WIT university upgrade: Battle close to climax

The long-held aspiration and on-going battle to secure university status for Waterford Institute of Technology rose to the top of the political agenda this week as conflicting reports abounded as to the imminent success or failure of a campaign that has immense consequences not only for Waterford but for the entire South East region.

Rows at Cabinet level, stark comments by Education Minister Mary Hanafin, a report in The Irish Times and alleged leaks from the top secret Dr. Jim Port Report all pointed to disappointment for Waterford and the imminent announcement of a government ‘No’.

But WIT Director, Professor Kieran Byrne, did not accept that scenario and revealed that the college did not interpret the various reports as representing a setback to the university plan. “Upgrade is imperative, delay is not an option”, he insisted.

The Minister for Family and Social Affairs, Martin Cullen, TD, said he would leave no stone unturned and would accept no argument against WIT being upgraded to university status. He would see it through to the end, he pledged.

The members of Waterford City Council discussed the matter at length on Monday night and, at the end of a highly charged meeting, it was decided to heed the City Manager Michael Walsh’s advice to ‘take stock’ of the overall situation before deciding on a course of action although it was decided to, once again, call on Minister Hanafin to publish Dr. Port’s findings.

Strong, no-nonsense statements from the Regional President of IBEC, Paul Nolan, and the Chairman of the regional branch of the Construction Industry Federation, Brian Byrne, called for the immediate upgrading of WIT as did statements from the Chairman of the Labour Party, Deputy Brian O’Shea, the President of the WIT Students’ Union, Shane Kelly, and from members of the City Council.

See Pages 6 and 7 for comprehensive reports and editorial comment.

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