Two more institutes of technology are coming together with a view to becoming a technological university (TU).
Limerick IT and Athlone IT are forming a consortium to develop a Technological University for the Mid-West and Midlands.
It follows the announcement in last week’s Budget that the government is to make funding of €90m available for the development of technological universities over the next three years.
The country’s first technological university is TU Dublin, which came into being earlier this year through a merger of DIT, IT Blanchardstown and IT Tallaght.
Cork IT and Tralee IT have partnered to set up Munster TU - but following an assessment by a panel of international experts has been told that it has a way to go to meet the criteria.
However, Dr Joseph Ryan, chief executive of the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) said today that he expected them the achieve their TU designation early in 2020.
Meanwhile, a TU of the South East is under discussion between Waterford IT and IT Carlow, while the Connacht Ulster Alliance - Sligo IT, Galway Mayo IT and Letterkenny IT - has an ambition for a TU for the west/north west.
LIT president Professor Vincent Cunnane described the LIT/AIT decision as “generationally significant for the mid-west."
“Our intention is to build a new type of networked university with the River Shannon forming its spine. We will enhance our regional focus and our collaboration with partners here in the Mid-West," he added.
AIT president Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin welcomed the move as “transformative for the Midlands region”.
He said it positioned the two institutions “in a unique strategic collaboration that bridges our respective regional partners, maintaining a focus on impact and engagement while at the same time strengthening capacity.”
THEA’s Dr Ryan said the emergence of TUs represented “the most significant enhancement for Irish higher education in decades and we anticipate with great interest, the emergence of this new higher education sector”.
He said financial support announced in Budget 2020 would enable consortia to deliver on the strategic priorities as set out in Government policy, specifically in relation to research-informed teaching and learning excellence, regional development, and socio-economic connectedness to the regions.
“The TUs will offer a system of higher education which, through its distinctive academic learning environment, is designed to meet the employment and skills needs of Ireland’s regions through existing well-established and embedded links to employers and local communities.”