The Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh, has assured the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) that it would not be responsible for the Institute of Technology Tralee’s (IT Tralee) debts in the case of a merger between the two institutions.
This assurance comes in the midst of growing concerns over IT Tralee’s financial situation, with a deficit of as much as €10 million being projected in the coming years.
Last month, Kerry’s only third level institution received €5 million in emergency funding. This contribution was deemed “necessary” by the Higher Education Authority in light of the IT’s dwindling funds. Enrolment dropped by 15% between 2014 and 2017, leaving a large staff surplus and a lack of solvency.
The absence of financial clarity has been a hindrance to the potential merger between CIT and IT Tralee. Early this year there was an official bid for the two institutions to become Munster Technological University, but it was not approved. The independent panel of experts responsible for evaluating the merger cited a “problematic” lack of clarity and forethought surrounding how the two institutions would “act as one”, as well as concerns about the research rates among masters students. The bid is expected to be re-examined in early 2020.
Should the merger prove successful, Munster Technological University would be the second Technological University of Ireland, following in the footsteps of the founding of the Technological University of Dublin (TU Dublin) last year.
The disparity in cash flow between the two institutions has been a point of tension throughout negotiations, with CIT unwilling to shoulder the burden of IT Tralee’s debt.
It is still unclear whether IT Tralee has presented a viable solution to its mounting deficit. The HEA were clear that the provision of €5 million was “subject to IT Tralee undertaking a stability and sustainability plan. The development of this plan is underway, and will be considered by its governing body and the HEA”. Whether the €5 million will need to be repaid depends upon the plan itself.