Institute ‘to engage with Government’

Waterford Institute of Technology has said it looks forward to a full engagement with the Department of Education & Science and the Government on the next steps towards its re-designation as University of the South East.

Speaking as a report prepared for the Department by Dr Jim Port of UK-based JM Consulting was published, Redmond O’Donoghue, Chairman, Governing Body, Waterford Institute of Technology termed the report a “ringing endorsement” of the arguments made in the Institute’s submission to Government in February 2006 seeking re-designation as part of measures to revitalise the southeast region and strengthen higher education in Ireland.

“Contrary to some of the newspaper articles published prior to its full release, Dr Port’s report is a ringing endorsement presented in clear and unambiguous language noting that the Institute has ‘an academic maturity and an activity profile’ similar to universities in Ireland and other Western countries.

“It further finds that the Institute ‘fulfils many of the broader roles of a university, especially in terms of support to regional economic and cultural development and knowledge transfer’. I am particularly pleased that it recognises the Institute has ‘the governance, management and strategic planning capabilities required of a university’ while the report’s author also acknowledges that we have an attractive and suitable campus environment and – importantly – a secure asset base in our West Campus at Carriganore to permit future development.

“The report speaks of ‘significant benefits’ in having a university in the region that it says would benefit the southeast ‘economically, socially and culturally’ – much as we and others have asserted for some years now,” the chairman continued.

“Critically, at a time of concern about public finances, the report states in clear terms that economic benefits to the region would – at the very least – offset any additional public expenditure on University of the South East. Indeed, we would argue that the cost of inaction will prove far higher.

“In short, this considered report finds that the Institute is ready to become a university and that the southeast needs a university. The next steps must now be taken on that course without any undue delay and possible pathways in this regard are also outlined by Dr Port.”

Prof Kieran Byrne, Director, Waterford Institute of Technology added, “The compelling case for University of the South East has won wide acceptance and is indeed strengthened almost daily by further news of economic setbacks to this region. Vitally, it has also now won a strong endorsement from Dr Port.

“We will now engage in a structured way with the Department of Education & Science and the Government more widely to ensure the southeast sustains no further unnecessary damage arising from inaction, delay or obfuscation on this matter. Indeed, Dr Port puts it well when he states that the option of maintaining the status quo is ‘highly unattractive and potentially damaging to the future development of Irish higher education’.”

The Institute Director said Dr Port had clearly also recognised – as the report states – ‘the difficulty of achieving a sustainable operation and playing a leadership role in the region under existing legislation and without the marketing advantage of a university title or the benefits of any funding to support research infrastructure and training’.

Prof Byrne also noted the report’s finding that the Institutes of Technology collectively “might be expected to applaud any initiative which might help to ‘open up’ opportunities in the sector”. He said that the report is a tribute to what has been achieved at the Institute over many years of endeavour. “The thrust and spirit of the report displays a clear conviction on the part of Dr Port that these hard-won accomplishments must now be built on to maximum effect to allow Waterford make a more complete contribution to the development of higher education in the southeast and nationally.

“It is now ever clearer that University of the South East will bring added value to Irish higher education. At the same time, it will introduce a diversity of approach and culture that will prove enriching. The benefits to be derived from the university are clearly catalogued in the report and impact across the full spectrum of social, cultural, economic and educational activity. Consequently, as Dr Port himself notes, inaction is not now a viable option.”

Also see “University findings a mixed bag for WIT bid

Also see Moves afoot to create university lobby group

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