Waterford’s Labour Party Spokesperson on Defence and the Irish language, Brian O’Shea, is to demand a decision from the government before the end of this month on the application to upgrade Waterford Institute of Technology to a University of the South East, as the latest figures reveal what he described as ‘blatant funding discrimination in third-level education’.

Deputy O’Shea has been provided with figures which show that last year the universities in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Maynooth and Limerick received a total of almost €761 million in recurrent funding while Waterford and the South East got nothing.

“Waterford Institute of Technology received less than €49 million in recurrent funding last year out of a total of almost €525 million for the entire institute of technology sector,” said Deputy O’Shea. “All regional cities with the exception of Waterford also benefited from having a local institute of technology so that the total third-level grant allocation in those cities is in an entirely different league to Waterford.

“For example, in the west, NUI Galway and the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology combined grants come to almost €147 million, which is approximately €98 million more than Waterford receives. On a purely financial basis, this puts us at a serious disadvantage before we begin to account for all the spin-off benefits which a university provides.

“We look forward to the day when Waterford and the South East will at least be on a par with Galway in terms of spending on third-level education.

“Comparison with Limerick is also instructive. University of Limerick secured grants of close on €97 million in 2007 while Limerick Institute of Technology got €30 million, a total of €127 million.

“Again, this means that the local economy in Limerick benefited directly from State funding of third level education by almost €79 million more than did Waterford last year. This represents a very sizeable transfer of funds into the Limerick economy and in financial terms alone, an annual injection of this magnitude would make a big difference to struggling small businesses in Waterford.

“While Waterford Institute of Technology is acknowledged as the sole and premier provider of third-level education in Waterford city, it is nowhere near the top of the institute of technology league in terms of recurrent funding. Examples of this are Dublin, with its three universities, not counting Maynooth, where Dublin Institute of Technology received almost €134 million and Cork, where the local Institute of Technology gets over €62 million.

“It is not a case of Waterford and the South East begrudging other cities their third level institutions but it is a call to give us the opportunity to prove that with our fair share of State funding for education and other vital infrastructure, we can transform this city, county and region,” concluded Deputy O’Shea.