Inaction on Waterford university 'an insult'


THE FAILURE of Government to act on Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) submission seeking university designation has been termed a “gross insult to the region” by a local campaign group supporting the university agenda.

The Friends of the University of the South East (Fuse) said it was a disgrace that there was still no news three years after WIT’s submission – and said continuing job losses in the region made it more vital than ever that the Government delivers on a university.

Dr Mark Rowe, a family doctor in Waterford and part of Fuse, said the group was anxious that the university remained a priority issue at a time when it was needed more than ever.

“Because of the sharp economic downturn and the resulting job losses and uncertainty, people’s focus has understandably switched to short-term concerns but this shouldn’t be at the cost of preparing for the future.

“The stark reality is that while the southeast did not see the full benefits of the so-called Celtic Tiger era, we are now very much exposed to the downturn – particularly given the region’s overreliance on manufacturing, construction and agriculture which are all experiencing acute pressures at present.

“You get a sense of what we’re facing as a region by considering the latest data released by the CSO on February 6th. These showed that there were 76 per cent more people on the Live Register in the southeast in January of this year compared to January 2008 .

“That represents over 18,600 additional people out of work in just 12 months, and the indicators are that 2009 will see many further job losses in Carlow, Kilkenny, south Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.”

He said it was February 2006 when WIT made a well-argued submission seeking redesignation as University of the South East, which set out the benefits to the institute, the region and the country from such a realignment.

“Since then we had a report commissioned by the Government from Dr Jim Port which he completed over a year and a half ago in July 2007, effectively endorsing the arguments the institute made by noting it has an ‘academic maturity and an activity profile’ which overlaps with institutions in the Irish university sector and in other western countries.”

Dr Rowe said Fuse would now seek to meet the group recently appointed by Minister Batt O’Keeffe to review Irish higher education.