Application made to form technological university in South-East

Simon Harris welcomes move by Carlow and Waterford institutes, but WIT staff oppose plans for the university
Application made to form technological university in South-East

'The South-East is the only region without a university," said higher education minister Simon Harris. 'After a decade of debate and effort and a massive amount of work over the last while, that’s about to change.' Picture: Denis Minihane

An application to form a technological university for the South-East has been submitted to higher education minister Simon Harris.

Waterford Institute of Technology and IT Carlow have applied for the new designation, with the entity to be established by January 1, 2022, if successful.

Mr Harris said: “The South-East is the only region without a university. After a decade of debate and effort and a massive amount of work over the last while, that’s about to change.” 

He said he is “strongly committed to capital investment” in the proposed technological university, saying his officials are in ongoing engagement in relation to campus development plans across multiple proposed TU locations in Waterford, Carlow, and Wexford.

Joint application by institutes

The TU, which is as yet unnamed but has the working title of TUSEI (Technological University of South East Ireland), had been stalled repeatedly, due to concerns from both colleges at different periods.

Earlier this week, the governing bodies of both institutes approved the application for technological university designation.

Trade union opposition

However, Teachers’ Union of Ireland members at WIT rejected the merger only last week, due to unhappiness over funding and governance arrangements for the TUSEI, including its future headquarters.

Four of the branch’s officers resigned on Thursday night after an emergency meeting where members decided to push ahead with another vote on the merger. The TUI has confirmed this will take place in the “near future” and will also see Carlow’s academic staff re-ballot.

In a communication today to staff and students, the presidents of the institutes, Dr Patricia Mulcahy and Prof Willie Donnelly, expressed their confidence in the success of the application. 

'Confidence in staff and students'

The email stated: “Our confidence is based on the hard work of our staff and students in the years since this project was first mooted, and especially the very intense effort put in by you in the past year or so.” 

Staff, the presidents noted, while under unusual pressure due to the pandemic, “rose to the occasion and made that extra effort in working groups and other activities to bring us to this point.” 

Greeting the news, minister of State and Waterford TD Mary Butler said it will be vital to the region: 

Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the reality of thousands of students leaving the South-East each year to attend university elsewhere. We must do everything in our power to prevent the continued acceleration of this brain drain.

The submission of the application to the higher education minister starts a process which will include a review by a panel of international experts. The board of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) will consider the panel’s report, and report to the minister, who  will make a formal decision.

It is the fourth application for TU designation to be made by a consortium of institutes of technology.

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