THE University of Ulster’s decision to close its childcare facility at the Jordanstown campus has been met with anger and dismay.
The university has confirmed that the campus day nursery will close at the end of July with the loss of 17 jobs, meaning the parents of 34 children will be forced to look for alternative childcare arrangements.
As well as catering for students, the nursery also offers places to children of university staff and local residents.
The university said the cost of running its nurseries at both its Magee and Jordanstown campuses was no longer sustainable, with just 23 students from a roll of 25,000 using the service.
It said the vast majority of students used other childcare providers and students would continue to receive financial support if eligible.
However, parents of children at the local nursery have hit out at the decision.
Victoria Cunningham is studying health physiology at Jordanstown. The 30-year-old said the childcare facilities were a major reason for her decision to study at UUJ.
She said: “I’m a single mother and everything I do is based on the needs of my son, Matthew. Having childcare right on campus is a lifeline for me.
“There was a waiting list for the nursery at Jordanstown and other places are already filled for the next year giving the timing of this decision I may not be ale to get another nursery handy for me.
“I am in discussion with my course director about what my options are, but if I can not get child care then I can’t attend a full time course at university.”
University staff have told the Times they felt let down by the decision and said there was scope for the facility at Jordanstown to be profitable.
One mother said: “For me there is an opportunity to make the nursery at Jordanstown viable.
“To close it will lose a purpose-built facility in which the staff are great and provide the kids with a fantastic learning experience in a diverse setting with children from so many different backgrounds. To lose it will be such a shame.”
A spokesman for the university said: “The creches at our Magee and Jordanstown campuses are to close from 31 July 2013.
“Two factors have been crucial in the making of this decision. These facilities have been running at a deficit of over £100,000 per year: in the current financial climate the university can no longer afford a subsidy of this magnitude.
“Students are minority users of the creches. Of the 25,000 registered students at the university, just 23 use these creches. This is not a sustainable position.”
He added: “We understand that for users and staff this will not be a popular decision, and regret that there will be some inconvenience in that existing users will have to make alternative childcare arrangements.
“However, it will be almost six months before the creches close at the end of the academic year, and eight months until students begun the new academic year in late September 2013.
“Our student support staff are available to help students at Magee and Jordanstown find alternative childcare providers, and to that end we are compiling a register of suitable alternative providers.
“Financial support for students and staff requiring childcare services will continue to be available at all campuses.”