Phil Hogan's interventions "hindered" the WIT/IT Carlow 'TU' bid according to former Irish Universities Chief Michael McGrath.  Phil Hogan: my goodness, what a legacy he has left on both national and regional fronts.
That the man who set the catastrophic Irish Water ball rolling was rewarded with the €250,000 a year before tax gig as European Agriculture Commissioner doesn’t add up to me.
What, in his three years in office, did Commissioner Hogan do to justify this appointment? For argument’s sake, former MEP and current Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney would have made for altogether more logical and savvy candidature for such a significant post.
But of course, that’s not how politics works in this country, so why feign surprise on that front? Democratic revolution my eye.
But something I’ve long resisted writing about, but now feel I can given the derailment of the WIT/IT Carlow merger process has to be put into black and white this week.
Prior to leaving national politics, and it’s something which had been suggested to me by more than one source over the past two years, that Phil Hogan was keen to see the headquarters of the Technological University based in Kilkenny.
Let’s face it: if TU status had but one stipulation – the HQ in Kilkenny, given that the majority of the new body’s staff and students would have been based in Waterford, I think in the long term, we’d have just about lived with that.
However, there was absolutely no logic in having a Waterford/Carlow-dominated body with its head office in Kilkenny. None whatsoever.
That there ought to be satellite campus facilities in both Kilkenny and Wexford in the event of a regional TU being created goes without saying, but how someone could seriously suggest Kilkenny for the HQ, usurping the regional capital, escapes me.
Last Tuesday’s Prime Time’s disclosure which suggested that both Mr Hogan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin were “hindrances” during the process has further damaged the credibility of both Fine Gael and Labour in this
According to former Irish Universities Association Chief Executive Michael McGrath: “To date, the political agenda driven by the two senior ministers in the area have trumped educational concerns…they didn’t properly understand what it takes to have an effectively operating university.”
Elements of the ‘University of the South’ proposal detailed in Katie Hannon’s Prime Time report were disclosed to this newspaper following a meeting of the Governing Body of WIT earlier this summer.
To be specific, the prospect of an academic alliance between Waterford IT and Cork IT had, at the very least, been informally discussed by WIT’s Governing Body, but it had been made clear to WIT that such a prospect was a non-runner. As Michael McGrath put it: “There was no Plan B.”
And with the WIT/IT Carlow process considered “dead in the water” by Mr McGrath, then one has to question the Government’s wisdom in re-asserting their commitment to this forced academic marriage.
It’s all very well for Government TDs such as Paudie Coffey on Wednesday last to “welcome the appointment of an independent facilitator [Michael Kelly]…in order to develop a shared vision for a technological university in the South East”, but what does this amount to?
Feel free to correct me, but hadn’t the process which had been in train between Waterford and Carlow prior to its suspension, been primarily focused on developing that one and same vision?
Isn’t this, if anything, simply re-affirming the astonishing and disappointing sense of failure about this entire process?
Minister Coffey’s statement also welcomes “the appointment of an experienced, impartial third party to engage with both institutions”.
Again, correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t Doctor Jim Port and Professor John Taylor experienced, impartial third parties who have previously reported on this very matter?
In a report prepared for WIT Dr Taylor (which has, curiously, since been withdrawn), he stated: “Viewed in isolation, WIT is approaching the successful achievement of the agreed criteria…Recent increases in student numbers at Masters and Doctoral levels mean that the 4% threshold is near is near to being bet; similarly, taking into account new appointments, the target of 45% of staff with doctorates or the equivalent is close to being achieved. Indeed, depending on how the data are presented, some targets may already have been met.”
He added: “I am in no doubt that WIT is ‘moving in the right direction’, with a positive trajectory that will ensure that the TU criteria are met in the near future. My very rough estimate is that WIT alone will satisfy the quantitative criteria by the end of 2015-16.”
Given the laughable goings-on at cabinet level regarding Irish Water, it is lamentable that the coalition has proven so inflexible when it comes to the merit of an IT making a standalone bid for TU status.
Given all the flip-flopping on water charges by an increasingly clueless looking Government, why oh why has Jan O’Sullivan not considered redrawing the application schematics to permit standalone bids for TU status? Why the iron-clad insistence on IT mergers?
As John Taylor put it: “I wish to question the specific criteria set out for the award of TU status and to urge a more flexible apporach. Without some flexibility of this kind, I fear that an exciting and much-needed development might be frustrated.”
You’re not the only one, Professor. Far from it.

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