WIT will partner with Carlow IT to form TUSE
Councillors have been urged not to have a “deflated view” of what will happen with TUSE in Kilkenny - following a declaration by one councillor that a lack of plans are “disappointing,” after a meeting between Kilkenny County Council and the presidents of both Waterford and Carlow Institutes of Technology.
Despite probing and demands for answers, there were no concrete or satisfying answers forthcoming to councillors who wanted to know if a faculty or department of the new Technological University of the South East will be based in Kilkenny in the future - but they were clearly told that a university faculty will not be based in the city.
While one councillor declared himself “disappointed,” President of WIT, Willie Donnelly, urged councillors not to “get despaired” as what they are trying to do is focus on making a difference and not make ‘glib comments.’
Councillors also wanted to know if Kilkenny was being considered for the headquarters of the new university.
Professor Willie Donnelly of WIT and Dr Patricia Mulcahy of IT Carlow made a presentation to councillors setting out the plans for the formation of the Technical University of the South East, which will be an amalgamation of both Institutes of Technology.
They stressed the existing strong links with Kilkenny, including the research centre based on the St Kieran’s College campus, lifelong learning programmes in local companies including Glanbia, VHI and State Street and an application which has been made for a European Digital Innovation Hub which will be located in the city if successful.
Following the presentation on the plan for the university’s development path in the coming months, councillors asked for more specific information.
Cllr Peter Cleere wanted to know if the IT Presidents had a view about what would be an appropriate school or campus for Kilkenny, and what the size or scale of that would be.
“I certainly wouldn’t be happy if it is a Mickey Mouse token gesture,” he said.
Cllr Cleere said Kilkenny wants to be part of the new, multi-campus university and looks forward to playing a part.
He asked if a decision had been made where the TUSE headquarters will be located and if Kilkenny will be considered.
Cllr David Fitzgerald said that he is delighted that TUSE is finally in sight, “but disappointed at where Kilkenny is at in relation to this.
“It’s clear we are going to be no more than an off-shoot, a poor relation, in relation to the rest of the university. I had hoped we were going to see students on the street in Kilkenny.
“I’m not happy. This is a disappointing day for Kilkenny.”
Cllr Mary Hilda Cavanagh, who is on the Board of WIT, said she wished the two Presidents had made their presentation to the council “months ago,” however she said she was grateful that the presentation highlighted how embedded both colleges already are in Kilkenny.
“An inclusive university in the South East has to include Kilkenny,” Cllr Eamon Aylward said. “If you take one message from this meeting it’s that Kilkenny needs to be part of this process. A campus in Kilkenny is a must. The ‘brain drain’ from the South East is something we have been dealing with for too long.”
Cllr Deirdre Cullen stressed that a substantial campus presence in Kilkenny is vital to encourage students to go to third level. “If you can’t see it you can’t be it.”
Cllr Ger Frisby observed there was a lot of work being done and said he had no doubt a “significant campus will be delivered for Kilkenny.”
On the subject of where, or even if TUSE will have one head office, Dr Mulcahy said that was a “very emotive question.” However, she said the concept of a traditional headquarters will not be the same with a multi-campus institution. In practical, pragmatic terms it will not be of significance. She spoke about the leading roles in the university being available on all campuses and remotely.
Professor Donnelly said previous stories about where a headquarters would be located “didn’t help us one bit,” and referred to the stories as “spurious.”
“Whatever we put into Kilkenny it will not be a faculty,” Professor Donnelly said. “The question really is ‘what is sustainable in Kilkenny?’ We could put anything, anywhere in the South East but students vote with their feet.”
Prof. Donnelly said: “I heard people expressing disappointment, that’s the wrong approach. We have shown commitment to Kilkenny.” He said initiatives including ArkLabs in 2012 and PACE in 2019 show a solid foundation for growth and investment. “When I say we need to find a unique area for Kilkenny that is out of respect for Kilkenny. I hope people don’t get despaired.”
He said that rather than glib comments they needed to work together to focus on things that make a difference.
Dr Mulcahy said the lead will be taken from Kilkenny County Council’s own report on deciding courses to be offered in the city in the future, areas including agriculture, art and design, and history and culture.
She explained that already there are faculties that exist across campuses and for Kilkenny they would be talking about programmes rather than a campus.
An application to establish TUSE was submitted to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, innovation and Science, Simon Harris, on April 30 last. It is hoped he will make a decision in August and the new university can be officially created on January 1, 2022. On that date the two ITs will cease to exist.
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