The evolution of Irish higher education where there is a very rapidly changing Irish education landscape and institutes of technology across the country are merging to form a new type of Irish university – the Technological University – and the South-East (TUSE) project is progressing very well and working towards designation by January 1st 2022 – just eight months away.
The opening remarks by Dr Patricia Mulcahy, President of Carlow IT, when she addressed the April meeting of Wexford County Council held with Microsoft Teams consistent with Covid-19 guidelines and protocol last Monday.
“Wexford will be an important part of the University of the South-East. There is absolutely no doubt about that,” Dr Mulcahy stressed, who added that Carlow IT are over 25 years in Wexford and have overcome many challenges “but our commitment to Wexford has remained steadfast throughout these years.”
“We have been constrained by the physical facilities that are available in Wexford and we have been engaging with Wexford County Council for a number of years to find the solution. This year there are 991 students enrolled spanning the disciplines of agriculture, business, education, social care, tourism, digital marketing and analytics, art and science, creative computing and digital innovation.” outlined Dr Mulcahy.
Dr Mulcahy said Carlow IT had been looking at several sites over the years and some had reached contract stage. She is pleased that with the help of Wexford County Council a site has been identified that is at an advanced stage of the approval process. It is understood that the proposal is currently with the relevant departments and the outcome is eagerly awaited.
Once the approval to purchase is forthcoming the institute will engage with the owner of the site and the matter is currently “at a sensitive stage pending the approval of agreements.” Capital investment requirements will also be a major factor going forward.
Cllr George Lawlor, who admitted his criticism of the progress, or lack of, made around this development over many years – 6 years since the discussion around the development of a site – asked when can ground be broken on the issue and what type of financial commitment would Carlow IT envisage investing in Wexford?
Cllr Leonard Kelly agreed with Cllr Lawlor’s questions and sentiments and wondered “when we might have a building in place?” He acknowledged support for Carlow IT’s commitment and the work that is already happening.
Cllr Tom Forde was happy that progress was being made and commended Carlow IT’s commitment and like Cllrs Lawlor and Kelly wanted to know when a building might appear?
In reply, Dr Mulcahy said in terms of investment “that is a huge question for every higher education project” and referred to various reports and meetings and regards the “capital investment and the partner consideration which is the borrowing framework” she added that “investment has to be secured before the Wexford Campus itself.”
Regards the timeline, should the investment be forthcoming under a devolved model or a PPP model, assuming that the acquisition site is finalised in 2021, there would be a design team procurement planning to detailed design at tender stage which could take about 18 months to do – then the construction phase – could takes ages! – but all depends on the investment funding.
Dr Mulcahy said the TUSE will be run by “a new organisation” and will command international standing. No contracts are yet signed! Bringing students into the county is critical! Some distance to go!
Cllrs Michael Sheehan Jackser Owens, John Hegarty, Davy Hynes, Jim Codd, Fionntán Ó Suilleabháin, John Fleming and Cathal Byrne also contributed to the debate which generally thanked Dr Mulcahy for her presentation.