Dáil Éireann - Volume 628 - 29 November, 2006

Written Answers. - Institutes of Technology.

Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Education and Science if, under Part II Section 9 (1) of the Universities Act 1997, the recommendation of an tÚdarás has been sought in regard to the appointment of a body including international experts and national experts by the Government to advise an tÚdarás whether Waterford Institute of Technology should be established as the University of the South East; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40750/06]

  Ms Hanafin: In February 2006 the Governing Body of Waterford Institute of Technology wrote to my Department seeking a review of its status under Section 9 of the Universities Act 1997. Since this submission was made, the Government has passed significant new legislation in the form of the Institutes of Technology Act 2006. This will now bring our institutes of technology and universities together under a single strategic ambit. It also provides substantial new managerial and academic freedoms for our leading institutes of technology to develop their roles in line with regional needs and strategic ambition.

The new legislation will transform the Irish higher education landscape and needs to inform our consideration of the case being made for university status for Waterford. In order to achieve the best outcome, as a first step, I am commissioning a preliminary independent examination of the submission that the Governing Body has made.

[1535] This preliminary independent examination involves the appointment of an eminent international expert on higher education. The expert will comprehensively analyse the Waterford IT submission, taking account of the wider changing policy context. Once completed, the independent expert report will be used to guide the Government’s decision on whether a formal statutory review process should be initiated to consider the application, as required under the Universities Act.

On 24 November, 2006 I confirmed the appointment of Dr Jim Port to conduct this preliminary assessment of the submission made by the Governing Body of Waterford Institute of Technology. Dr Port is a UK based independent consultant on higher education issues. He has previously provided advice on higher education issues to a number of international agencies including the OECD, European Universities Authority, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council and our Higher Education Authority.