People Before Profit in Cork are calling on the management at Cork Institute of Technology to explain the opaque financing and decision-making behind a proposed merger with Tralee Institute of Technology, due to go ahead early next year.
The decision to complete the merger, a condition that needs to be met before CIT can apply for Technical University status, has been met with condemnation and confusion by CIT staff and TUI members in Cork. Jim O’Connell, spokesperson with People Before Profit in Cork, has met with TUI and CIT staff members who claim that the financial implications of the merger pose serious worries for the future of both institutes.
According to Jim, staff concerns are related mainly to the future of course provision and staffing at both Cork and Tralee, and also to the €6.7 million CIT says it will come up with in order for the merger to go ahead. “The Higher Education Authority has a budget of just €2 million to complete IT mergers nationwide and yet it will cost €6.7 million to complete the CIT/IT Tralee merger alone; now, I’m not an accountant, but I can tell you that those figures do not add up,” said Jim.
“CIT have guaranteed that this merging process will begin in 2016 – despite the fact that the majority of its staff are against it – so where exactly will they get this money? Management are claiming course provision will not be cut, staff numbers will not be cut, and pay will not be cut, so either they are planning the financial equivalent of the loaves and the fishes or they are not being upfront about what this merger will cost and who will end up paying for it.”
It is not only staff who will need to worry about money if this merger goes ahead, parents could be paying much more than they thought if the requirement to cut duplication in course provision on both the Cork and Tralee campuses goes ahead.
“In order for the institutes to merge, they need to ensure they that are not running the same courses in both campuses. Currently, as independent institutes, there is some overlap in course provision which means kids can choose to stay at home and be close to college. The merger will mean that some students will be forced into a position of having to move away to get the course they want and shell out money for food and digs.”
“The real problem here is that no one knows for sure what is going on. Staff in CIT don’t know if their jobs are really safe, parents don’t know that they might not have the security of a local option for their children at third level, we don’t know where the money is coming from to pay for the merger, and CIT management don’t even know if they will actually achieve Technical University status at the end of this!”
“CIT have questions to answer, the HEA have questions to answer and as the ultimate puppet-master in all of this, the minister for education and the government have questions to answer. People Before Profit are standing firmly behind the staff and TUI in this, and we will make sure their questions are heard.”
Jim O’Connell is available for comment on 0863556482.