WIT / Carlow to be a Technological University

Having worked in DCU since the NIHE* days, I’m very conscious of being too negative on the proposal to merge DIT and ITCarlow  into a Technological University. According to the WIT and ITCarlow websites there’s an awful lot of stuff taught that isn’t science or engineering .  Is the science and engineering done there good enough? I don’t know. It is genuinely hard to see how the Technological University thing can be done meaningfully. I suspect some convoluted explanation for the terminology will be forthcoming.

If the politicians are going to do this,  shouldn’t they  just go the full hog and make it a University. The costs will be huge though and would the University be any good? Or worse still, will it be absolutely crap?  Will kids who get high points want to go there instead of  Dublin to do Law or Medicine or, most importantly, Science  and Engineering. I doubt it, except for purely financial reasons of course.

The battle with the staff will be fascinating. Will they just give up their summer holidays. Many IT staff are happy to have the high teaching loads for this very benefit. At the very least they’ll want compensation. Surely that can’t happen given the financial crisis? What about the ‘bar’ on the lecturer scale. I suspect that no staff would have a pay reduction so suddenly there would be a bunch of people in the University system who are being paid far  higher salaries than equivalent people in the existing colleges. Doesn’t seem fair but this country rarely is. Furthermore, despite the scepticism of many, research is a key component of a University.  The Croke Park agreement stipulates explicitly that staff are expected to engage in research. What sort of research will the large numbers of research-inactive staff do? All interesting problems that will, of course, be fudged if this happens.

One thing that interests me is that there is a virtual certainty that changing the status of WIT and ITCarlow will be a boon for the economy in the South East. I wonder is there a precedent for this?

Of course, in time, such a University could become excellent. There are loads of brilliant post docs out there who would love a permanent academic job but the costs……

I think that at a very deep level there is something inherently snobbish about the Irish. (I’m not sure if snobbish is the right word – maybe it’s an inferiority complex or our colonial past or something) No matter how good an institution is, I think there is an instinctive drive to want the status of being a traditional University. (I think that happened to an extent to DCU – I’m not sure what our distinctive features  are these days. We do lots of labs for sure.) It’s a bit like the way kids want to go in to the old professions no matter how poor the job prospects or uninteresting the job.

Interesting times.

* When DCU was NIHE, a colleague of mine once got a letter addressed to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. NIHE was a silly name to be sure.

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About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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4 Responses to WIT / Carlow to be a Technological University

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » WIT / Carlow to be a Technological University

  2. cormac says:

    I wish commentators would take the time to check out a few basic facts about WIT, such as its research output and degree profile, before commenting on this issue…including Sean Flynn at The Irish Times

  3. Greg says:

    Cormac

    I know your blog and know you’re highly respected internationally as a physicist. I’m sure there are others like you in WIT. But there also lots of others who are nowhere near as qualified, do no research and head off for the summer. That makes the transition to University status quite interesting, does it not? To deny that is just being over sensitive. In fact, I suggested that if there is a political desire to create a University in the SE, why not just go all the way and create a fully fledged University and let it grow. That’s what happened to DCU and UL although they were quasi-Universities from the beginning and didn’t have the transition problem.

    As you said, I didn’t do a detailed investigation of WIT’s output. But doing at quick search on WOS and putting Waterford Inst Technol as an address search term I get 358 papers. If I input Dublin City Univ, I get 5354. I’d imagine UCD, UCC and Trinity would be miles ahead again. Of course it would be interesting to see DCU’s return in 1990.

  4. cormac says:

    Actually, research output at DCU was practically zilch in 1990! And that’s the point – if WIT was functioning at university level now, it wouldn’t need an upgrade. As Ed Walsh puts it, the region badly needs a university, and it happens that WIT is a good IoT and has the potential to form the nucleus of a good solid university. It would also be a v good time to do it, as many staff in the public sector are retiring this year.

    With this in mind, it is important not to understate the research profile of WIT – it has the largest computing research group in the country and receives huge international research funding in areas like telecommunications software research and biotechnology. (You won’t find academic papers on the former, because that is not the norm in that field).

    II personally don’t believe there is an upgrade coming – but It is not oversensitive to ask people to do the research before they comment publicly.

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