COLLABORATION

New technological university for Irish Midlands in the pipeline

SOURCE: Athlone Institute of Technology
The Athlone Institute of Technology (pic) plans to form a technological university for the Midlands region with the Limerick Institute of Technology.


By U2B Staff 

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The governing bodies of the Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology confirmed this week plans to join forces to form a new technological university (TU) for Ireland’s Midlands and Mid-west.

According to reports, both institutions made a joint application for funding earlier this year to set in motion plans to form the new technological university. They confirmed plans to form a TU consortium on Tuesday this week.

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President of Athlone Institute of Technology Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin said the merger would be transformative for the Midlands region.

“Athlone Institute of Technology is home to knowledge creators, innovators and leaders,” he said in Offaly Express.

“It is a beacon of collaborative, cross-cutting research and an innovation partner of choice for both industry and academia – central to propelling Ireland’s knowledge economy forward.”

Partnering with Limerick IT, he said, would help Athlone in its ambition to achieve technological university status, which he said would unlock the potential of both partnering institutions and the wider region.

“We are an extremely ambitious institute and are fully committed to achieving technological university status – something which is of fundamental importance to leveraging the Midlands region and ensuring it reaches its potential for the benefit of students, staff and the wider community.”

Limerick IT’s Professor Vincent Cunnane said the merger would help create a “unique” new university or third-level facility with both a national and international outlook.

“This puts us in a position to provide accessible higher education to a large portion of the country’s population while strengthening our commitment to our regions. 

“This is an approach that has increasingly been taken in the formation of new universities in Europe, and we see a major benefit for our stakeholders by adopting it in Ireland,” he said.

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Plans for the Limerick and Athlone merger follow an announcement by Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Conner that the government would make EUR90 million available for the development of technological universities over the next three years.

Alongside TU Dublin, their joint bid brings the number of prospective new technological universities in Ireland to four. 

According to the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), Institute of Technology Tralee (IT Tralee) and the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) will achieve their designation early in 2020, despite initial concerns that their merger would fall through. 

The association also says there are applications currently pending from the Waterford Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology Carlow in the southeast, from the Institute of Technology Sligo, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Letterkenny Institute of Technology in the west/northwest.

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As part of a push to elevate Ireland’s higher education system and meet the country’s innovation needs, the government in its National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 had urged the country’s technology institutes to consolidate to create technological universities (TUs). 

These universities are meant to help address the social and economic needs of the region they’re located in. Their mission and ethos are aligned with that of the technology institutes, but with an emphasis on industry-focused research. 

To create the university, the institutes would have to form a consortium and send a merger proposal to the government. To get accepted, they must meet certain standards encompassing areas such as staff qualifications, research input quality, and the proportion of students engaged in lifelong learning, among others.