WIT and IT Carlow to decide on technological university application

Move follows rejection from Waterford staff of terms for proposed merger

 Waterford IT’s governing body is due to meet on Tuesday, while IT Carlow’s is scheduled for Thursday. Photograph: iStock

Waterford IT’s governing body is due to meet on Tuesday, while IT Carlow’s is scheduled for Thursday. Photograph: iStock

 

Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow are due to meet this week to decide whether they will submit an application to form a technological university for the southeast.

It follows a setback to the plan last Friday when academic staff at WIT rejected terms for its proposed merger with IT Carlow.

Well-placed sources say they expect the governing bodies of both institutes to press ahead with the formal application, despite the Teachers’ Union of Ireland vote.

WIT’s governing body is due to meet on Tuesday, while IT Carlow’s is scheduled for Thursday.

If they do press ahead, the creation of the Technological University of the South East would be on course to be founded on January 1st next.

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.

The run-up to the vote in Waterford was dominated by concerns over the future status of the WIT campus and whether it would lose out to Carlow or a new campus being planned for Wexford.

On Sunday, Independent TD for Waterford Matt Shanahan warned against any attempt to drive ahead with a formal application.

“It’s not in anyone’s interest to sign off on an application,” he said. “There are real concerns around funding. There is a need for the Minister for Higher Education to engage and deal with staff concerns.”

Minister of State and Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler said at the weekend that the vote was “disappointing” and could “jeopardise not only Waterford being a university city, but also a university of international scale in the southeast”.

One senior source said a large majority of the WIT governing body is in favour of pressing ahead with an application and suggested a mechanism may be found to address the concerns of TUI members in Waterford.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris was unavailable for comment on the weekend.

However, he has previously said it is the Government’s intention to “expand the footprint” of higher education in Waterford.

He also warned that a “divisive campaign” should not be allowed to develop, which would be unfair to both institutes and to the staff who were working to create “something of real benefit to the entirety of the region”.

Mr Harris has said there is no truth to rumours that the headquarters for the new university will be based in Kilkenny.

This question, he said, will be settled by the new governing body for the merged university, and that he will be appointing “sensible” people to this group.

Mr Harris said the concept of a technological university was founded on a merging of equals and parity of esteem, and he hoped everyone would seek to assist and advance the proposals positively.