Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) is looking west with a view to joining the Atlantic Technological University (ATU).
It is one of a number of options being explored as the Louth college considers its future.
DkIT is one of only two institutes of technology (IT) that did not get involved in a merger to create a technological university (TU). With five TUs established and setting themselves up to be a major force in higher education, DkIT finds itself isolated.
Atlantic TU – an alliance between the former ITs in Galway-Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny – is firmly rooted in the west and north-west.
DkIT, in the north-east, has traditionally seen its remit as serving the needs of north Leinster and south Ulster.
The college’s failure to progress a TU alliance to date has been criticised by staff and others.
Louth Labour TD Ged Nash said in the Dáil last week that “delays and obfuscation over the past few years have been inexcusable”.
DkIT has been struggling financially and a meeting of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) board, last December, heard that it was projecting a €2.6m deficit in the current academic year, up from €800,000.
The meeting heard that the HEA was anxious to avoid a repeat of the situation where the former IT Tralee accumulated a large deficit and received emergency funding from the HEA in 2019.
Dr Ruaidhri Neavyn, special adviser with the HEA, has been working with DkIT to progress a plan for its future.
Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris told the Dáil last week that “the north-east must not be left behind and it needs a technological university”.
He referred to the funding available to it through the special Government fund to support the development and progression of TUs, and the role of Dr Neavyn, adding: “I am told progress is being made.”
A DkIT spokesperson would not comment on the speculation.
The Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) Dún Laoghaire is the other IT not to have entered the TU family, but the specialist nature of its offering is seen as setting it slightly apart.