University is vital, missing cog

Brian Byrne, Chairman of the South East Branch of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), speaking at the annual dinner of the branch in the Woodlands Hotel, Waterford on Friday 8th February, has hit out at inaction over the issue of the need for a University for the South East.

“There have been some positive developments announced this week in relation to Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). We learned during the week from Minister for Education Mary Hanafin T.D and WIT Director, Professor Kieran R Byrne that three building projects, for engineering & science; architecture; business & enterprise; are to go out to pre-procurement stage before the summer.

“While these are positive steps for WIT, the fact remains that the application seeking the upgrading the status of WIT to university was made under Section 9 of the University Act in February 2006. The case revolved around the need to stimulate economic development in the region and the role that a University can play in building a sustainable economy.

“WIT is academically well placed to be designated a university given its wide undergraduate and post graduate programme portfolio, with over 6000 full time and 4000 part time students. WIT already competes successfully with Universities for research funding and has been awarded research funding from all the major funding sources, including Science Foundation Ireland, the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions and the main European frameworks. Last year over €10m was awarded to the Institute. A report was commissioned by the Department of Education on the matter but that report has been completed for over 12 months now. We need action on this now.”

Region will benefit

During his speech to the CIF Dinner, which included Government and other political representatives, Brian Byrne stated “that we all need to continue to push for a University at every opportunity because we know the benefit that this can have for not just Waterford, but also Wexford, South Tipperary and Kilkenny.”

“While we have major infrastructure projects such as the Waterford – Dublin motorway project underway costing €1.46 billion, as well as the Waterford by pass, we have much more to be done. If we are serious about growing and enhancing the South East Region, we need to build up a critical mass in terms of population. The target of a population in excess of 100,000 is one of the key milestones in this process. But another crucial milestone in helping to achieve this critical mass, and to act as a draw towards the region, is the establishment of a University for the South East” concluded Byrne.

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