Wexford People

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Funding parity key to delivering university

Lack of clarity on funding levels for TUSEI sparks concerns divide and conquer tactic being used as scramble for campuses grows


Dr Ray Griffin of WIT. Picture: Patrick Browne

Dr Ray Griffin of WIT. Picture: Patrick Browne

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris. Photo: Gareth Chaney / Collins


Dr Ray Griffin of WIT. Picture: Patrick Browne


A decade after a technological university for the south east was first proposed there is still no detail as to how much money the government are willing to invest in the region.

A campus in Wexford is among the options being explored by the advisory group overseeing the plan.

The concern surrounding money being allocated to the university has been highlighted by Dr Ray Griffin, a lecturer in Strategy at Waterford Institute of Technology School of Business teaching on WIT's MBA and DBA programmes.

The Presidents of Institute of Technology Carlow (IT Carlow) and Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the TUSEI Regional Engagement Advisory Group in late January. The group has been established by the presidents to support the development of the Technological University of South East Ireland (TUSEI).

The presidents emphasised the importance of the technological university to the social and economic development of the south east and their shared ambition to deepen that engagement as the technological university develops.

They also welcomed the fact that the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris who addressed the group as a further demonstration of the commitment of the government to the development of TUSEI.

Dr Patricia Mulcahy, President IT Carlow said: 'TUSEI will be of, and for, the south east, but with a national and global perspective and reach. Our local stakeholders have been a key part of our story to-date and will remain so.'

Prof Willie Donnelly, President WIT said: 'The members of the advisory group will help us succeed in the final stages of achieving what has been a long-held ambition here in the south east - to establish a university of international standing in and for the region and they will support its development long into the future.'

Minister Harris re-affirmed government's commitment to the project last week.

He said: 'It is a significant priority for government, myself as minister and my department that the south east attains technological university status this year. This region is the only one without any university presence and that is a situation that is not good for the region and which must and will be rectified.'

'The benefits of a TU are significant - the ability to attract Foreign Direct Investment, to retain and create skills and employment in the region and to give students the highest quality education across all qualification levels, from apprenticeship to doctoral degrees, whilst residing in their own locality.'

He said: 'I want the TU that emerges in the South East to be a magnet for investment, a driver of regional access and development of all types and a catalyst for innovation and change.'

Tom Boland, a former Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), is the independent Programme Executive Director for the TUSEI consortium comprising the Carlow and Waterford Institutes of Technology. Minister Harris has met Mr Boland regularly about the project.

Minister Harris added: 'This region has suffered greatly in successive global economic and financial crises and is crying out for an anchor within the higher education and enterprise landscape that can deliver real change and prosperity; I firmly believe this is what the new TU will do.'

'I want also to emphasise that this is a TU for everyone in the region not just for Waterford or for Carlow but also for Wexford, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Laois and Kildare. I want the people of the south east not to have to cast covetous glances at Dublin or Cork or Galway but to be proud that they have a university every bit as good if not better than the excellent provision in those cities and others.'

Dr Griffin said: 'The region is going to get an answer in the next few months whether or not this is going to be a saviour or whether we are going to be damned for another generation. There are two core questions. Will it be the same kind of funding other regions get. The mid-west are getting €300m a year to turn their higher education institutes and we are getting €125m. Until we get the same money; however it's delivered, our young people will be left behind for years.'

He said there is an undeniably strong educational argument for this kind of investment in the region.

'Half of Wexford's young people are leaving the region for higher education. By October, if they've done the Leaving Cert, they are gone and a lot of them never come back. Unless you are living in north Wexford and you can commute to UCD, families are having to spend €14,000 a year per child, so the average person in Wexford has to have a gross income of at least €100,000 to afford to send their children to college and if you are in Dublin you don't have to pay that; the same if you are living in Limerick or Galway.'

Dr Griffin said the configuration of the university remains a mystery. 'They have stirred the pot by talking about Wexford and Kilkenny. They are dividing the region so we won't look at the overall resourcing problem and we will go into a corner and slug it out for the crumbs from the table. The technological university was designed in 2011 to solve the problem of the south east and it's remarkable that the Dublin and Cork universities that are existing universities were delivered first and funded first. Youth unemployment hit 60 per cent in 2012 in Wexford. Now they're including Wicklow, Laois and Kildare in the discussion.'

'This is a very complex technological university and a conversation about it has been going on for a decade. To lob those counties in is remarkable. There are two cabinet ministers in Wicklow. Kildare has Maynooth university in their county Bray is 15 minutes from the front door of UCD. Laois is an hour from five universities in Dublin and our technological university that we understood was to deal with the social and economic problems of our region now has been mandated to deal with problems in the greater Dublin region! To do this to people who are negotiating in good faith with a lot of prickly counties who are included is remarkable.'

'I wonder whether the trolling over the headquarters was an attempt to derail it, [the logic being] they are always arguing, because Dublin has not gotten its head around the fact this is where resource equality is needed.'