GMIT is ‘functioning as normal’ although president on sick leave

Perceived differences over direction college taking said to be at heart of ‘dispute’

The Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) says it is “functioning as normal” although its president, Dr Fergal Barry, is on extended leave.

The third-level college, which is due to become a technology university with its Sligo and Letterkenny partners, has declined to comment on claims that it has received correspondence from legal representatives for Dr Barry.

It is understood that similar correspondence may have been sent to the Department of Education and Skills, but it was unable to comment on Tuesday. Dr Barry could also not be contacted for comment. He did not attend GMIT when Minister for Business Heather Humphreys dug a sod for an extension to the college’s innovation hub last week.

In a statement, the college said the president was “on leave and as normal the registrar, Dr Michael Hannon, is deputising for the president for the duration of his absence”.

Sources close to staff at the college said there was particular concern about perceived differences within college management over the direction it was taking

“It is GMIT policy not to comment on staff matters,”it said.

“The institute’s governing body and executive is functioning as normal and is working in close collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills and the Higher Education Authority, ” it said in its statement.

It said that it rejected claims that three presidents had “unexpectedly departed” in the past seven years, and said that previous incumbents, Michael Carmody and Marion Coy, had both retired “after having provided the institute with more than the minimum notice of their intention to retire”.

College management

Sources close to staff at the college said there was particular concern about perceived differences within college management over the direction it was taking, at a time when it was about to get a €25-million new science, technology, maths and engineering (Stem) building, and when funding for an extended innovation hub had been approved.

GMIT has more than one campus – with a second hub in Castlebar, Co Mayo, and the furniture college in Letterfrack, Connemara – and the costs incurred by colleges in this situation had also been recognised by the Department of Education and Skills, the sources said.

Dr Barry was appointed president of GMIT on October 1st, 2015, and was previously vice-president for research, enterprise and development at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT).

His teams were said to have secured “significant and competitive funds, awards, grants and benefaction for student support, for staff engagement in applied research, for employment support and campus development” at LIT.

Dr Barry was also a founder of the Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre, and established a research partnership with LIT and its counterpart in Tralee, Co Kerry.