Mixed Views expressed on Waterford/Carlow TU bid

Dermot Keyes Reports

WIT lecturer and South East Economic Monitor co-author Ray Griffin has re-iterated his fears about the proposed merging of Waterford and Carlow ITs under the Technological University of the South East (TUSE) banner.
Speaking in an independent capacity at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation held in City Hall on Tuesday last, Dr Griffin claimed that the amended Technological University Bill (2015) wasn’t “a credible plan”.

Pictured at City Hall during a recess of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation on Tuesday last were, from left: John Casey (WIT), Dr Ray Griffin (WIT), Frank O'Regan (SEAPJ), Committee Chair Mary Butler TD, Lar Power (Waterford City & County Council), Professor Patricia Mulcahy (IT Carlow), Dr Richard Hayes (WIT) and Dr Cormac O'Keeffe (WIT).					| Photo: Leo Murphy

Pictured at City Hall during a recess of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation on Tuesday last were, from left: John Casey (WIT), Dr Ray Griffin (WIT), Frank O'Regan (SEAPJ), Committee Chair Mary Butler TD, Lar Power (Waterford City & County Council), Professor Patricia Mulcahy (IT Carlow), Dr Richard Hayes (WIT) and Dr Cormac O'Keeffe (WIT). | Photo: Leo Murphy


“This region has been duped twice before, firstly in 1997 when what was then known as Waterford Regional Technical College was awarded IT status, only for every other RTC in the country to be afforded the same status a year later.” he said. “Expectations in Waterford were undoubtedly meddled by that decision.”
Dr Griffin added: “Secondly, in 2009, during WIT’s application for University status, we were told during the application phase that there’d be no discrimination made between universities and institutes of technology. Well that, in my view, wasn’t the reality given what subsequently unfolded.”
Referring to the DIT/IT Tallaght/IT Blanchardstown ‘TU4D’ proposal, Dr Griffin said it represented “a Dublin solution to clean up DIT, Tallaght and Blanchardstown (within DIT’s new Grangegorman campus) – yet we’re being asked in the South East to merge, from what I can see, for nothing, and we will probably be left having to fight over everything.”

Dr Griffin told TDs and Senators that “we need equality with the other regions, and we can see the benefits the Midlands has experienced, for example, since Maynooth gained University status, something we’d seen previously with respect to both DCU and UL…Both Waterford and Carlow ITs are being asked, in my view, to throw their respective business models up in the air while they’re still not sure what, if anything, they’re going to gain by doing so.”

He warned: “We have to make sure whatever we end up getting is not the knife in the back that we’ve got before. This region is still getting shafted.”
An enhanced third level institute in the South East would need to cater for between 16,000 and 17,000 students, according to Dr Richard Hayes, WIT’s Vice President for Strategy. Addressing the committee, Dr Hayes said the existing work being carried out at Institute of Technology shouldn’t be undermined by any future process, adding that such projected student growth could lead to the doubling in size of the current Waterford campus.
“We would have to examine providing for a range of new subject areas as part of a TU.” he stated.
“These would include, I’d imagine, agribusiness, the provision of veterinary education along with a new veterinary school…

“I’d like to see the Technological University of the South East to be where DCU and NUI Maynooth are now, among the top 100 new universities in the world…and we are very firmly of the belief that we (Waterford and Carlow) are better together.”
IT Carlow’s Professor Patricia Mulcahy said the time had come “to take a leap forward to create a new type of (third level) institution” and in her view, “a unitary multi-campus Technological University”, spread across Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford, was the logical way forward.
All speakers agreed that requisite funding had to be provided to give the TUSE the muscle it needs in terms of its academic programme, staff resources and Research & Development capability.
And the TU’s ability to borrow, according to both Frank O’Regan of the South East Action Plan for Jobs (SEAPJ) and TD David Cullinane (SF), represented another fundamental building block.
“There really is no point in what ultimately emerges amounting to nothing more than a name change,” said Deputy Cullinane

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