WIT steps back from planned university merger process

Waterford Institute of Technology will not take part in a process to try to put merger plans with its Carlow counterpart back on track for a joint technological university application.

A week after Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan appointed former Higher Education Authority chairman Michael Kelly to lead consultations at WIT and IT Carlow, the larger college has decided not to take part.

The governing body wants to explore alternative options with the Department of Education and HEA instead for achieving a technological university for the South-East, claiming that a merged institution would not be capable of reaching the required academic and other standards in the next five years at least.

However, WIT research and innovation vice-president Willie Donnelly said the break-off from the process was not about seeking to be allowed apply alone to become a TU.

“Entering a process to reinvigorate a merger, when the conclusion is that the merged entity can’t deliver a TU, would create an expectation that couldn’t be met,” he said. “Everybody is aware of the TU criteria that have to be adhered to, but I don’t think any government is going to make an exception to them for WIT, that would be untenable,” Mr Donnelly said.

The rules require that one or more existing third-level colleges must merge before making a final application for designation as a TU. Mr Donnelly said there is nothing to say they must be in the same geographical region.

In an earlier statement, WIT welcomed Ms O’Sullivan’s recent reiteration of the Government commitment to a university for the South-East. But, it said, the college would not enter any proposed process which forces a merger incapable of delivering on the criteria.

The Department of Education said the terms of reference for Mr Kelly’s consultation are being finalised and he is expected to begin work shortly. “It is also the case that there has never been an intention to consider a ‘forced merger’ and Mr Kelly’s terms of reference will reflect this,” a spokesperson said.


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