by Adam Higgins
Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) has been given permission to award its own degrees up to doctorate level.
AIT had previously not been allowed to award its own doctorates but it now has the power to grant PhD’s in Polymer Engineering, toxicology and microbiology. Formerly students received their degrees from the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC).
The Council also extended delegated authority to AIT, to make awards in respect of research Master’s programmes in software engineering.
President of Athlone Institute of Technology, Ciarán Ó Catháin, was delighted with HETAC’s decision. He said it was a “very significant development in terms of the maturity of the institute and AIT’s capacity to award degrees at the highest level.”
Mr. Ó Catháin went on to say how it would affect Athlone, “This is further recognition of AIT’s standing as a provider of quality assured higher education programmes and extends the range of opportunities which is available in the region.”
HETAC made the decision to promote AIT in its September meeting. Representatives from the organisation visited the campus in January 2011, when they met with research staff from institutes in Polymer Engineering, Toxicology and Microbiology.
They also had an opportunity to examine the physical facilities available to researchers in these areas, including AIT’s new research hub which was opened in 2010, including purpose-built research workspace, seminar and social space.
HETAC was created in 1999 by the Qualifications Act. Its role is to set the standard for named awards, the validation of programmes, the agreement of providers’ quality assurance procedures and the review of the implementation and effectiveness of those procedures.
Under the National Framework of Qualifications, there are 10 different levels of awards. Doctorates are at the top as level tens while masters are at level nine. AIT can now award both as part of their new promotion by HETAC.
Dr Joseph Ryan, Academic Registrar of AIT, said: “The achievement of delegated authority to make awards at the highest doctoral level is testimony to the standing of the institute and the research capacity and commitment of the staff and students.”