Lack of university a real ‘roadblock’

THE lack of a university in the south-east is a “roadblock” to development in the region, business leaders have claimed.

Universal agreement has been reached among chambers of commerce in the south-east to collaborate on seeking university status for Waterford Institute of Technology and they hope to meet, as a group, with TDs to press their case.

A meeting of the nine chambers from across the region took place on Wednesday night and heard that half a million people have identified the designation of a technological university as a key priority for economic recovery of the region.

According to the group, much of the population in the region is “disadvantaged” by not having the same access as other regions to a university.

They say that university designation will lead to improved links between industry and education and strengthen the indigenous industrial sector by promoting opportunities for increased levels of research and development.

The ESRI estimated that higher levels of education added at least 1% to economic growth each year in the 1990s, Waterford Chamber president Anne Marie Caulfield said, adding that the south-east has traditionally had lower levels of educational attainment at third-level than the rest of the country.

“The lack of university status is a roadblock to our economic development in the south-east; as third-level education has been, and will continue to be, a key driving force in generating economic activity,” she said.

“As far back as 2005, Goodbody Economic Consultants identified that a university would bring in excess of €96m annually into the economy of the south-east which is one of the strongest arguments for university designation.”

In the south-east, there has also been “an absence of a strategic economic development plan” and the uneven spread of access to universities is “unacceptable”.

The chambers said that university designation will attract and retain people in the region, who will in turn create employment spin-off, and are also innovators and entrepreneurs themselves.

“It is that self-reinforcing process, the opposite of people leaving to find opportunity elsewhere, which will form the base for southeast regional development.”

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