The financing of a Technological University of the South East (TUSE) remains a key consideration for both Waterford IT (WIT) and IT Carlow (ITC) ahead of submitting its joint application for an academic upgrade.
Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, Dr Richard Hayes, WIT’s Vice President for Strategy, said the borrowing framework provided to the university sector by the European Investment Bank had delivered new campus buildings elsewhere in the State.
“As part of the larger financial structure of the new organisation, having such a borrowing framework is definitely an important component part of that,” he said.
“But having said that, we find that Irish universities are heavily in debt now and the fact that something like Covid has come along and cut off an income stream from international students, reveals the fragility within the sector. Nevertheless, having some form of borrowing capacity would form some part of (the TUSE) in addition to having enhanced funding from the State.”
Dr Hayes continued: “Two TUs (TU Dublin and Munster TU) have now successfully gone through the application process and the Dublin bid received considerable support from the State in the form of the new Grangegorman campus along with other capital investment. And we’ve also seen announcements made in Cork in relation to capital investment for CIT so of course the financial support required to deliver on this application is very important.”
The Technological University Research Network (TURN) Report has “identified a stream of about €30 million a year in support of TUs and that’s welcome.” But, Dr Hayes added, “obviously to get to the stage of being a university of real size and significance, you’re looking at multiples of that – and you secure that through borrowings and the Exchequer. And that would go towards new disciplines, a Medical School for example and new areas that we don’t currently cover at WIT, and this where a university of scale is so significant. We’ve very proud of WIT, it’s a very high performing organisation and it is absolutely pushing the envelope in terms of what an Institute of Technology is in response to needs and requirements of the population of the South East.”
He continued: “But to move onto the next stage requires investment and moving into new areas such as physiotherapy, medicine – which I’ve already mentioned – because part of what we need to do is to keep as many young people here in Waterford and the South East when it comes to their further education – those who are going to UCD or UCC because they have options there that we’re not currently offering. That’s the space we need to move into.”