The government has announced that three new Technological Universities could be established by next year by merging existing Institutes of Technology.
This decision is said to mark a new, more regional “multi-campus approach” to third-level education, according to Minister of State Niall Collins at an Oireachtas Committee for Education hearing on February 23rd.
There are currently only two Technological Universities in the country.
Technological University Dublin was formed in 2019 from a merger of DIT, Tallaght IT and Blanchardstown IT while Munster Technological University was created in January as a merger of Cork IT and Tralee IT.
The government is proposing to merge Galway Mayo IT, Sligo IT and Letterkenny IT to form a Technological University for the West of the country named the “Connacht-Ulster Alliance.”
Athlone IT and Limerick IT may be amalgamated as a Midlands Technological University as early as this September and a South-East TU of Waterford IT with Carlow IT is likely.
Sean Duffy, Executive Project Lead of the Connacht-Ulster Alliance believes this will be a “significant reform of the higher education landscape.”
He believes that this reform is occurring due to the changing nature of Institutes of Technology which were “becoming university-type organisations without the title and in many cases there’s a difficulty in access to research funding or access to overseas students.”
Phelim Murinan, a Senior Lecturer in GMIT told The College View that he is sceptical about the project and believes it is purely a re-branding exercise.
“Universities have a social status that Institutes of Technology don’t,” he said, and noted that “quite a few staff want to be able to say ‘I work in a university’ – there’s always that snob side.”
“There’s more money for the university students than for the Institute of Technology students, they’re preferentially treated. Nobody has made it clear to me that that’s going to change.”
The most notable difference between an Institute of Technology and a university is the level of contact between lecturers and students.
In an Institute of Technology, lecturers must have a minimum of 18 hours contact with students per week, but lecturers in university don’t have a minimum number of hours, instead there is a greater focus on research.
Murinan said he thinks everything will stay the same despite the government’s promises.
Duffy, of the Connacht-Ulster Alliance, disagrees however and believes there will be significant change as there’s a requirement to meet rigorous standards and an improvement in quality to become a TU.
“There has to be a substantial increase in the staff qualifications and a substantial increase in the research outputs of the applicants.”
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