Cork pops over upgrade of tech institute

January 31, 1997

Education minister Niamh Bhreathnach has landed the Irish government in an unwelcome political row just a few months before a general election.

It originates in a straightforward decision to upgrade one of the country's 11 regional technical colleges to the status of an institute of technology.

Waterford has been campaigning for upgrading - preferably to university status - for years. But the decision has enraged the citizens of Cork who want the same treatment as Waterford.

Last week in Cork students held protests and a vigil outside the city hall. They were backed by the staff, who gave them food.

The staff also decided to ballot on industrial action unless the minister upgraded Cork's regional technical college. They are supported by the college's governing body and nearly all local politicians.

The minister says that educational policy decisions cannot be based on knee-jerk reactions and that the decision to upgrade Waterford was taken after careful study of a report of a steering committee on the future development of higher education.

However, she faces considerable political pressure because of the importance of the Cork constituencies in the forthcoming election and the fact that her own Labour party conference is due to be held in the city shortly.

She said the government was considering a new report which suggested that all the regional technical colleges should have a combined awards body.

But this will not satisfy the protesters who say that if Waterford can award its own degrees, diplomas and certificates why cannot Cork?

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