University in South East ‘would not hit other third-level institutions’

A GROUP of Irish university presidents is arguing that there is “no persuasive evidence” of a need for a university in the South East – but one local campaigner says Kilkenny is ideally poised to become an Oxford-type campus.

A GROUP of Irish university presidents is arguing that there is “no persuasive evidence” of a need for a university in the South East – but one local campaigner says Kilkenny is ideally poised to become an Oxford-type campus.

A discussion paper to be considered yesterday (Tuesday) and outlined in The Irish Times suggests that it would be “reckless” to set up a technical university in the South East because it could take away funding from the state’s other universities at a time when government funding is already decreasing.

One senior figure even argued that “the whole process is being driven by local politics instead of education priorities” because Ministers Phil Hogan and Brendan Howlin from Kilkenny and Wexford, respectively, are among the advocates of plans for a university in the South East.

This argument comes despite a continuing trend of the South East having the highest unemployment in the country and the second-lowest level of third-level completion.

However, one local Oxford-educated man argues that Kilkenny and the South East can benefit from a university in the region and add to rather than detract from the current university system.

In a letter on Page 18 of this week’s Kilkenny People, Dr Michael Conway outlines his vision for such a technical university. The pending closure of the St Francis Abbey Brewery, while terrible news for those employed there, means that Kilkenny must move forward and take the opportunity to add something that will create jobs and boost life in the city. And that “something” should be “central city campus for Arts and Media based faculties in Kilkenny,” he says.

Pointing to efforts dating as far back as the 17th century to set up a university in Kilkenny, he says now is an ideal time to fulfil that vision.

“Some argue that students from the South East are needed so to be ‘bums on seats’ in arts courses run at Dublin, Cork, Galway and the University of Limerick etc. Some fear the potential cost of any new third-level educational initiatives per se,” Dr Conway says. “But, done correctly and designed to contribute once more to making Ireland the ‘island of saints and scholars’, Kilkenny can be the most attractive place for foreign students wanting to study tailored aspects of the arts etc.”