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Editorial: University looks to the future with new campus

One of the north's biggest construction projects in recent years reaches completion this month with the opening of the new Ulster University campus in Belfast city centre.

By any standards, it has been a mammoth undertaking and despite the delays and difficulties along the way, it has already transformed the skyline of the city and will have an enormous impact in terms of education, the wider economy and the life of this part of Belfast.

The campus had been due to open in 2018 at a cost of £254 million. Four years later and £100 million over budget, the doors will finally be fully open on September 19 to around 15,000 students and staff.

The statistics in relation to this build are quite staggering and give a sense of the scale of this major initiative.

We are told the new campus will feature 22,000 square metres of glass, 650,000 bricks and 2,900 doors. There are 95,000 computer floor tiles, 19 different roof levels, 18 lifts and more than 600 km of data cables.

It promises to be a modern, spacious and thoughtfully designed environment offering the latest technology and facilities for both learning and leisure.

The construction phase saw the creation of around 1,000 jobs and the training, apprenticeship and employment opportunities provided during this process are clearly hugely positive.

However, it is over the longer term that the university, local businesses and the community in this part of the city will be hoping the campus makes a real difference.

It is essential that Ulster University Belfast is very much part of the local community and the fact that a number of initiatives are planned with local schools and others is to be welcomed.

The new campus presents an opportunity for employers to further develop links and help to encourage our bright, able and highly educated students to stay in Northern Ireland and bring their much-needed skills to the local economy.

Many will also be hoping that an influx of students, many of whom will be living in purpose built accommodation close to the Cathedral Quarter, will revitalise the city centre, giving a boost not just to the hospitality sector and retailers but also contributing to the arts and cultural activities.

The opening of the new campus is a significant development that hopefully heralds a positive future for those who study there and for those who live and work in the surrounding area.

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