The south east of the country is increasingly likely to have its long-awaited university next January.
An application for the Technological University of the South East (TUSE) will be lodged on April 28, many years after it was first mooted.
The proposed university, based on a merger of Waterford Institute of Technology IT and IT Carlow, will have campuses in Waterford, Carlow and Wexford.
The project has been hit by a series of delays, not least tensions between the two institutes, but it advanced considerably in recent months amid hopes that it could become a reality by January 2022.
There was confirmation today, at a meeting of Oireachtas members from the south east, that April 28 is the date for the submission of the formal applications, making a January start-up feasible.
The application will set off a series of steps, including a review by a panel of international experts, whose report goes to Higher Education Minister Simon Harries for final approval.
The project involves a bigger footprint for Waterford IT as well as a purpose- built campus on a new site in Wexford.
Today’s Oireachtas meeting was attended by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, the chairs and presidents of Waterford and Carlow IT, and former Higher Education Authority (HEA) chief executive Tom Boland, who was appointed to accelerate the project.
Mr Harris told the meeting there was no alternative to the current plan for the TUSE.
Later in the Dáil, he said that it was now possible to “open the doors of a university for the south east, on January 1 next”.
He sought to allay concerns about changes to terms and conditions for any existing staff member and said any suggestion to the contrary was “misinformation, disinformation and untrue”.
He also addressed issues raised about autonomy regarding the establishment of courses and said such decisions would be made in line with the national planning framework and neither he nor anybody else would be deciding “what course goes where”.
Wexford Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said it was a “hugely important project for the region and will result in potentially the fifth largest university in the State”.
While it was once assumed that the south east would have the country’s first technological university, others have passed it out.
TU Dublin was established last year and Munster Technological University (MTU) involving a merger of Cork IT and IT Tralee, became the second TU in January 2021.
There are also TUs in the pipeline for the midwest and midlands under the Shannon Consortium, involving Limerick IT and Athlone IT, and for Connacht-Ulster, linking Galway-Mayo IT, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT.