University kicked to touch

Probably one of the biggest blunders of the current government and a sure sign of weak leadership was the leak this week that there would be no university for Waterford and the region. This is another Cabinet battle the Taoiseach has lost.

Holding a second seat in Waterford at the next election could be a hard job.

The deferral of the Port report beyond the election and the lack of willingness to deal with claims for a south east university, blaming the problem on other colleges is not a solution.

This goes beyond the brief of the specially assigned Port Report. Waterford Institute of Technology validation for university is a specific requirement based on the merits of the Institute. Dublin IT has similarly applied for an upgrade.

The South East, excluding the North West and Midlands, is one of the regions without a university. In order for the region to develop further and grow, a university is essential.

Knowledge economies

Each month there is a rollout of job losses in the region, whether it is Barlo in Clonmel, the sugar factory in Carlow or continued job reductions in Waterford Crystal.

The coming generation will not be employed in manufacturing, but more in the services sector, which is still growing despite some downturns. Knowledge and skills are essential as Ireland is now a high cost wage economy.

Investors in the south east from both Ireland and overseas would be impressed to see a university of quality here. There is a general expectation that within the next few years a university would come as the criteria appeared to have been met. A failure to announce a south east university would set back the region further.

Fianna Fail would need to take note that the reason they got two TDS in the Waterford Constituency is that people felt that with a strong voice in Government a university would be secured. There will be a major political outcry as a result of it not happening.

What can be done in the future? It is up to the Government to actively engage with the other Institutes of Technology around the country to explain the differentials relating to a proposed new south east university.

Differences

Creating differentiation, having higher entry requirements and looking for better quality must be the future for up and coming universities. It cannot be the status quo. The Government and the Department of Education can create this difference and assist the region.

Not all courses need to be at degree level, the new proposed south east university could still have many diploma courses. Surely it is time to look further at what is happening in education and plan for the future and not just fudge issues.

Capital congestion

We all know how Dublin is so congested, if gateway cities like Waterford are to grow and perform to their full potential a university must be part of the picture.

A number of years ago, the IDA actively promoted this goal as a way of getting business from Dublin to the regions and thus keep foreign investment in Ireland. The IDA will be very disappointed with developments as will many of the local stakeholders. It is a real blow to business confidence in the region.

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