AROUND 300 permanent jobs will be created as part of a major expansion of the University of Limerick that is to include a campus in the heart of the city.
And 700 construction jobs will come on stream over the next five years as the university sets its ambitious €224 million capital investment plan in motion.
Details were announced yesterday as UL president Prof Don Barry and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan signed a €100 million loan agreement with the European Investment Bank.
The rest of the money is to come from UL’s own funds, philanthropic donations, the government and what Prof Barry said would be commercial income at the 12 infrastructural developments it plans to build over the next five years.
Of the €224 million total, one in every three euros will be spent off the Plassey campus - including the development of a faculty for 500 students in the city centre; student accommodation for potentially up to 1,000; and a new research centre for medical and nursing students at University Hospital Limerick.
Prof Barry said there was no shortage of interest from various departments and schools for a move into the heart of the city.
“I’m in a position where I have people queuing up asking me ‘Are we going to be part of the city centre?’,” Prof Barry said.
“I want the academics who are here and interested in moving to the city to compete in terms of putting forward the most compelling vision for what they would do if they were in the city...but we have lots of candidates who want to be in the city. That is not going to be the issue,” he added.
Prof Barry said the second way UL was determined to play its part in the Limerick 2030 plan and the wider renaissance of the city was improving transport between Plassey and the city centre - “which will de facto allow thousands of students to go in and out and contribute to the economic revitalisation of the city centre”.
Minister Noonan said the issue of how cities and universities fed off one another dated back to the Middle Ages and Limerick was no different.
“There is always debate in university cities about how the city and university integrate, generally under the heading of the town and the gown debate. We have our own town and gown debate in Limerick is well and I am delighted that the initiative has been taken now to have a significant part of the university functioning in the city centre,” Minister Noonan said.
“It fits totally with our idea of a living city, a reconstructed city that doesn’t close down at five in the evening. We are not over-emphasising it because it is only one part of the plan but it is something that I think will be appreciated by all the people of Limerick.”