Legislation aimed at paving the way for new Technological Universities in Ireland has been successfully passed through the Dáil. The move comes almost three years after the bill was first announced in 2015.
The bill will ultimately create a new category of university in Ireland, by merging existing Institutes of Technology into national Technological Universities. Minister for Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor spoke after the successful passage of the Bill through the Dáil. She explained that “the creation of technological universities provides the opportunity to drive regional development, and provide more opportunities for individuals, enterprise, and the community.” The plan is to build upon the strengths and missions of the current Institutes of Technologies to create “world-class technological universities.”
Of the State’s 14 Institutes of Technology, ten across Dublin, Munster, Connacht-Ulster, and the southeast are bidding to become Technological Universities. The government has allocated €6.3 million to support the development of these new universities.
The Dublin syndicate is set to be the frontrunner of this development; with plans to open the ‘Technological University for Dublin’ (TU4 Dublin) by the end of this year. This university will see the amalgamation of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (ITB) and Tallaght Institute of Technology (ITT), and is to be based at the Grangegorman campus in Dublin.
There are plans in development for other locations across the country, including the unification of Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and the Institute of Technology Carlow (ITC) to form the Technological University for the South East. The Connacht-Ulster Alliance will be created when the Institute of Technology Sligo (IT Sligo), Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) and the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) are merged under the bill.
The creation of these new universities will lead to fewer duplicate courses, increased financial resources and a new technological university qualification for students. The culmination of these existing institutions will integrate the teaching of practical skills into better-resourced technological universities and rewarding students with a more prestigious and internationally recognisable final degree.
Speaking to The University Times last year, Vice-President for Strategy at WIT, Richard Hayes, explained that the bill would create “a pathway for already high-performing Institutes of Technology to perform at a higher level again.” He listed the financial incentives, the increased autonomy, and the ability to attract more international students as some of the benefits of becoming part of a technological university. It “holds the promise of a change in the funding of our organisations,” Hayes said of the Bill.
Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne stated that the party were “very keen to ensure that current levels of course provision be protected in all of the regions and campuses of a technological university. The Bill that the Dáil has now passed has provides for this.” The passing of this bill has been called a significant milestone, and Mitchell O’Connor has said that she is looking forward to “discussing the Bill with Senators in the coming weeks”. The Bill will now need to be passed through the Seanad before it is signed into law by the President.