No university status for WIT, says Quinn


RUAIRÍ QUINN insisted there would be no “rebranded university” as long as he was Minister for Education. “I wish to be honest with members,” he said.

The Minister was replying to Waterford Independent TD John Halligan, who asked if a promise in the programme for government to explore a multi-campus technical university in the southeast meant full university status would be delivered.

Mr Quinn said he fully understood and sympathised with the sentiments expressed in Wexford, Carlow and Waterford on the need for a top-class university.

“However, that has to be balanced with where we are at the present time,” he added.

There were seven universities and the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland, which were among the top 500 universities in the world. Two of them were in the top 100, he added.

Mr Quinn said Ireland should learn from what happened in Britain when the rebranding of polytechnics, similar to our institutes of technology, devalued the concept of a university.

“That is not the way to go,” he added. “It would damage the university sector in its entirety to simply change the name of an institute.” Mr Quinn said the Hunt report and the programme for government had set out a path for a technological university.

He was aware, he added, of the standards that had been achieved in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), which should play to its own strengths. A path was open to WIT to pursue a technological university structure.

Mr Halligan said that in opposition Fine Gael and Labour had unequivocally stated there was an imbalance in the southeast region because of the lack of a university.

He added that the population of the southeast was 450,000. “Within a 45-minute radius of WIT the population is 267,000, whereas within the same radius of Galway it is 167,000,” said Mr Halligan.

“The critical mass exists in the southeast for a university. The latest statistic for entry to third level in Waterford and the southeast was 11.2 per cent, as opposed to 15.2 per cent nationally and 22 per cent in Dublin. Surely that highlights the case for full university status.

“It has been proven that many people who leave their home areas to attend university do not return.” He asked why the southeast should be different from the midwest or the west, which had full universities.