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Concerns over GMIT Castlebar’s future in new TU

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Anton McNulty

A CASTLEBAR councillor has called for extra courses and capital investment for the Castlebar campus of GMIT to ensure it remains viable within the new technological university (TU).
Early this month, Minister of Higher Education Simon Harris announced that GMIT, Sligo IT and Letterkenny IT were to merge to become a new Technological University for the North West with the Castlebar campus to be part of the new third level institution.
Speaking at last week’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council, Cllr Donna Sheridan welcomed the news, but she also sounded a note of caution.
“I sincerely hope this will not be a rebranding exercise with a change in management structure and a different name on the degree. It’s good news, but we need to focus on the future, and I feel we here in Castlebar could become a smaller fish in a bigger pond,” she warned.

Broader prospectus needed
The Fine Gael councillor outlined how many courses have been dropped from the Castlebar campus in the last decade, saying she fears its focus is becoming too narrow.
“We need to be so careful that we don’t become just a nursing and community-care college. I am calling for us to write to the Minister to ensure we have capital investment for Castlebar, new industry-led courses in Castlebar and the reinstatement of our business, engineering and construction [courses]. We need a research and development facility in Castlebar to bring industry to the area,” she said.
Her proposals were supported by a number of her fellow councillors, including Ballina-based independent Mark Duffy, who explained he graduated with a business degree from the Castlebar campus but that course is no longer available.
“The value of the campus and a dynamic course offering cannot be overstated. We cannot be a one-trick pony, it needs a dynamic and broad course offering,” he said.

Funding issues
Cllr Martin McLoughlin criticised the reduction in GMIT Castlebar funding in the last decade, and he accused the board of GMIT of starving the Mayo campus.
“It was discussed here before at County Council meetings that the Chief Executive would automatically be on the board of GMIT, and that should happen. We should have representation at the highest level and have a say in the future of the technological university as it is being set up.”
The new president of GMIT, Dr Orla Flynn addressed Mayo County Council earlier this year to outline her vision for GMIT and the Castlebar campus.
Mr Kevin Kelly, Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, told the meeting that he has had a number of meetings with Dr Flynn and senior management of GMIT. He asserted that while the future of each entity within the technological university will have to be considered, he is confident that they are committed to the Castlebar campus.
“I have had a number of meetings with the President of GMIT and her senior management group, and […] I have heard real commitment to Castlebar from the senior staff in GMIT.”

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