A Mayo based senator has alleged this week in the Seanad that potential students who inquire about courses in the GMIT campus in Castlebar are being steered towards the Galway campus if a similar course is on offer there and that the Mayo campus is being "bullied" by its overseeing campus. Fine Gael senator Paddy Burke raised the issue of the future of the Castlebar campus of the institute with the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, in the upper house of the Oireachtas as fears for the future of the facility in Castlebar have intesified recently. Those fears were further increased late last week when the head of the Mayo campus Dr Deirdre Garvey stepped down from her position.
Dr Garvey position has been filled by Kiltimagh native Michael Gill, who will be the acting head of the campus, it was announced yesterday. Dr Fergal Barry, president of GMIT, spoke to staff in the Castlebar campus on Thursday where he outlined the institute’s growing student population, planned developments, improving financial position compared to 2015, and the institute’s proactive engagement with the Higher Education Authority on securing the future sustainability of all GMIT campuses.
Speaking in the Seanad chamber earlier this week, Senator Burke said: "There is a need for a root and branch review of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and the Castlebar campus, not just in terms of money but also from the point of view of governance."
He also said: "When students in Galway inquire about courses taking place in Castlebar and if a similar course is taking place in Galway, people in Galway push them to go to Galway where everything is much better. Of course, we know this well from the health board previously; Galway wants everything at the expense of Roscommon, Mayo, and other counties."
Before reading out from a letter he received about the campus he added: "Some people are afraid to speak out, but they should do so. I have received a large amount of correspondence about what is taking place in Castlebar." Part of the letter read out by Senator Burke said, "Our campus is particularly angry at this sectarian language that is being used because as far as we are concerned we are part of the same reserves/resources. While we would welcome ring-fenced funding and recognise the financial issues with sustaining the campus, this language of 'them and us' is actually an issue that has been a feature of the Mayo campus reality for many years.
"The Mayo campus has a vibrant, dynamic, community of staff that are utterly dedicated to what we do. We have, over the years, come up with multitudes of solutions to the issues we have faced. I am so frustrated by the fact that we want to do our jobs, we want to fulfill our remit to the region, but unfortunately we have been subjected to a sustained attack and cannibalism of our intellectual property by the Galway campus.
"Whenever resources are mentioned, Mayo have to do everything under existing resources [on the Mayo campus], whereas Mayo campus resources are considered a 'pool of resources' to be shared with Galway. We have been subjected to ridiculous levels of scrutiny, way above and beyond what happens on the Galway campus or other institutes when it comes to course validation.
"We also know that enquiries for our courses that go to Galway are often met with apathy, misinformation, and deliberate attempts to get them on a course in Galway."
Senator Burke added: "As I have said previously in the House, the Mayo campus has been bullied by the Galway campus for many years and strict action is needed. The Minister needs to investigate the matter. The Mayo campus needs to be looked at in detail. It is much more than a funding issue. I ask the Minister to establish a team of investigation to see what is taking place."