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Government clarifies stance on proposed ‘technological university’ for Waterford

The government says it hasn’t yet decided whether to give a university to the south-east – but that it’s speeding up a review.

Ruairí Quinn says he has asked the HEA to expedite its study into whether a new category of 'technological universities' should be created.
Ruairí Quinn says he has asked the HEA to expedite its study into whether a new category of 'technological universities' should be created.
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT has this afternoon clarified its stance on the potential creation of a university in the south-east of Ireland, after earlier media reports stated the cabinet had decided to speed up the creation of such an institution.

It was reported in this morning’s newspapers that the government had moved to “accelerate” setting up a university in the south-east, with Waterford IT likely to be upgraded to full university status under the proposals.

The discussion at cabinet level came in the wake of 575 job losses at the Talk Talk call centre in Waterford – where campaigns have been ongoing for the local Institute of Technology to be given university status for many years.

This afternoon, however, the Department of Education clarified that it had not yet decided to create a university in the region – and that it was instead looking to speed up a review into whether new ‘Technological Universities’ could be created.

A statement from the Department said minister Ruairí Quinn believed the creation of a new ‘technological university’ status could “complement our existing universities in meeting the full range of needs of students and wider society”.

Quinn had asked the Higher Education Authority to speed up its consultation process on the draft criteria for establishing such a university – but only when those criteria had been decided upon could the government decide whether one could be set-up in the south east.

Any new university status would require an amendment or addition to the Universities Act 1997, which reaffirmed the existence of seven universities in the Republic – including three in Dublin and one each in Galway, Cork, Limerick and Maynooth.

Dublin IT, IADT Dún Laoghaire, IT Blanchardstown and IT Tallaght had expressed their desire to merge and form a technological university in January – days before the publication of a government report which ruled out the creation of new universities under the current definition.

The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, led by Dr Colin Hunt, said that while there was “no case for approval of any new universities” within Ireland, the evolution and amalgamation of smaller ITs into amalgamated institutes should be welcomed.

“Once a re-designation process is in place, it will be open to institutes of technology to come together to make applications for consideration, including those in the south-east,” the Department’s statement said. “All applications will be considered under an independent assessment process.”

More: ‘It’s not about your performance…’ The moment Talk Talk staff were told of closure >

Read: Talk Talk closure a ‘dark day for Waterford’ >

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Gavan Reilly

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