ITT merger nears after Dáil vote

IT Tralee may have Uni status by 2019 as bill passes

Simon Brouder

The heads of Tralee Institute of Technology and Cork Institute of Technology believe the long planned merger of the two college's could be complete by September 2019 after the Technological Universities Bill was approved by the Dáil and Seanad.

Plans to merge IT Tralee and CIT to form a new third level institution - the Munster Technological University (MTU) - have been in place since 2014.

Both college's have been working closely together for the last five years to complete the merger and attain university status.

Management at IT Tralee and CIT hope that the merger process will be complete and the MTU will be able to register its first students in September 2019.

Welcoming the enactment of the legislation President of IT Tralee Dr Oliver Murphy said it was an "historic day" for the two colleges.

"This legislation is a key enabler facilitating us to deliver on our commitment to transform Irish higher education. We believe the Munster Technological University presents a once in a generation opportunity to bring about a change that will enrich and improve the social, academic, and economic vibrancy of the region and beyond," Dr Murphy said.

Lionel Alexander, Chair of the Governing Body at IT Tralee and Bob Savage, Chair of the Governing Body at CIT said that the proposed MTU will bring "considerable benefits to the staff and students, as well as delivering benefits for the citizens and economy of the region."

Government plans to merge various ITs to form the new technological universities have not met with universal approval.

Members of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) had opposed the Technological Universities Bill based on concerns over potential job losses, funding cuts and the possible dilution of some institutes' status.

Following lengthy talks the TUI secured several guarantees from the Government which allowed the Bill to proceed though the Oireachtas.

These included pledges on job security and terms of employment; a promise that pensions will not be affected and a guarantee that course provision in all ITs will be protected.

ITs will also no longer be forced to merge before university status is granted as had originally been proposed.

The deal also provided an assurance to existing IT staff that they will not be reassigned to another college or campus within a TU unless procedures to do so are agreed.

There will also be increased academic staff representation on the new universities' respective governing bodies.

ITT and CIT say they have made "significant progress" towards the establishment of the MTU and the college's had already successfully completed three of the four stages needed to be designated as a TU.

The final stage of the process depended entirely on the Dáil bill being enacted.

Now that the Bill has been passed the two college's are now free to proceed and bring the merger process to a conclusion.

"Resources and structures have been put in place to successfully deliver the programme of change required to make the MTU a reality and the MTU Project Office has been established to oversee the successful delivery of the project," said management at IT Tralee.