Ireland's newest university has been officially launched, with the institution's president saying it has the potential to be the most transformative initiative in its region in decades.

South East Technological University has over 18,000 students and more than 1,500 staff on its campuses and is the result of decades of education and research on campuses in Waterford and Carlow as well as Wexford and Kilkenny.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris was in Waterford today to perform the official launch of SETU and said that it is a university "designed by staff, students and the people of the south-east over decades" which can have a national and global reach.

"The vision has become a reality," the minister said at a ceremony in the SETU arena in Waterford, where he was joined by staff, students and other interested parties.

"I look forward to supporting Ireland’s newest university to become a central part of our higher education landscape."

The university comes from the original regional technical colleges in Carlow and Waterford, which later became institutes of technology and then merged to allow the formation of SETU.

"The creation of South East Technological University, our new university in the south east of Ireland, has the potential to be the single-most transformative initiative in the region in several generations," university president Professor Veronica Campbell said.

"SETU will put knowledge creation and learning at the heart of the region which will facilitate regional development - economically, socially and culturally."

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Minister Harris, centre, at the official launch today

She said the development of the university's first strategic plan will reflect "our ambitions to be a leading European technological university, embedded in the south-east and committed to working with, and delivering for, our partners and communities across the region, Ireland and the world".

A consultation process on the strategic plan has already begun with staff and students from across the university and will now seek the thoughts of the external community.

Professor Campbell added: "We are very conscious, as the only university in the south-east, to hear of the expectations of all citizens in the region when it comes to our plans.

"Our industry partners, research collaborators, schools, community groups, teachers, parents, alumni and the general public can input into our university’s future."

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SETU Governing Body Chair, Professor Patrick Prendergast said the university will deliver for the south-east "through cutting-edge educational programmes, advanced research and societal engagement".

The official SETU launch included a programme of speeches, panel discussions and an exhibition at the SETU Arena on the western campus in Waterford and the Kilkenny Road campus in Carlow.