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‘Failure not an option for SETU’ - Prendergast

The new chairperson of the South East Technological University (SETU) has appeared before an Oireachtas Committee today.

Dr. Patrick Prendergast was appointed to the position at the end of February, as the new university officially opened its doors a fortnight ago.

The Oireachtas Committee On Education were examining the future funding of higher education in Ireland.

Dr. Prendergast was joined by the chairs of both the Shannon Midlands Midwest and Munster Technological Universities.

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Addressing the committee, Dr. Prendergast said that SETU is an institution which simply has to succeed.

“SETU must be a success. Failure to deliver for the South East in a timely manner, when expectations are so high - is not an option. All universities have a mission in education and research. Education and research must be developed together, in parallel. We will do this in SETU by scaling up the quality of our courses and increasing the number of programmes co-created with regional partners and industries.”

SMEs

The chair of SETU has stated his belief that building close relationships with businesses in the region will be vital to continued growth.

“As regards innovation and research, there are 26,000 businesses in the South East of Ireland. For many of them, S-E-T-U will be their anchor institution. SETU will create new opportunities for them to innovate products and services and to grow. An important starting point for us is the South East Regional Enterprise Action Plan. It sets out a role for technological universities, as key enablers of regional economic development.”

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Building stronger links with small and medium enterprises will be at the forefront of the SETU agenda, and Dr. Prendergast says the institution will be of benefit to businesses.

“Our specialisms are advanced manufacturing, financial services, ICT, pharmaceuticals and sustainable agriculture. 95% of the enterprises based in the South East are small and medium-sized enterprises. These SMEs have limited research and innovation capacity in themselves. There is an expectation that SETU will perform a lead role in supporting SMEs, these 26,000 SMEs in particular.”

Funding

However, he did admit that increased funding will be of paramount importance.

“We need the constraints to be taken off the technological university sector. Contracts that academic staff can be offered, and the remuneration of them, is very much less than in traditional universities. Different kinds of academic contracts are needed. A little bit more flexibility in how we manage those contracts is needed. Capital investment is needed to upgrade the buildings. You cannot do top quality European research in some of the current buildings that we have - certainly, in SETU.”

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