Waterford IT ‘cannot apply alone to become university’

Further meetings with Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan are planned for Waterford Institute of Technology management after she told them they could not apply on their own to become a university.

However, it is understood that, between now and the next meeting with the minister on November 3, WIT management will not conside any lifting of the suspension of its merger works with Institute of Technology Carlow.

Its decision to call a halt to those activities on Tuesday, despite an agreement last month about progressing their planned joint application for technological university (TU) status, prompted yesterday’s meeting at the Department of Education.

The department said the minister had a “tough and frank discussion” with WIT president Ruaidhrí Neavyn — who is ex-president at IT Carlow — and it s deputy chairman Jack Walsh.

“Minister O’Sullivan reaffirmed her commitment to the Government policy of establishing a technological university in the south-east, which will be multi-campus,” a spokesperson said.

The WIT representatives were also reminded that the requirement for at least two existing colleges to merge first before applying for TU status, remained in place.

Two groups have already submitted plans for a possible full application and a group of international experts is still evaluating the proposals. The plans for a Munster Technological University — from Cork and Tralee institutes of technology — and from three IoTs in Dublin, were sent to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in June.

The department said last night that, ahead of the November 3 meeting, the HEA would liaise with academic staff and governing body members in both WIT and IT Carlow. WIT chairman Donie Ormonde, who has been out of the country this week, will attend the next meeting with Ms O’Sullivan, who is abroad on ministerial duties next week.

IT Carlow’s president, Patricia Mulcahy, and governing body chairman John Moore met separately with department and HEA officials yesterday afternoon. They had expressed surprised and disappointment on Wednesday at WIT’s decision to suspend merger activities, as the presidents and chairpersons of both colleges signed an agreement on September 29 to progress the joint TU application plans.

It is understood the agreement was to be ratified by both governing bodies within four weeks. However, while IT Carlow’s board did so last week, WIT’s governing body raised concerns about the process at its meeting on Tuesday, leading to the merger suspension.


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