The Government should acquire the Waterford Crystal site at Kilbarry to give WIT the space it needs to grow: that’s the view of outspoken WIT academic, Dr Ray Griffin.
As it currently stands, Dr Griffin suggested that acquiring the 36-acre Crystal site “would allow WIT to grow to the scale of UL in one location. From day one it would improve parking and would give the campus a further 50 years of capacity. The current site is a reminder to Waterford of a sad chapter in its history and a reminder of how forgotten we are by Government given that one of the most prestigious sites in the city, highly visible to passing traffic, has been effectively derelict for so long.”
Dr Griffin continued: “My work in reviewing the economy as a co-author of the South East Economic Monitor reveals that the brain-drain that comes from the long-term underinvestment in higher education is the root cause of our economies woes. Instead of buying the old crystal site, WIT is dramatically reducing its footprint in the city. The 2008 and 2011 promise by Fine Gael to provide a university like UL, NUIG and UCC in Waterford was quickly forgotten once they were in power, and the region is paying a huge price for the lack of political support over the past decade.”
He went on to say: “Instead the Government have a divide and conquer strategy towards the South East, with Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor recently lending support to a small campus in Kilkenny.
The time for a “real gesture” from the Government is long overdue, Ray Griffin added. “It needs to be big, confident and assertive, something with the potential to allow the region to catch up with the rest of the country. Somewhere between being visited with the Herity Report on 24/7 cardiac care, being left waiting for a runway extension, seeing the M24 proposal lose out to the Limerick to Cork M20, being left on the sidelines of the Ireland 2040 spendfest and watching another crop of Leaving Cert students fly the nest, the South East needs action from Dublin. A medical school (which we reported on last week) would certainly not be a bad place to start. – but it should only be that – a start.”Regarding built infrastructure at WIT, Dr Griffin, who lectures in Strategic Management at the School of Business told this newspaper: “There was considerable building on the Cork Road campus between 1999 and 2005 and nothing since. It is no surprise that our undergraduate numbers have not grown since then – we have nowhere to put them. Instead over the past decade, the Government has announced and re-announced multiple buildings in WIT, with none of them ever being built.”
While acknowledging the development of facilities at the impressive West Campus at Carriganore in the interim, Dr Griffin told The Munster Express: “those buildings were internally funded by WIT, largely against the Government’s will.”
He added: “For me, the delivery of new teaching buildings essential to growing higher education capacity in the South East. I realise that we had the Government announcing, well, re-announcing, to be frank, the Engineering, Computing and General Teaching building for the Cork Road campus a fortnight ago, but to me, all this suggests is a lack of incisive thinking within Government about not only the future of WIT, but the ongoing ‘brain drain’ in the South East in addition to our region’s economic underperformance. By the way, the site for that building has been fenced-in and shovel ready since 2008, and we still won’t see it up and running until 2022 at the earliest. So when it comes to our main campus, you are talking about a 15-year wait for a new teaching building. And that’s far too long a wait.””Imagine what we could do if we had one iota of political support?” he queried.