Canada shows way for regional university says leading academic

A leading international academic has said the designation of new universities in a Canadian province with a similar population to ours offers a roadmap for the Government in dealing with WIT’s application for university status.

Professor Ged Martin, now living in Waterford said changes to Canada’s University Act introduced within the past month will allow the province of British Columbia (BC population: 4.4 million) to create additional universities.

This will provide students with greater access to university degree programmes as part of a commitment to make the province the best-educated and most literate jurisdiction in North America.

“The expansion of British Columbia’s public university system responds – and this is important in an Irish context – to the Campus 2020 report released in the province just over a year ago that recommended the creation of regional universities,” he said.

“This legislative move shows recognition on the part of the provincial government in British Columbia that university designation will create new opportunities for higher learning and allow the newly designated institutions to market themselves more effectively across Canada and overseas.”

Prof Martin continued: “It is also recognised that the changes will provide new clarity of purpose within BC’s higher education system and build on the excellent reputation these institutions – just like Waterford Institute of Technology – have earned for providing high quality degree programmes.”

The Professor said that this was particularly important given the Irish Government’s aim to increase higher education participation rates from 44 to 72 per cent. “The authorities in British Columbia clearly recognise the need to plan for growth and we must do the same in Ireland.”

Prof Martin drew parallels between WIT and the BC University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), which secured university college status in 1991 (similar to WRTC’s upgrade in 1997) and will soon acquire university status.

“In common with Waterford Institute of Technology, what is to become UFV has built up particular pinnacles of excellence in specific areas.

“The UCFV president Skip Bassford put it well when he spoke of how ‘our new status will mean we can increase opportunities for our students while continuing to offer all of our current programmes’ and how ‘having an accessible university means we can make the entire region more competitive, attracting more professionals and keeping grads (school-leavers) closer to home’.”

Prof Martin said that the south east will not compete successfully at national and international level if it remains the largest population centre in Britain and Ireland without ready access to a university.

“This would be a deplorable situation that can be easily avoided by backing Waterford’s claim to university designation – a move made all the more straightforward by reference to the model being rolled out by the Ministry of Advanced Education in British Columbia at this time.”

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