AIT and LIT set to establish Ireland’s third technological university 

Kayley Hardiman

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Athlone IT (AIT) and Limerick IT (LIT) are preparing to establish Ireland’s third technological university. 

The AIT-LIT consortium has submitted its application to the government and looks set launch in September 2021 intending to form a contemporary technological university with a regional focus on the midlands.

“There is a formal legislative process to take place now, but this is an exciting prospect for the Midlands and Mid-West and can be regionally hugely transformative,” said Simon Harris, Minister for Higher Education.

The governing bodies of AIT and LIT first considered launching a technological university in February 2019. In March 2019, they submitted a joint application for funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) under the higher education landscape fund, calling for €14 million in funds.

The HEA approved the consortium in October 2019, along with the government providing €2 million in funding for the project. The shared consortium vision for a technological university is supported by the Ireland 2040 National Development Plan, which seeks to create sustainable, competitive and balanced regions.

The consortium was also admitted to join the new European Universities Network which aims to create a centralised European education area to will enable students to obtain a degree by combining studies in multiple EU countries.

“Membership of the European Universities initiative will aid us in achieving our technological university mission by enabling us to leverage international best practice, increase student and staff mobility while facilitating joint degree and research programmes,” said Ciarán Ó Catháin, President of AIT.

Harris said the new university “bodes very well for the future experience of our students, academics, and researchers, as [it will provide] many more opportunities to experience international education and other cultures and to build alliances and partnerships as well as friendships for the longer term.”

To ensure the collaboration between AIT and LIT runs smoothly, the consortium has established 17 different working groups to advance the project.

“Our approach is based on partnership and consensus, and is indeed underpinned by consultation with staff, students and other stakeholders. The consortium has a strong set of shared values and a shared ethic that provides a firm foundation to deliver on our future strategy,” said Vincent Cunnane, President of LIT,

The new educational institution is expected to have a student population of 15,000 and 1,200 staff members across six campuses in Athlone, Limerick, Ennis, Clonmel and Thurles.

The collaboration will have a significant impact on the midlands region, given the lack of a university there.

“This is a transformational development for the Midlands, and once it comes to fruition, it will provide significant social and economic benefit to communities across the region and beyond. Becoming a TU will broaden access to higher education and create opportunities in areas that have previously been underserved with respect to apprenticeships right through to PhD,” Ó Catháin said.

Kayley Hardiman

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