There are no plans to change the status of Waterford Institute of Technology. My Department, however, continues to work with Waterford Institute of Technology to develop and upgrade the institute. In July 1996, the Government approved in principle the recommendations in the report of the steering committee on the future development of higher education as a benchmark for future planning in the sector. The steering committee concluded that an upgrading and expansion of Waterford Regional Technical College, now Waterford Institute of Technology, represented the most appropriate response to the higher education needs of the south-east region. The committee's report also recommended an increase in student places, an increase in degree level awards and a change of title. It was recommended that the major focus of expansion be at degree level. It stated that such provision would place the college at the top end of the spectrum in terms of provision of degree places and would enable the region to reach the national average participation rate in degree programmes.
The Government accepted these recommendations. The provision, in both the total number of places and in degree level courses at Waterford Institute of Technology has been expanded annually and incrementally in line with available resources. Figures supplied to my Department by Waterford Institute of Technology indicate that in the region of 40% of students enrolled on full-time certificate, diploma, degree and postgraduate courses are enrolled on courses at degree and postgraduate levels. These measures, combined with the change of title of the college provide the necessary status and capacity for the institute to meet the identified higher education needs of the region over the coming years. Consistent with this approach, WIT was among the first institutes of technology to be given authority to make its own educational awards under the terms of the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999.