WIT President resigns over south-east IT merger

The chair of Waterford Institute of Technology has resigned following the proposed merger of Institutes of Technology in the south east.

Dr. Donnie Ormonde stepped down as President of WIT following a meeting with Minister for Education, Jan O Sullivan, over the university’s decision to pull out of a merger with Institute of Technology Carlow last month.

O’Sullivan had to intervene after WIT unexpectedly pulled out of talks with IT Carlow to join the two universities as one in the south east. “I fully acknowledge the work that the leadership of both universities have committed to the project but it is also true to say that momentum has slipped in recent weeks,” she said.

Difficulties arose when Carlow IT released a statement about the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, against the wishes of WIT. An executive board paper was then published in late October that stated the merger was “incapable of designation as a University within the medium to long term, if ever”. It also said the performance capacity of the University would be “less than the current performance of WIT alone”.

A statement from the department of education said: “Dr Ormonde feels that he has brought the project as far as he can and believes that the time is now right for a new face to progress it to a successful conclusion”.

O’Sullivan appointed former chair of the higher education authority, Michael Kelly, to oversee and lead a process of consultation between governing bodies, staff and students of both universities to “reinvigorate” the project.

Last month, WIT informed IT Carlow, via e-mail, about their decision to cease talks on the long established plans. The universities executive board said the merger would lead to a larger institution but its performance would be “less than the current performance of WIT alone”.

President of IT Carlow Patricia Mulcahy commented the unexpected email: “Their decision to suspend the negotiations has surprised us and really disappointed us”.

Minister O’Sullivan has told WIT that a standalone bid for University status would not be accepted and to successfully apply for the designation a merger must be carried out. In addition, various performance-related criteria must be achieved.

Jordan Kavanagh and Rebecca Lumley

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