Magee College

The Ulster University Magee campus is one of the four campuses of Ulster University. It is located in Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland and opened in 1865 as a Presbyterian Christian arts and theological college. Since 1953, it has had no religious affiliation and provides a broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate academic degree programmes in disciplines ranging from business, law, social work, creative arts & technologies, cinematic arts, design, computer science and computer games to psychology and nursing.

Ulster University at Magee
aka Ulster University, Magee Campus
Irish: Ollscoil Uladh ag Coláiste Mhig Aoidh
Former names
University of Ulster at Magee,
New University of Ulster at Magee
Magee University College
Magee College
TypePublic research university
Established1865 – Magee College
1953 – Magee University College
1968 – Coleraine Campus established; New University of Ulster established
1969 – Magee College merge
1982 – Ulster Polytechnic merge; University of Ulster established
2014 – Ulster University rebrand
Endowment£6.483 million (2014)[1]
ChancellorJames Nesbitt[2]
Vice-ChancellorProfessor Paddy Nixon
ProvostDr Malachy O'Neil
Students5,098 (2014/15)[3]
55°00′22″N 7°19′23″W / 55.006°N 7.323°W / 55.006; -7.323Coordinates: 55°00′22″N 7°19′23″W / 55.006°N 7.323°W / 55.006; -7.323
ColoursLogo:Navy blue & Bronze
Seal:Red & Gold
Formerly:Navy blue, Blue & Green
AffiliationsUlster University Edit this at Wikidata
Ulster University re-branded logo


Magee offers a large number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes through Ulster University's four faculties: [4]

  1. Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  2. Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment
  3. Life and Health Sciences
  4. Ulster Business School

Within each faculty there are a number of schools offering programmes for their relative disciplines. The schools based on the Magee campus are:

  1. Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – School of Arts and Humanities, School of Education, School of Law, School of Applied Social and Policy Studies
  2. Computing, Engineering & the Built Environment – School of Computing, Engineering and Intelligent Systems
  3. Life and Health Sciences – School of Nursing, School of Psychology
  4. Ulster Business School – Department of Global Business and Enterprise

Programmes taught at Magee include business studies, drama, law, social work, education, cinematic arts, computer science, computer games, creative technologies, design, robotics, electronics, modern languages, music, nursing, psychology, and social sciences.


Research activities include several research institutes and centres.

Magee is home to the Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI) [5] with membership drawn from former research groupings in the Humanities Research Institute, the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages (AICH) [6] and the Institute of Ulster Scots Studies. [7] The AHRI provides an institutional focus for research activity and collaboration across four research clusters in Creative Arts and Technologies, Irish Language & Literature, English and History embracing a range of subject areas within the Faculty of Arts, including Creative Technologies, Music, Drama, Dance, Irish Language & Literature, English and History. The AHRI promotes a broad research culture and environment within which research activity in individual disciplines flourishes.

Magee is the location for the Intelligent Systems Research Centre (ISRC) dedicated to the creation of intelligent computational systems through research in neural networks, fuzzy systems, artificial intelligence and cognitive robotics. Other research areas include ambient intelligence, wireless sensor networks, robot vision, brain computer interfacing and serious games. [8]

It also houses International Conflict Research (INCORE), a joint venture between the United Nations University and Ulster University. Established in 1993, it aims to address issues of the conflict in Northern Ireland and seek to promote conflict resolution internationally. [9] The Transitional Justice Institute is based at both the Magee and Jordanstown campuses.


The principal academic post at the campus is the provost. Professor Thomas G Fraser was provost from 2002 to 2006, succeeded by Professor Jim Allen.[10][11] In 2011, Professor Deirdre Heenan was appointed to the post in 2011, following the retirement of Professor Allen.[12] She was replaced by Dr Malachy O'Neil in 2016


Magee College, c.1870

The Magee Campus gained its name from Martha Magee, the widow of a Presbyterian minister, who, in 1845, bequeathed £20,000 to the Presbyterian Church of Ireland to found a college for theology and the arts. [13][14][15] It opened in 1865 primarily as a theological college, but accepted students from all denominations to study a variety of subjects.[13] It was a college of the Royal University of Ireland from 1880 and later became associated with the Trinity College, Dublin when the Royal University was dissolved in 1909 and replaced by the National University of Ireland.[13] The Irish Roman Catholic bishops had in 1871 implemented a general ban on Catholics entering Trinity College, with few exceptions. This ban remained in place until it was rescinded by the Catholic Bishops of Ireland in 1970. By that time, Magee College had severed its links with TCD, as set out below.

World War II: Royal NavyEdit

During World War II, the college was taken over by The Admiralty for Royal Navy operational use, becoming with Ebrington Barracks (HMS Ferret), a major facility in the Battle of the Atlantic. A 2013 BBC report describes a secret major control bunker, later buried beneath the lawns of the college.[16] From 1941 this bunker, part of Base One Europe, together with similar bunkers in Derby House, Liverpool,[17] and Whitehall was used to control one million Allied personnel and fight the Nazi U-boat threat.

On 14 September 2013 Magee hosted, for the first time on the island of Ireland, the 23rd International Loebner Prize Contest in Artificial Intelligence[18] based on The Turing Test proposed by the renowned British Computer Scientist, Alan Turing in 1950 who also worked on cracking the Enigma Machine code at Bletchley Park which was instrumental in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Julian Peck's (who resided at Prehen House in Derry) mother, Lady Winifred Peck (née Knox), was a sister of Dilly Knox who directed the code breaking at Bletchley Park. Sir Harry Hinsley OBE was Director of Studies at Cambridge University to Professor Robert Gavin, a former Provost of Magee.

Dame Alice Rosemary Murray, the first female Vice-Chancellor of the Cambridge University, who also sat on the John Lockwood (classicist) Committee (1963–65) which recommended the closure of Magee as well as the location of Northern Ireland's 2nd University being Coleraine (February 1965), from which she was later awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) Honorary Degree (1972), was stationed at Base One Europe as WRNS Chief Officer and responsible for the welfare of 5,600 Wrens stationed at Londonderry.


In 1953, Magee Theological College separated from the remainder of the college, eventually moving to Belfast in a 1978 merger that formed Union Theological College. [13][14][19] Also in 1953, Magee College broke its links with Dublin and became Magee University College. It was hoped by groups led by the University for Derry Committee that this university college would become Northern Ireland's second university after Queen's University of Belfast. However, in the 1960s, following the recommendations in the Lockwood Report by Sir John Lockwood, Master of Birkbeck College, London and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of London, the Stormont Parliament made a controversial decision to pass it over in favour of a new university in Coleraine. Instead it was incorporated into the two-campus New University of Ulster in 1969.[13] The next fourteen years saw the college halve in size, while development focused on the main Coleraine campus.[13]

In 1984, the New University merged with the Ulster Polytechnic, and Magee became the early focus of development of a new four-campus university, the University of Ulster.[13] Student and faculty numbers recovered and grew rapidly over the next ten to fifteen years, accompanied by numerous construction projects.[13] Magee grew from just 273 students in 1984 to over 4000 undergraduates in 2012. In 2012, the University continued to lobby the Northern Ireland Executive for an additional 1000 full-time undergraduate places, leading to 6000 students at Magee in 2017.[notes 1] In October 2014 the University of Ulster was rebranded as Ulster University.

The main building was built with Scottish freestone, and opened in 1865.


  • 1845 – Foundation endowment from Martha Magee.[13]
  • 1865 – Magee College opened.[13]
  • 1880 – Magee College joined the new Royal University of Ireland.[13]
  • 1909 – Royal University dissolved.[20] Government funding greatly reduced.[13] Magee College became an autonomous university college, with students completing their degrees at Trinity College, Dublin.[13]
  • 1953 – Magee University College received major government grant funding for the first time.[13]
  • 1969 – Magee University College merged with the New University of Ulster.[13]
  • 1978 – Magee Theological College closed, merging with Assembly's College to form Union Theological College in Belfast.[19]
  • 1984 – New University merged with the Ulster Polytechnic, Jordanstown, to form the University of Ulster.
  • 2014 – Rebranded name to Ulster University.

Historical notesEdit


The central feature of the campus is the original 1865 building. This is surrounded by Victorian red brick houses, and several modern buildings in red brick and glass, constructed since the formation of the University of Ulster.

The campus is used for education, but also as a convention centre. For example, Magee hosted the 2006 Tomo-Dachi convention.

Timeline of recent construction[13]
  • 1988 – Phase I building
  • 1989 – Carrickmore House, extension of main building
  • 1990 – Phase II library building
  • 1991 – Refurbished main building
  • 1992 – Extension of 3/4 College Avenue
  • 1993 – Strand Road student residence
  • 1995 – Phase III buildings (sports complex and informatics), Duncreggan Road student residences, floodlit all-weather sports ground

Tip O'Neill ChairEdit

Based at Magee, the Tip O'Neill Chair in Peace Studies was established in commemoration of the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, Jr. a well-known supporter of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. The chair was inaugurated by the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton in 1995.[22] Currently funded by The Ireland Funds the chair was held by the Nobel Peace Laureate, John Hume from 2002 to 2009.[23] Under the tenure of Professor Hume Magee has hosted a series of guest lectures involving key national and international policy-makers.

  • Mitchell Reiss, United States Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, 2006
  • John Kerry, United States Senator, 2006
  • Garret Fitzgerald, former Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, 2005
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Senator, 2004
  • Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, 2004
  • Romano Prodi, EU Commission President, 2004
  • Pat Cox, MEP and President of the European Parliament, 2004
  • Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland and President of the European Council, 2003
  • Bill Clinton, former President of the United States, 2003
  • Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of France, 2003

Notable alumniEdit

Year of matriculation is given, if known.

Honorary graduatesEdit

Notable figures have received honorary degrees in graduations hosted by Magee.


  1. ^ 6000 students includes 4000 in 2012, 1000 additional without government permission, and 1000 lobbied for from the Northern Ireland Executive.


  1. ^ "Ulster University Finance Statement 2014" (PDF). Ulster University. p. 28/30. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  2. ^ "James Nesbitt Lands New Role As University of Ulster Chancellor" (Press release). University of Ulster Press Office. 24 March 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2010.
  3. ^ Professor Deirdre Heenan (25 February 2012). "Magee expansion paramount to North West transformation". Derry Journal. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  4. ^ UU Faculties "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 June 2009. Retrieved 2 July 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Retrieved on 2 July 2009.
  5. ^ AHRI Research Institute website Research Institutes – Arts & Humanities Research Institute (AHRI). Retrieved on 19 August 2015.
  6. ^ Research Institutes Recruitment website Research Institutes – Academy for Cultural Heritages Archived 30 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 21 November 2006.
  7. ^ Institute of Ulster Scots Studies website The Institute of Ulster Scots Studies Introduction. Retrieved on 21 November 2006.
  8. ^ ISRC Website The Intelligent Systems Research Centre About Archived 30 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2 July 2009.
  9. ^ INCORE Website INCORE: About. Retrieved on 21 November 2006.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 April 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 January 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) retrieved on 6 February 2008.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 February 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q History of Magee College at UU Library website Archived 26 June 2017 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 28 August 2006.
  14. ^ a b Union Theological College website, History. Retrieved on 31 December 2016.
  15. ^ a b Epitaph, 1845. Martha Magee's memorial at a cemetery in Lurgan reads, "The Rev Wm. Magee Minister of the Presbyterian Church Lurgan, died 9 June 1800. At the demise of Mrs Martha Magee, about £60,000 to the Irish Presbyterian Church including £20,000 for the establishment of a college." History from Headstones retrieved on 31 August 2006.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 June 2008. Retrieved 3 January 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ 23rd International Loebner Prize Contest in Artificial Intelligence 14 September 2013 University of Ulster, Magee Campus, Londonderry~Derry~LegenDerry, Northern Ireland, UK
  19. ^ a b Presbyterian Church in Ireland Press Release, 2003 Presbyterian College Celebrates 150 Years Archived 19 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 28 August 2006.
  20. ^ "Magee College, Northland Road. Derry City – 1865". Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  21. ^ UU website Magee Campus Guide. Retrieved on 28 August 2006.
  22. ^ "Hume honoured at Magee". 12 October 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  23. ^ "Ulster Announces Funding Boost for Hume O'Neill Peace Chair at Magee". 9 September 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  24. ^ Northern Ireland Assembly Biography Archived 26 October 2005 at the Wayback Machine of Gregory Campbell. Retrieved on 31 August 2006.
  25. ^ Mark Durkan's Biography Archived 28 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine at the Northern Ireland Assembly. Retrieved on 31 August 2006.
  26. ^ Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Dill Macky, William Marcus (1849–1913). Retrieved on 28 August 2006.
  27. ^ UU Press Office, 2006. [1] Archived 15 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine 22 March 2006. Retrieved on 22 November 2006.
  28. ^ UU Press Office, 2002. "Londonderry-born Actress Amanda Burton Returns for UU Honour" Archived 12 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine 9 July 2002. Retrieved on 31 August 2006.
  29. ^ UU Press Office, 2004. "UU to Confer Honorary Degree on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton" 23 August 2004. Retrieved on 31 August 2006.
  30. ^ UU Press Office, 2007. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 24 February 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) 11 July 2007. Retrieved on 11 July 2007.
  31. ^ UU Press Office, 2012. [2] Archived 1 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine 26 January 2012. Retrieved on 3 June 2013.
  32. ^ UU Press Office, 2004. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) 15 December 2004. Retrieved on 22 November 2006.
  33. ^ UU Press Office, 2004. [3] Archived 15 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine 15 December 2004. Retrieved on 22 November 2006.
  34. ^ BBC News, 2013. [4] 3 February 2013. Retrieved on 19 July 2020.

External linksEdit