Institute to explore ‘alternative options’
WIT2The Governing Body of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) has reiterated its support for the suspension of all activities relating to a merger with IT Carlow, but pledged to work with the Government and Higher Education Authority (HEA) in ‘exploring alternative options’.
The decision came days after WIT’s Board and staff said they would withdraw from the new Government-led mediation process to get the merger bid back on track..
The Governing Body met last Monday to discuss a draft letter from the board to Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan rejecting the new Cabinet-agreed process, which included the appointment of Michael Kelly as mediator.
The meeting was addressed by members of the Executive Board and, following some heated exchanges, it’s understood that the Governing Body refused to endorse this letter.
But late last week, the Governing Body released a statement saying it “shares and supports” the Board’s position: that WIT should determine its own future in an autonomous way.
“WIT has been entirely focused – over the last two years and in a long campaign prior to that – on delivering a university into the southeast region with the economic and social benefits this will bring”, the statement read. “The Institute has long performed at a university level according to accepted international metrics. The achievement of the criteria for university designation set out by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) remains the Institute’s focus and underpins all decisions in this process.”
“The Institute stands over the governing body decision last month to suspend merger activities with (IT Carlow) Carlow and to engage with the Department of Education & Skills and the HEA about its belief that such a merger will not yield the technological university that the southeast requires. This had been the primary rationale for the proposed merger.”
Noting the appointment by the Minister of Michael Kelly, the Governing Body said the Institute would not enter any proposed process which forces a merger that is ‘incapable of delivering on the criteria for becoming a technological university’.
Meanwhile Dr Patricia Mulcahy, President of IT Carlow, has said that Institute remains committed to delivering a multi campus technological university for the south east. In a sharply worded statement, Dr Mulcahy said higher education institutions must “rise above narrow individual and institutional ambition so that we can focus on the needs of the community we serve”.
Dr Mulcahy also said IT Carlow currently meets or exceeds 90% of the criteria for technological university designation.
“Individual institutes have different and often complementary strengths. Merging the strengths of two institutions is an important element of the technological university process. For instance IT Carlow can bring its expertise in areas such as IT infrastructure, governance and financial management to the table and this will assist Waterford Institute of Technology in addressing any current issues in these areas.”
Meanwhile, City and County Mayor James Tobin has claimed that the office of Mayor was “snubbed” by Minister O’Sullivan during her most recent visit to the city.
“I was very upset by it,” said Mayor Tobin. “It’s the privilege, of course, of the schools that she was opening – they could have invited us – they invited the Minister, and since I became Mayor, any Minister that came (to Waterford city and county), I was invited by the (relevant) Minister’s office, but I got no contact whatsoever from the Minister’s office, and I was quite annoyed as I felt it could have been a great opportunity for me, other Councillors and maybe the Executive to discuss the university situation.”
Mayor Tobin added: “In our absence, she did say she was all for a university, but she didn’t give us the opportunity of meeting her I think which would have solved a lot of problems for everybody.
“I was disappointed not for myself, but I was disappointed that the office of Mayor of Waterford city and county was snubbed at what is a very important time in the lifetime of education in Waterford.”