Monday, 28 September 2015

Another year when nothing happened: A WIT perspective on the university campaign.

Ten years ago, in 2005 WIT applied to become a full university. Since then it appears that the Department of Education and the HEA have actively undertaken a campaign to weaken WIT.

Specifically, three WIT Presidents and two Chairmen have been dispatched from office before their terms were served, some appeared to have been directly dispatched by the Minister.  To lose one leader may be regarded as a misfortune; for the Minster to lose five, in four years looks like an active campaign of harassment. The financial arrangements in the institution were subject to prolonged scrutiny, aimed squarely at ensuring that WIT does not behave like a university. A series of investigations were launched, all of which appear to have come to nothing, but have given the false impression of mal-administration at WIT. 

Almost a year ago, when WIT withdrew from the nonsensical ITCarlow merger the Minister appointed Mr Kelly to knock heads together. Mr Kelly is a department insider, a former head of the HEA, he sat on the Hunt Committee that came up with the TU formula to avoid giving WIT university status, powers and funding; and now as a private consultant heads the merger of the Dublin IoTs. Mr Kelly’s report does not deal with the substantive issue- that the Government has given WIT no good reason to merge. Mr Kelly’s report avoids recognising that the in the current plan all IoTs will be rebranded as TUs- a road we have been down before in the RTC to IoT non-event. At a cost of €33,000 Mr Kelly offers the ridiculous advice that all that is needed is more trust and communication between WIT and IT Carlow. The Dublin merger, not without its troubles, has the prize of Grangegorman (DIT’s new ½ a billion euro campus) at the end of it.

Both government parties continue to ignore the promises they made individually in their 2011 manifestos to deliver a fully funded, proper university to the South East of Ireland. In their programme for government they watered this down to “exploring a multi-campus Technical University in the south-east”. In power they reduced the meaning of “technological university” to nothing more than a rebranding of the whole Institute of Technology sector. TUs will not have additional powers, nor will they receive additional funding. Meanwhile the people of the South East continue to put up with double the national level of unemployment, over double the national level of emigration and significantly lower average incomes. Another year passes without anything happening.

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