Waterford IT chair steps down amid stalled university bid

Former department official appointed to oversee planned merger with IT Carlow

The chairman of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) has stepped down following a meeting with Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan (pictured) on its stalled bid for university status. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times.

The chairman of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) has stepped down following a meeting with Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan (pictured) on its stalled bid for university status. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times.

 

The chairman of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) has stepped down following a meeting with Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan on its stalled bid for university status.

In a statement from her department, Ms O’Sullivan paid tribute to the contribution of Dr Donie Ormonde, who was stepping down “to allow for new blood to accompany the new process of consultation which will reinvigorate this process”.

Dr Ormonde’s departure comes as the Minister announced the appointment of former senior civil servant Michael Kelly to lead a process of consultation between WIT and IT Carlow on developing a technological university in the south east.

Last month, WIT pulled out of talks with IT Carlow on the planned merger, citing concerns over the length of time it would take for it to become a technological university.

However, Ms O’Sullivan and her officials have told WIT that forthcoming legislation will not allow for a standalone bid for technological university status.

To successfully apply for the desgnation, there must be a merger of at least two institutes of technology and various academic performance criteria must be met.

Dr Ormonde was part of a WIT delegation which was summoned to a meeting with Ms O’Sullivan in Dublin yesterday, along with management from IT Carlow.

In its statement today, the department said: “Dr Ormonde feels that he has brought the project as far as he can and believes that the time is now right for a new face to progress it to a successful conclusion.”

Mr Kelly, a former secretary general of the department of health who also chaired the Higher Education Authority for five years, is charged with consulting the governing bodies, staff and students of the two institutions.

He will also be asked to report by January “on the best structure to implement the project and the potential timescale”, the department said.

The Minister has also asked that Mr Kelly broaden the consultation to ensure that the voice of other social and economic partners in the south east feeds into the process.

Speaking following today’s Cabinet meeting where the Minister briefed colleagues on the initiative, Ms O’Sullivan said: “Technological universities will make a positive contribution to third-level education in Ireland. Already, two projects, one in Dublin and one in Munster, are well advanced.

“In addition to providing excellent education opportunities these projects have the capacity to add to the economy and social fabric of both regions. It is the Government’s intention that the South East should also benefit from this process and we are committed to facilitating this goal.

“I firmly believe in the merits of this project for the region and I want to see the process reinvigorated. I fully acknowledge the work that the leadership of both institutions have committed to the project but it’s also true to say that momentum has slipped in recent weeks.”

Ms O’Sullivan noted said Mr Ormonde had “left a lasting legacy in Waterford Institute of Technology”.