Technological university for south-east moves a step forward

WIT and IT Carlow submit application to merge and create new institution

Lar (6) from Bennekerry, Co Carlow, holding a copy of the application document for Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow to become a technological university.  Photographer: Shaun Dowling

Lar (6) from Bennekerry, Co Carlow, holding a copy of the application document for Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow to become a technological university. Photographer: Shaun Dowling

 

A technological university for the south east has moved a step closer after Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and IT Carlow formally submitted an application to merge and create a new institution.

The aim of the Technological University of South East Ireland consortium is that the new technological university – yet unnamed – will be established on January 1st next.

It follows years of often bitter infighting within both institutions over the future status of both colleges in the event of a merger.

Earlier this week the governing bodies of both institutes approved the application for technological university designation.

In a communication on Friday to staff and students, the presidents of IT Carlow and WIT, Dr Patricia Mulcahy and Prof Willie Donnelly, expressed their confidence in the success of the application.

The email said: “Our confidence is based on the hard work of our staff and students in the years since this project was first mooted, and especially the very intense effort put in by you in the past year or so.”

Staff, the presidents noted, while under unusual pressure due to the pandemic “rose to the occasion and made that extra effort in working groups and other activities to bring us to this point.”

The submission of the application to the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris starts a process which will include a review by a panel of international experts.

The board of the Higher Education Authority will consider the panel’s report, and report to the Minister, who after consideration of both reports will make a formal decision.

John Moore, chair of IT Carlow’s governing body said the application was a “major milestone” in their decade-long work to create an institution of “international standing” in the region.

Jim Moore, chair of WIT’s governing body acknowledged the part of staff, students and stakeholders: “The sterling work completed by our staff, students and many important stakeholders over many years to develop the TU is evident in the strong and ambitious application that has been submitted, which we hope is well placed to stand up to the rigours of panel review.”

There was a setback to the plan last week when academic staff at WIT rejected terms for the proposed merger with IT Carlow.

The WIT branch of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland voted to reject terms for the planned merger by a margin of 55 per cent on a turnout of 110. TUI staff at IT Carlow, by contrast, accepted the terms by 71 votes to eight.

These votes mark a reversal of ballots in 2019 when 97 per cent of WIT staff voted to accept the terms but were rejected by staff at IT Carlow.

Several union officers at WIT resigned this week after a backlash against last week’s ballot, WLR reported on Friday.

At an emergency meeting on Thursday night, members voted to re-ballot the deal, and this will take place online instead of via post.

Four of the branch’s officers have resigned in protest, claiming that the new ballot holds “no assurances” for staff.