Ireland’s newest technological university formally established

South east gets its first university following merger of Waterford IT and IT Carlow

The country's newest technological university has been formally established following the merger of Waterford Institute of Technology and IT Carlow.

The South East Technological University (SETU) is the first university in the region and follows a decade-long campaign which has been marked by division among some staff.

The new university has a total student population of 18,500 students at four campuses. Students of the predecessor institutes who graduate this academic year of 2021/2022 will do so with university qualifications.

SETU is the fifth technological university to be established in recent years and forms part of a wider Government’s policy of creating higher education institutions of larger scale and greater capacity.

Some critics, however, argue the creation of technological universities is an elaborate re-branding exercise and puts the sector at risk of drifting away from its strengths of skills-based education.

Strengths

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the establishment of new institution was a "red letter day" for the south east.

“Now for the first time a university stands in the south east. This new university can build on the enormous strengths of both institutes and really put a mark on the quality of higher education, employment, enterprise and skills creation, expanded research, socio-economic and regional development in the vibrant south east.”

He said the new university will attract greater investment, new infrastructure and additional funding for research.

Professor Veronica Campbell of Trinity College Dublin has been appointed as the first president of the new technological university.

“We are ambitious for our new university and for our region,” she said. “We want to become a leading European technological university, transforming lives, and driving growth through excellence in learning, research, collaboration and innovation.”

The establishment of the university follows a joint application by Waterford and Carlow institutes of technology last year which was assessed by an international advisory panel of experts.

It will provide higher educational programmes ranging from apprenticeships to doctoral degrees.

Catalysts

The Government argues that technological universities will act as catalysts for innovation and regional development and bring a range of benefits to their regions including increased foreign direct investment, capital investment, research funding and international recognition.

It says they will also enable students, staff, enterprise, business and the wider community to avail of increased opportunities in their own areas which, in turn, stand to reap the rewards of further socio-economic progress.

The development of technological universities has its roots in recommendations contained in the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, published in 2011.

Government announced in Budget 2020 the provision of €90 million over three years under a TU transformation fund to support institutes of technology to jointly achieve university designation.