Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology are to be re-established as a technological university after their application for such status was accepted by Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris.
The process will see both institutes dissolved and subsequently established as one university, in line with the 2018 Act proposing that two or more institutes of technology may apply to be granted technological university (TU) status.
Harris welcomed the schools’ application, noting that “This is the third application to be made under TU legislation by a consortium of Institutes of Technology who are seeking to make the step-change to a new type of higher education institution.”
TU Dublin was the first higher education institution to be established in this manner, arising from the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, and Institute of Technology Tallaght. Its status as a TU was granted on January 1, 2019.
The second TU in Ireland is set to be established on January 1, 2021 when, subject to government approval, Institute of Technology Tralee and Cork Institute of Technology are to be re-established as the Munster Technological University, serving the Southwest of Ireland.
In the future, the Institutes of Technology in Galway-Mayo, Sligo, and Letterkenny are expected to apply for TU status, in line with the Connacht Ulster Alliance; and the Institute of Technology Carlow and Waterford Institute of Technology are expected to apply for status to serve the Southeast.
Minister Harris refers to the creation of a “network of TUs” as representing “key drivers of a wide range of national strategic policy objectives relating to higher education access, skills retention and creation, research capacity building and research led teaching and learning excellence, regional development and socio-economic progress”.
He continued, “We wish to ensure that the benefits of higher education and regional development are spread equitably across the country and that everyone can avail of the high quality provision that TUs deliver for students, staff, employers, enterprise and for the wider local and regional communities they are embedded in.”
Athlone and Limerick Institutes of Technology currently have a combined student population of roughly 14,000 and staff population of 1,300.
Minister for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD emphasised that “the staff of both institutions have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the TU”.
He called the development of a new TU a “significant step for the Mid-West and the Midlands and for the TU agenda in Ireland”.
Of a newly unveiled Transformation Fund for TUs, the Athlone and Limerick IT consortium was allocated €5 million, bringing the total funding to make the next step to €7 million. Government has promised to provide total Exchequer funding up to €90 million for the Transformation Fund until 2023.