That’s the view which has been re-emphasised by Waterford TD David Cullinane (SF) in a discussion paper that’s been seen by The Munster Express ahead of its publication today (Tuesday).
Deputy Cullinane, who, before and after the general election, has maintained a consistent view when it comes to a academic collaboration between Waterford and Carlow, believes the process became “entangled in a snare of its own subjectivity”.
In the paper, he claims: “The absolute requirement of a merger has created difficulties and the energy, focus and resources of both institutes and has been to service a merger process rather than on developing a model of what a University of the Southeast will look like.”
But he feels that the coming together between both ITs must be pursued, reflecting the multi-campus model which works well, for example, at the University of Ulster. “This is a model that should be studied and examined and is crucial in avoiding duplication. Since the locations of WIT and ITC are proximate it should be possible to distribute programme provision strategically allowing each campus a suite of programmes particular to itself”.
The envisaged multi-campus model would, as David Cullinane suggests, feature Waterford as the TU’s hub, with a head of campus in both Waterford and Carlow forming part of its management structure.
Deputy Cullinane said that questions still remain over “what exactly a Technological University…and whether or not they are Universities on a par with existing Universities or a middle ground between remaining Institutes of Technology and existing Universities”.
The newly elected TD said that “applied orientation” is a common feature among the other Technological Universities he has assessed, bodies which are “usually more professionally focused on the economic need and aspiration” of the region in which they’re situated. “Any University in the Southeast needs to be an engine of economic growth, fostering creativity across all education platforms but also across industry and enterprise through strong research and innovation.”
Stressing that “any diminution of the University brand will damage all,” Deputy Cullinane writes that all universities need to be “truly independent, have baseline funding for research and development and have the autonomy and funding necessary to grow and develop and deliver the change intended”.
A capital investment plan for the merged Waterford/Carlow entity must deliver key infrastructural funding for the upgrading of WIT’s Engineering building, for example, planned improvements of which were “halted during the onset of the recession”.
Also calling for an expansion of laboratory facilities at WIT, David Cullinane welcomed the deepening of employment prospects in the Biopharma industry across the region and hopes that student numbers in Life Sciences can be expanded.
“However as these are lab-based subjects, WIT is inhibited from doing this because of the limited laboratory space. A better mapping between investment and regional demand would provide the type of investment required to extend out labs and increase the intake of students for this sector.”
The TD claimed: “There is zero alignment between the targets set out in the South East Action Plan for jobs and investment in educational infrastructure. This needs to be corrected by the new Minister for Education…
“It is vital that a Technological University does not settle for mediocrity. This will very much depend on the status they are afforded nationally and whether they are properly resourced, funded and supported in terms of infrastructure and autonomy…
“As this is the beginning of a new journey we must build a University worthy of the name, one that is on par with existing Universities, that has the funding, resources and autonomy to deliver real change and one that meets the needs and aspirations of the people of the region.”
In an interview with Michelle Clancy in our May 10th edition, WIT President Willie Donnelly stated that the Institute remained “100 per cent committed to the Technological University process”.
Deputy Cullinane is due to meet with Education Minister Richard Bruton, Seán Ó Foghlú, the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills, along with Professor Donnelly, for further talks on this pressing issue.