Justine Dwyer

The first president of SETU Professor Veronica Campbell said this week that she was both delighted and honoured to take up the position and looked forward to the challenge that lay ahead.

The new Technical University for the South East officially came into being on May 1st –  a merger of WIT and IT Carlow.

Professor Veronica Campbell who is the first president of South East Technological University (SETU).

Professor Campbell who has lived in Ireland for the last 27 years,  holds a degree in Pharmacology from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Neuropharmacology from the University of London. She was appointed to an academic post at the School of Medicine in Trinity College Dublin in 1998.

Speaking to Maria McCann on Deise Today last week, Professor Campbell said there were both personal and professional motivations for her applying for the position. “I grew up in rural Scotland and was the first person in my family to go to university. There was no university in my region in those days so I went to Edinburgh but my own experiences have made me really value access to education,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to being part of something that can drive growth and economic and social benefits to the South East region.”

Professor Campbell went on to deny the suggestion that SETU wasn’t a “proper university” saying that SETU had to meet very strict criteria to be designated a technical university in the first place. “The technical university sector has the capacity to really make a difference and have an impact both nationally and globally because it is very closely linked to the skills needs of a region. I don’t accept at all that it is a second rate university,” she said.

Professor Veronica Campbell (pictured left) who is the first president of South East Technological University (SETU) with outgoing WIT President Professor Willie Donnelly and Rita Dalton SETU Research Unit.  Photos: Patrick Browne.

Meanwhile the Minister for Mental Health & Older People, Mary Butler TD, welcomed the Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris TD, to Waterford last week for the official opening of the university. She described the new merger as a “seismic shift for education in the South East.”

“Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the reality that thousands of students left this region each year to attend university elsewhere. I believe that the establishment of SETU will be significant in reversing the brain drain trend we witnessed previously,” said the Minister of State.

“Our bright young students now have the option to develop their potential and skills in the South East. I firmly believe that the educational future for young generations to come has now been secured as Waterford is now officially a University City.”

Speaking on his visit to Waterford, Minister Harris reiterated his belief that the headquarters of SETU will be in Waterford. Minister Butler commented: “I am encouraged to see Minister Harris double down on his radio interview with WLR on his last visit to Waterford in February in which he stated that it would “bonkers, mad and bizarre” for the HQ to be based anywhere but Waterford.”

She added that the decision would ultimately be down to the governing authority. “However I am hopeful that a determination will be made sooner rather than later and Waterford should be the clear preference.”

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris pictured with the outgoing WIT President Professor Willie Donnelly and Professor Veronica Campbell who is the first president of South East Technological University (SETU).

Minister Butler concluded: “The establishment of SETU will bring with it more investment in Waterford and the South East. Further backing will be necessary for the expansion of the campus here to ensure that we build on this progress and provide more courses for more students.

I will also push for more funding for investing in research here in Waterford. There is huge potential and opportunity to develop the relationship between the new university and our business community.”