Minister for Education, Joe McHugh with An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar (Photo Brian McDaid)
The Government has been questioned about progressing the technological university project in the South East despite €26m worth of debt and payroll costs.
The proposed Technological University of the South East (TUSE) involves a merger of the Institute of Technology Carlow (IT Carlow) and Waterford Institute of Technology (Waterford IT).
In a Parliamentary Question, Fine Gael's John Deasy asked the Minister for Education and Skills, "if his Department has advised Waterford and Carlow Institutes of Technology of the way in which the projected combined deficit, debt and payroll costs of the planned technological university of the South East, reportedly estimated at €26 million by 2024-2025, will be addressed".
According to reports earlier this year, Waterford IT is running a deficit and also has a building loan, while IT Carlow is in a positive financial situation and is expected to continue to generate a surplus.
In a statement to Carlow Live, Waterford IT said: "The Institute has a management plan in place for its deficit that’s agreed and signed off by the HEA."
In a written response to the PQ, Minister Joe McHugh, said: "Projected costs and their effective management by the relevant higher education institutions associated with the development and operation of any particular TU proposals, such as those by the TUSEI consortium, are matters to be addressed by those institutions in the first instance.
"It would not be appropriate for the Department to comment on financial projections associated with any particular TU development consortium."
He added: "To date Government has provided the TUSEI consortium, comprising Waterford IT and IT Carlow, with €1.72m in Exchequer funding to assist its TU development proposals."
IT Carlow said they would not be commenting on the matter.
Meanwhile, WIT welcomed the announcement in Budget 2020 of a €90m multi-annual transformation fund for TUs.
In a statement, they said: "This investment is an important statement of commitment from the Government in the new technological university sector.
"As partners in the Technological University of the South East project, WIT and Institute of Technology Carlow will seek to leverage the fund to support the development of the first university in the South East region.
"This Government investment will help realise our vision for a new higher education institution of international standing, an organisation with a new emphasis, structure, and activities."