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What does Waterford University mean to me?

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I have lived and worked in Waterford for most of my life, I dearly love my city and county. I was educated through 2 degrees at WIT and each day that goes by, I meet with some brilliant person that has somehow been attracted to Waterford by WIT. For me the upgrade of WIT to university status is a no-brainer. The Southeast of the country is the largest area in the entire of Ireland that is not served by a university and economically, it shows.

There has been much talk over the years about Waterford needing to develop in terms of retail, road network, and other such but for me the one burning issue that needs to happen before anything else is a university upgrade for WIT. A university would become the epicentre for a great shake-up in the Southeast, creating new jobs and attracting profile people and investment and then the tertiary support of retail, etc will naturally follow. This upgrade automatically increases the profile of the college to no end – simply changing the title brings immense respect and automatic funding that is currently being fought for, tooth and nail. Upgrading to university status will attract high profile academics, moreso than have already been attracted. It will automatically link Waterford’s city status with the ideal of university facilities and remove the notion of Waterford “town” from all minds, forever. It will attract greater numbers of students, better students who want a university degree instead of an IT degree. It will attract investment to the city and region that will offer badly needed employment options to graduates and the current workforce. It will bring a diversity of support jobs, courses and enrich our local culture with arts as well as technology. The upgrade of WIT to a university will bring an anchor point to the Southeast that will one day hopefully provide my children with options, something that too many people of my generation never had because of the centralised attitudes in Irish governing forces.

That’s what an upgrade would mean to me but the real question is what does an upgrade mean to you? Do you work in retail, restaurant business, are you a taxi driver? University doesn’t affect you? Well a university means more students, more demand for food, more demand for shopping, more demand for transportation to and from different parts of the city. Are you a civil servant, teacher, unemployed? University doesn’t affect you? Well a university will give your children and families a place to study, an option so that they don’t have to leave home, to great expense, to find a highly regarded education. You too can further your own education at night without having to change your living circumstances. The university will bring a range of new jobs that need to be filled, possibly new employment opportunities for you. Are you an investor, developer, small private business owner? University doesn’t affect you, it’s just for academics? Well a university brings more workers and students each with a housing need, creating a big demand for accommodation. The university will continue to expand for years thereby requiring construction workers, electrical contractors and a host of other trades workers to fit out and maintain its premises. A university brings more options to local businesses seeking to improve their product line; it can offer assistance, part-funded research programmes and give credible support to your business that will be recognised and respected around the country and internationally. In short a university means that your life will be better even if you don’t go to college.

That’s why it gets me down so much when I hear so little public outcry that the government is so inactive and seemingly opposed to the idea of upgrading WIT. We should all be united in protest that something is done about this. An upgrade affects all of us in the Southeast region and would improve the economic profile, impressively. We need to demand that action is taken, that political representatives understand that Waterford will not lie down. We need to hammer home that selective leaks from the Port report will not be accepted as indicators of our chances of upgrade and that minor negativity is nothing in the grand scale of what exactly is the benefit to the region and country. What Waterford University means to me, is a united county and region, working together for the first time, irrespective of political leanings, to achieve the one thing that will significantly improve everyone’s opportunities in life and the opportunities of their children. This is not a road to Dublin that will see our dependence on the capital continue but rather an opportunity to stand alone and develop as a region should, bringing investment and social diversity to help the Southeast become a major centre in Ireland. It means that I will passionately demand action from my political representatives and use the upgrade as a yardstick to measure real achievement that can not be attributed to national road schemes or otherwise – this effort is a challenge not just a development plan. That’s what it means to me, ask yourself again what it means to you…

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