Campaign history

The campaign to have a university in the SE, nucleated on Waterford is as old as the Irish university system.

The earliest formal reports were in the UK Parliament, where Waterford deputy Sir Thomas Wyse (1791-1862) agitated for a Queens College in his book – “Education reform or the necessity of a national system of education” (London, 1836).

Since at least the 1940s there has been an unbroken university action group working towards securing a university for the region. A meeting of the Waterford and South East University Action Group in City Hall on March 29, 1945, reported good progress on the issue!

'Agitation for University in Waterford' as published in the Munster Express, December 1943
‘Agitation for University in Waterford’ as published in the Munster Express, December 1943

Excerpt from the Mulcahy Report 1967 Interim report of the steering committees technical working group, that recommended the founding the RTCs. Note that original capital costs of WRTC was much smaller than the RTC in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Carlow- ultimately WRTC grew to be the same size as Cork RTC reflecting the high demand for higher education in the South East and the absence of a university. 

Excerpt from the Mulcahy Report 1967
Excerpt from the Mulcahy Report 1967
Dáil Éireann debate on a University for Waterford, May 1987
Dáil Éireann debate on a University for Waterford, May 1987 as taken from
https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/1987-05-05/128/

Seanad Éireann debate on a Waterford's educational facilities, May 1987
Seanad Éireann debate on a Waterford’s educational facilities, May 1987 as taken from https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad/1987-05-27/10/
Waterford University Action Group (WUAG) meets An Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds
Waterford University Action Group meets with An Taoiseach
L-R back row: Des Griffin, Brendan Kenneally, Paddy Kenneally , Michael Manahan. Front row: Kathleen Nutt, Taoiseach  Albert Reynolds and Ollie Clery
Dáil Éireann debate on Waterford University Action Group, March 1995
Dáil Éireann debate on Waterford University Action Group, March 1995 as taken from
https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/1995-03-09/70/

In 1997 WRTC was upgraded to an Institute of Technology, and after political pressure all RTCs were upgraded.

Excerpt from ‘Investing in People’, Tony White, 2001
Excerpt from ‘Investing in People’, Tony White, 2001

The issue bubbled up again in 2005 when WIT applied for University status based on a new campus at Carriganore.

In 2008 a report commissioned and prepared by Dr Jim Port, with respect to WIT’s readiness for upgrade to university status was repeatedly delayed and ultimately rejected by government despite being in favour of the evolution. In opposition, Fine Gael issued a pledge to the people of the South East with respect to their university ambitions.

Fine Gael's pledge for a university in Waterford as seen in the Munster Express
Fine Gael’s pledge for a university in Waterford as seen in the Munster Express

Ultimately it appears that this promise was walked back after the 2011 election (and after Grangegorman was established for DIT).

Excerpt from An Education John Walshe (special advisor to Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn)
Excerpt from An Education John Walshe (special advisor to Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn)
Excerpt from Higher Education in Ireland, 1922–2016 John Walsh
Excerpt from Higher Education in Ireland, 1922–2016 John Walsh

A run to Dublin

On Monday 31st March at approximitely 10am 22 runners undertook an epic journey from the Clock Tower in Waterford to the government offices in Dublin to deliver one clear message of solidarity from the South East; we need a university!

The relay run, consisting of 22 stages of roughly 8km segments took place over 3 days, passing through the heartland of the South East, culminating on the 2nd April at 2.15 outside Leinster House. The final runners (Ken McGrath and Michael “Brick” Walsh) delivered a letter and petition to senior government figures present. A huge gathering of support outside Leinster House was also present, with street entertainers from Buí Bolg creating a festival atmosphere for the hundreds of people gathered outside Leinster House.

A big note of thanks to everyone who showed their support to the runners along the route. To the people who gathered outside of Leinster House and to all those who gave their time to making this possible, a huge debt of gratitude is due to you on behalf of the people of the South East, for endeavouring to make their lives better. Many motorists along the route showed their support for the runners and the campaign. A big thanks to all the motorists who were very patient as the runners made their way along narrow stretches of road, your patience and understanding helped to ensure a safe passage for all the runners.

A selection of the photos from various points along the route are available in our photo section, feel free to browse. You’ll see the various groups that supported the rally and also some shots from along the route, over the 3-day run.

Route: