First, I will pick up on what Deputy Thomas Byrne said. He made an important point. My father believed in education for the sake of education. The education he gave me was much broader than a narrow business focus. That was the case to such an extent that when I wanted to follow in his footsteps and be an accountant, he would not allow me to study any accountancy subject when I was in secondary school. I got that view of education from my father and I have continued the same process with my children. I agree completely with Deputy Byrne on that.
Turning to the question about Monaghan, my situation is that while the Minister indicated he was appointing me in July, the first meeting I was able to attend, for various reasons, was only three weeks ago. I have only recently been able to come up to speed on this topic. The problem we have is that neither Cavan nor Monaghan is feeding into DkIT in the way that was envisaged. This is evident from the statistics. That is why I made reference to Maynooth University and DCU. People from the Cavan and Monaghan area, particularly the southern parts, are heading towards DCU rather than DkIT. We are well aware of that challenge and we have begun to address it.
The new plan being drafted envisages the establishment of outreach programmes in Cavan town and Monaghan town and the initiation of blended services by using Skype and other methods of engaging with students in the Cavan and Monaghan area. We do not have to physically move everybody to the same spot anymore. We need to get our heads around how education can evolve over the years so that it is not a case of a classroom situation. That is happening and DkIT is well positioned in the process because one of the great advantages it has is what is referred to as the Carroll Building. That was bought by the Government in 2004 or 2005 and the interior was completely renovated. Another €20 million was spent on it and if anyone here is ever going through Dundalk, I strongly recommend stopping and going to have a look at the building. It is an incredible feat. It is the only building on the island of Ireland constructed in the 20th century that is considered worthy of world architectural importance. Busáras and similar buildings did not make it. The building is so important that if it needs to be cleaned someone has to come from the National Museum to supervise it. The building works as media centre, however, and it gives us the facilities to reach out beyond the campus. We have the technology to do that and it is already in place. The draft plan refers to that.
The draft plan also envisages contact with Northern Ireland and dealing with cross-Border matters. We have a problem in that area and it is a big one. It is one I have been campaigning on for nearly 20 years, and Deputy Breathnach will be aware of it. I am referring to the CAO's attitude towards A levels. A student in Newry will pursue three or four A levels. The ranking for that is 150 points, which means that if that student in Newry gets three A1s in her or his A levels, she or he will only get 450 points. Such a result will not get that student into half the colleges that it should do in the South. I am talking not only about Dundalk but elsewhere as well.
The closed attitude towards looking to Belfast or the British mainland in education must be shifted. That is a challenge for DKIT. Ten years ago, as president of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, I got Newry Chamber of Commerce to bring final year students from secondary schools in the area to DKIT to show them the institute. That has been done on an ad hoc basis since then. I intend to repeat it in Newry and large towns in the area to make them aware of DKIT. When one talks to people from Newry, Newcastle, Banbridge or elsewhere in south County Down, it becomes apparent that they do not know what DKIT is. We need to get that message across. When I first became involved in DKIT it had fewer than 80 students from Northern Ireland, which is 10 km from the campus. Today, it has approximately 250 students from Northern Ireland. However, we have 400 Chinese students who have travelled halfway around the world to attend DKIT. There is something odd about that. Those Chinese students are paying full whack but, as Deputy Jan O'Sullivan pointed out, students from Northern Ireland will not be asked to pay full whack. It has been settled that Brexit will not have an impact in that regard.
Brexit is the elephant in the room. I wish I had a pound for every time I have misspoken on Brexit through the past three years, whether on local radio or to international organisations. It has become a significant problem. It is infesting all aspects of life along the Border, as Senator Gallagher is probably aware. Everything one touches is affected by Brexit, and education and DKIT are no different in that regard, even though we do not have many students from Northern Ireland.
Opportunities as well as challenges will arise from Britain leaving the EU, as we must accept it will. A significant amount of research funded by Horizon 2020 and other EU programmes requires the involvement of an English-speaking university. Oxford, Cambridge and other British universities are being removed from such programmes, which offers an opportunity to universities and technical third level institutes in the Twenty-six Counties. There will be changes in research carried out in a European context. Since the Brexit process began in 2016, Queen's University Belfast has been unable to fulfil certain research jobs because it was only able to guarantee up to 2020 or 2021. There are opportunities. I do not wish to profit from the problems being experienced by Queen's or Ulster University. I would prefer to work collaboratively with them.
On the 2040 plan, I addressed Queen's University Belfast on what the 2040 plan could mean for the island of Ireland. I have been critical of the 2040 plan since it was published even though, as a member of Louth County Council pointed out to me, it contains sections on Brexit and the M1 corridor. The feedback on the 2040 plan is a closed loop. There are three regions in the Twenty-six Counties and they can feed into the national plan, but there is nothing to allow direct feedback on it from Belfast or Stormont. It is possible that such feedback is gathered indirectly. Louth County Council and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council signed a memorandum of understanding allowing for co-operation between them on various matters. I signed it on behalf of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce and Deputy Breathnach also signed it. It was the first such memorandum between two local authorities in different jurisdictions within the EU. It has worked well and allowed Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to feed in its views on the 2040 plan. There is a gap in that regard. I do not wish to deal too heavily with the 2040 plan.
I refer to the M1 corridor, which forms part of the plan. I approached Drogheda Chamber of Commerce and Newry Chamber of Commerce with the idea that the M1 corridor would be a single homogenous unit from Drogheda to Newry. They both bought into it. It would not be defined on a county border basis. Although it is to be hoped that County Louth will lead and drive it, it will involve counties Monaghan, Meath, Armagh and Down. The idea behind it is to advertise the region as a whole. One of the problems with being a Border county is that people tended to plan up to the Border such that by the time one got to Drogheda, it was already dissipating, by the time one got to the next town, Dunleer, it was almost dead, and by the time one got to Dundalk, it was dead. We did not see the benefits and we suffered in that regard.
I trained in Andersens in the late 1970s and was exposed to much international business. The only IDA business to come to the Dundalk region in the period between 1974 and 1994 was Heinz. It came to the area because its chief executive, Mr. Tony O'Reilly, knew that Dundalk was not El Paso. I do not like using that term but do so to emphasise my point. The region must be sold as a region. If I try to sell Dundalk or Drogheda, it will not work. We must get across the message that it is a region.
Cross-Border co-operation is of great importance. I have spoken to people in Queen's, Newry and Warrenpoint about the 2040 plan and the idea of looking North and South. I have also discussed it with Newry Chamber of Commerce. The Belfast Region City Deal, which is about to be launched, extends to the Border. We need to see an integration between it and the M1 corridor. I strongly believe that there should be integration between all aspects of the two projects. I have a bee in my bonnet about it.
DKIT is at the centre of this process. There are 2.3 million people within an hour's drive of Dundalk or Drogheda, whereas there are only 2 million people within an hour's drive of Dublin. We have three airports and the fastest broadband in Ireland, with speeds of 1 GB compared with an average speed of 250 MB in the IFSC. We have everything going for us. We can take the pressure off Dublin and allow for expansion in the region. There is more zoned land in the area than anywhere else. Many required aspects are geared up for expansion. DKIT has the capacity to be the lead partner in it. I hope I have addressed all questions on Brexit and not flogged it too much.
On technical university status and industrial relations, the industrial action is an operational matter, not a strategy matter and, as such, is not a problem directly for the board. Of course, the board must address our strategy regarding technical university status. The president took considerable time over making that call. The commitment from the governing body based on the draft plan, which will be approved in January, is to go for technical university status. As such, we will have to merge with another organisation and consideration has been given to the identification of a suitable partner. Technological University Dublin, which is already up and running, has been suggested. My personal opinion is that our joining it would be like sticking something onto a much bigger element and would not work. Limerick IT and Athlone IT were also suggested but they are being funded possibly to link up and create what is being referred to as Shannon technical university. DKIT is nowhere near the River Shannon. The third involves Letterkenny IT, Institute of Technology Sligo, Dundalk and the Border counties. That goes back to tapping into the potential that Brexit offers from the point of view of students wanting an EU education as well as the research funding available in respect of EU projects. I do not have a closed mind to the first two options, but I know where most work would have to be done. A decision has not yet been made. That is the challenge we have. There was some talk of staying where we are, but if we do, we die. We will move on and go in that direction. We envisage servicing a wider area. There will be technical problems relating to delivering education in two jurisdictions where there are different ways of looking at things. There has already been co-operation with Queen's and Ulster University. It is a matter of working out what must be done and then addressing it to the Oireachtas, the Department or elsewhere if necessary and stating that we wish to do this and that it is good for everyone. The more collaboration there is between universities, the broader the education, as Deputy Thomas Byrne stated, and the greater the variety. That opportunity is in front of us.