Sir, – Matthew Glover suggests in his letter of January 10th that the push for university status in some areas is "driven by managers and staff seeking improved prestige and pay". He also references the reaction in Cork to the designation of Waterford Regional Technical College as an institute of technology in 1995.
I was privileged to be a member from 1985 to 2005 of the University Action Group which sought university status for Waterford city and welcomed the 1995 rebrand as a move in the right direction. Our group was broadly based with huge popular support.
It was the third such group since 1939 to pursue that objective after the running down and eventual closure of the De La Salle teacher training college in Waterford from 1939 to 1949. That closure was a disaster for Waterford. Moves were made at the time to have De La Salle designated as a constituent of the NUI but these were thwarted by political and academic vested interests.
Mr Glover also asks, “how many universities does a small island need?” This question might more appropriately be directed to the universities in the Dublin area.
The pursuit of university status in Waterford has a long, legitimate and honourable tradition in seeking to give the city a status it needs and deserves. I am not sure that that ambition will be met by the current creation of “technological universities” which seems to have the objective of ensuring that every county in the country has its own “university” campus, despite the difficulties that such small facilities have experienced.
This decentralised model, driven more by political considerations than educational, may eventually succeed but the governance of these new “technological universities”, as with the institute of technology sector, seems certain to be very much under the thumb of the Higher Education Authority and by extension the Department of Education.
Should that be the case, it would be at odds with the traditional idea of just exactly what a university is and the autonomy, à la TCD, such institutions need to have. – Yours, etc,