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Ireland to create new technological universities

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Ten of the 14 institutes of technology in Ireland have embarked on a process that will lead to the establishment of up to four new technological universities
  • The Government of Ireland aims to establish first of these new universities by September 2018

The Irish government has passed legislation that will lead to the creation of a new category of higher education institution within Ireland’s post-secondary system. The Technological Universities Act was passed into law on 21 March 2018, and, as the name suggests, it provides for new technological universities to be created by merging two or more existing institutes of technology.

There are currently 14 institutes of technology (IOTs) in Ireland, nearly all of which were initially founded as regional technical colleges beginning in the 1960s. The IOTs were first established to offer certificate and diploma-level programmes, and mainly in business, engineering, and science. In the late 1970s and after, they also began to introduce full undergraduate degrees and then advanced degrees as well.

The strategy to create new technological universities out of the IOT system is enshrined in Ireland’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030. The government envisions that these new institutions will be based in different regions around the country, and will focus on science and technology programmes that are “vocationally and professionally oriented.”

An accompanying statement from Ireland’s Higher Education authority sets out that, “A technological university will be distinguished by a mission and ethos that is aligned and consistent with the current mission and focus of institutes of technology with an emphasis on programmes at levels 6 to 8 [editor: this refers to advanced certificates and undergraduate degrees] and industry-focused research. A technological university will also be expected to play a pivotal role in facilitating access and progression particularly through relationships with the further education and training sector.”

“This is a transformative piece of legislation and I am delighted that it is now enacted. The Technological Universities legislation has been a high priority for this Government and will radically change the higher education landscape,” added Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor. “The creation of technological universities provides the opportunity to drive regional development and provide more opportunities for individuals, enterprise and the community. These institutions will have significant impact and influence regionally, nationally and internationally.”

The first technological unis

With the legislation in place, the government expects to move quickly to establish the first new technological universities later this year, perhaps as early as September.

Ten of Ireland’s 14 IOTs have already joined consortia that are actively engaged in the process to be designated as technological universities.

The two consortia that have progressed the farthest along this path are:

  • TU4Dublin, which is made up of the Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Tallaght and Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
  • Munster Technological University (MTU), consisting of Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee

Many observers expect these will be the first two groups to successfully complete the designation process. Two other consortia covering a total of five additional IOTs are coming behind them as well:

  • Technological University for the South-East (TUSE), consisting of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow
  • Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA), consisting of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo, and Letterkenny Institute of Technology

This group of up to four new technological universities will be a significant addition alongside the ten universities operating in Ireland today. On the one hand, the formation of the new technological universities will address a few issues in the Irish system, including merging smaller institutions to create improved economies of scale. The new institutions will also provide for more balanced regional linkages for Irish universities, and will provide more communities across the country with a university of their own.

On the other hand, this is a move that could also strengthen recruiting, and for international students in particular. As the Irish Times recently reported, “Cash-strapped institutes of technology have become increasingly reliant on international students who pay big money to study abroad, especially US and Chinese students. Many of these students do not immediately understand what an ‘institute of technology’ is, says DIT president Brian Norton. The term ‘university’ in ‘technological university’, on the other hand, is known to all.”

For additional background, please see:

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