/unknown.

UU had a total of 20,655 undergraduates according to recent figures, for the 2012/13 academic year.

Across the university as a whole, there were 9,280 Catholic students (45 per cent) compared to 5,640 Protestants (27 per cent) and 1,840 'others' (9 per cent). The religion of a further 6 per cent was unknown while data was not available for another 13 per cent of students who live outside Northern Ireland.

The response from Dr Farry also

showed that the make-up of the student body at UU was predominantly Catholic in three campuses.

Only at the Coleraine campus was the number of degree students from a Protestant background higher, although the percentage split was 41/33.

The divide was most evident at the Magee campus where there were 2,080 (56 per cent) Catholic students, compared to just 580 Protestants (16 per cent). At Magee, those designated as 'others' or whose religion was unknown also narrowly outnumbered Protestants - 600 students.

At Jordanstown, the largest of the campuses, Catholics accounted for 5,195 of the total 10,305 students. The proportion of Protestants was 28 per cent - 2,930 students.

At the art college campus in Belfast, the percentage split was 42/30 in favour of Catholics.

A UU spokeswoman said the university was committed to providing an inclusive environment.

"We actively encourage students of all backgrounds and beliefs. Places are offered to students who choose to apply to study at Ulster University and who then meet the necessary entry requirements," she added.

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