Waterford IT agrees to reopen talks on IT Carlow merger

WIT president cites ‘need to address the issues of mutual trust and respect’

Waterford Institute Of Technology president Prof Willie Donnelly said the institute is fully committed to providing leadership in the delivery of the new university. Photograph: Patrick Browne/WIT

Waterford Institute Of Technology president Prof Willie Donnelly said the institute is fully committed to providing leadership in the delivery of the new university. Photograph: Patrick Browne/WIT

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Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) has agreed to reopen talks with IT Carlow on a possible merger to get the bid for a technological university in the south east back on track.

However, WIT - which triggered a crisis in the application when it pulled out of discussions last October - signalled that more work had to be done before the two institutions start co-operating.

The decision to enter “a preliminary engagement process” was taken at a meeting of WIT’s governing body last Tuesday.

This satisfies a recommendation of the report by Michael Kelly, former chairman of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), who was dispatched to the south east as a “peace envoy” by Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan.

In his report last month, he told Waterford IT and IT Carlow that “given the intensity of stakeholder expectation within the region, there really is no alternative” to a merger between the two institutions.

Announcing the new round of talks, which will be facilitated by an external business consultant, WIT president Prof Willie Donnelly said: “This initial engagement is a necessary forerunner to any substantive engagement on the Technological University as there is a need to address the issues of mutual trust and respect.

“There is a very clear message from our regional stakeholders on the need for a university in the south east and the institute’s focus remains on the creation of a university of international standing with an earned reputation for leadership in teaching, research and innovation.

“We are fully committed to providing leadership in the delivery of this university for the economic, social and cultural development of the region.”

Under the forthcoming Technological Universities (TU) Bill, there must be a merger of at least two institutes of technology to get TU designation.

When it pulled out of talks last year, WIT cited a number of complaints, including the length of time the process would take. The move resulted in a leadership reshuffle at the institute, with the appointment of a new chairman and a new president.

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