Speaking to this newspaper on Friday last, Minister Howlin said an integrated plan marrying Waterford and Carlow ITs remained a sound and viable option.
Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin is keep to see WIT actively re-engaged in the Technological University process.
Speaking exclusively to The Munster Express in Ferrycarrig last Friday, Minister Howlin said it was essential that “this once in a generation opportunity did not slip by”.
He feels that the “coveted upgrade is essential if the south east is to improve its participation rates in third level education, which remains below the national average”.
Speaking bluntly, the Wexford TD said he was “disappointed to see WIT withdrawing from the (merger) process” with IT Carlow.
He believes that progress had been made and stressed that the Government “does not want a plethora of universities in this State of differing standard”.
We suggested to Minister Howlin that the long-mooted Waterford and Carlow merger was, arguably, not the right fit, given the vast difference in the research spend between both ITs – with WIT’s spend 20 times greater than Carlow’s.
Carlow, as we reported upon last week, remains significantly behind Waterford in this key research area. In reply, Minister Howlin said: “the sum of the two parts of Carlow and Waterford would be better together.”
We reminded Minister Howlin what economist Vikas Nath said at the recent Kilkenomics event: that Ireland is not getting a sufficient share of the $20 billion dollar international student market in the English speaking world.
Mr Nath said that Ireland could make an investment return by creating world-class, internationally recognised universities, thus attracting more overseas students and income via fees.
In reply, Minister Howlin said that if “a compelling case could be made for more investment, then I would be more than willing to consider it”.
He agreed more investment was needed and that would include staff, capital and resources; a restriction on finance had been in place due to the IMF and budget deficit,
Brendan Howlin warned: “Were WIT to pursue a solitary, go-alone path and create a separate plan, it would defeat itself.”
Minister Howlin was speaking at a special conference to discuss the new rounds of Structural and Cohesion Funds which will be distributed via the Southern and Eastern Assembly.