Cullen: ‘The case has been made and the momentum and impetus is unstoppable’

Waterford Minister Martin Cullen has welcomed the publication by the Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin of the report compiled by independent expert Dr Jim Port of JM Consulting on WIT’s application for university status.

“From an economic, social and educational perspective, present and future generations will benefit enormously from the presence of a university here in our region. A positive outcome to this process will place Waterford and the South East at the forefront of academic excellence. The case has been made and the momentum and impetus is unstoppable.

“A University of the South East will stimulate and promote economic, social and cultural development. While it will clearly assist the South East in positioning itself to meet the challenges of a changing economic environment, it will also play a significant role in enhancing Ireland’s position as an innovation-based technology-generating society with indigenous enterprises becoming the driver of our economic development and of the country’s international competitiveness.”

Minister Cullen said he was very encouraged by Dr Port’s deliberations within the report and noted the following specific observations made by Dr Port:

* WIT has an academic maturity and an activity profile (degree and post-graduate teaching, research and scholarly activity) which overlaps with institutions in the Irish university sector and in other Western countries.

* WIT fulfils many of the broader roles of a university especially in terms of its support to regional economic and cultural development, and knowledge transfer.

* It has the governance, management, and strategic planning capability required for a university, coupled with an attractive and suitable campus environment, and an asset base to permit future development.

* Professor Farquhar (Former President of Carleton University in Canada) assesses WIT’s readiness for designation and he does so with particular respect to the criteria for universities used by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. Against these criteria, he concludes that, from a Canadian perspective, WIT is indeed worthy of designation as a university.

* Simply on the merits of its application, we would respect and support WIT’s view that it has many of the features of a university, and, arguably, should be considered as a candidate for university status.

* It is of course legitimate for others to argue (and they have to us) that this would not be the highest priority for Government investment for the region, but that is a different issue for Government to judge. We have also been told that ‘Ireland does not need additional universities’ which is really part of a broader policy point which we consider in Chapter 4. However solely in terms of impact on the South East region, which has no university at present, we would agree that designation of WIT as a university would have significant benefits for the region.

* Overall we conclude that the designation of WIT on its own is unlikely to be seriously damaging to other Institutions.

Mr Cullen also said: “The report is clear with regard to the academic status of WIT and its capacity to be a university. It is also clear that the regional argument has been equally fully substantiated. Interestingly the issue that remains to be finalised is one of process which I am confident with good cooperation can be satisfactorily resolved.”

Also see “University findings a mixed bag for WIT bid

Also see Moves afoot to create university lobby group

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