UL city centre campus will generate €30 million a year

Former Dunnes Stores site, Sarsfield Bridge. Picture True Media

MORE than 300 jobs are to be created by the University of Limerick (UL) as part of an ambitious five-year investment worth hundreds of millions of euro.

At the launch of “[email protected]” last Friday, UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald, along with former Tanaiste and UL Chancellor Mary Harney, announced plans to increase UL’s student population by 4,000 to 20,000 students and raise staff numbers by approximately 330 to 1,930.

Dr Fitzgerald said UL’s big ambitions would place it among the leading universities in these islands.

The announcement was delivered on the site of UL’s proposed city-centre campus at the former Dunnes Stores shopping centre off Sarsfield Bridge.

It acquired the 5,500 square metre property for €8 million last May and plans to develop a “significant landmark building” on the site to accommodate much of its additional student population.

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The city campus, which will cater mainly for postgraduate and international students, will be worth an estimated €30 million a year to the local economy.

“We will work with Limerick City and County Council to maximise what can be achieved on the site. We have already begun identifying all possible sources of funding including government grants, philanthropy and our own sources to get us to a place where we can begin to plan what is possible,” Dr Fitzgerald said.

The University is currently “developing the specifications of an international architectural competition to achieve the most progressive, grand, effective and ambitious design possible”, he added.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead to raise the substantial funding that will do justice to the opportunity here, but we are determined that the UL City Campus will be a flagship for our university and our city.”

Dr Fitzgerald said that “a revolution in teaching styles and philosophies” was the future of third-level education, and that UL would seek to lead this transformation in Ireland.

“We believe that the teaching model that has characterised universities for a hundred years is coming to an end. We want to put flexible learning spaces and tech-enhanced teaching models at the heart of our education and training.”

“We will develop new curricula, new learning modes and a cross-disciplinary sharing and exchange approach with a particular focus on enterprise and entrepreneurship.”

Mary Harney offered that “ambition has always been key to UL”.

Since its emergence in 1972, with 113 students and seven academic staff members, it has grown exponentially to accommodating 16,000 students across 250,000 sq m of lecture theatres, classrooms and research facilities, on a 360-acre campus in Castletroy.

“By matching the ambition and drive of our founders, we will ensure that the university reaches its fullest potential over the coming years,” Ms Harney said.

UL is expected to announce a further development Masterplan for the Castletroy campus as part of its 2022 celebrations.

Major development plans were also drawn up by the university in April last year, to construct a 200-bedroom four-star hotel and additional student residential accommodation, subject to planning, on a site adjacent to the National Technology Park in Plassey.

The Technology Park is home to a number of global pharmaceutical, science, and information technology firms, employing more than 4,000 people, including many UL graduates.