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GMIT President excited for future of Castlebar campus

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LOOKING TO THE FUTURE Dr Orla Flynn addressed yesterday’s meeting of Mayo County Council.

Anton McNulty

THE President of GMIT says the Castlebar campus will play a leadership role in the structure of the proposed technological university for the region and claimed there are a few ‘exciting years’ ahead for the campus.
Dr Orla Flynn, the President of GMIT, made a presentation to councillors at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council and came under fire by some councillors for what some saw as the downgrading of the Castlebar campus, following the recent closure of the business department.
The presentation and the following debate lasted for over an hour with councillors claiming there was a Galway bias towards the Castlebar campus and it was seen as a drain on the resources of GMIT by many in Galway.
Dr Flynn commented that she expected she would need her shinguards for the presentation and was not wrong.
“If I was in any doubt of the deep feeling in Mayo I am not leaving with any doubt,” she said, adding she appreciated that ‘a loss of trust’ had built up over the years between the two campuses.
Dr Flynn spoke of GMIT being part of the Connacht Ulster Alliance with plans for a technological university for the region involving Sligo IT and Letterkenny IT. She said this was essential for the region and told the councillors that ‘Mayo is going to be a university county and Castlebar is going to be a university town’.
As part of these plans a new Health Science and Wellbeing school will be developed in Castlebar which she hoped will be launched by the Minister for Higher Education before Christmas.
“It will plant a solid flag of leadership here in Castlebar and give your colleagues in Castlebar a voice and a stake in the leadership of the new technological university,” she said adding the no staff will have to move to the Galway campus.

Concerns
There was concerns by some councillors that this will mean the campus will revert to a nurse training college but she stressed that she was committed to providing multidisciplinary programmes in the campus.
“What I am trying to do is build a university of quality and that generally evolves around academic excellence and that typically comes from building communities of practice around a particular discipline.
“We are not going back to an old day where Castlebar was an nursing campus … I am committed to a multi-disciplinary provision here in Castlebar. It is one thing having the new school for all of GMIT being led from Castlebar, but there is still room for multi disciplinary programmes,” she said.
The lack of Mayo-based representatives on the board of GMIT was also criticised by councillors but Dr Flynn said their energies should be focused on the new university board.
“We can spend a lot of energy talking about the board but there is a train leaving the station and we need to be on it. This time next year we may not have a GMIT and we may be moving to becoming a technological university. We are going to have to deal with a single board for a single technological university and I would urge you to look at that act and the composition of that board because that is where the future lies,” she said.
Dr Flynn, a native of Waterford said that the Mayo versus Galway, narrative was to be left on the football pitch.
“If we are going to make an impact as a technological university we are going to have to think of a new narrative of working together going forward. We have a couple of exciting years ahead of us,” she concluded.