THE HEADS of five Institutes of Technology from the Border, Midlands and West region have confirmed they are at an “advanced stage” in talks to establish a common ‘technological university’.
The Presidents and senior staff from ITs in Athlone, Dundalk, Galway-Mayo, Letterkenny and Sligo are leading the talks on the creation of a ‘BMW Technological University’.
If the talks come to fruition – and the government approves the creation of such a university – the combined institution would be the largest higher education institution in Ireland, with a student body of around 27,000.
Athlone IT president, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, said the new body would be “a differentiated institution, one that will be known for the excellence of its teaching and learning, and for its close collaboration with industry.
“Such a technological university will be much more than the sum of its parts, it will be a powerful agent of change in higher education for all the communities and stakeholders involved.”
The university heads say their institutions already have a history of collaboration through the Líonra network, which was created in 1999 to further economic renewal in the BMW region.
A government report published in January 2011 advised against the creation of any further universities in their current form, but did ‘envisage’ amending the definition of a ‘university’ to allow for technological universities to be updated.
Last year Dublin IT, IADT Dún Laoghaire, IT Blanchardstown and IT Tallaght expressed their desire to merge and form a technological university, while Waterford IT has also been lobbying for university status given that there are no universities in the south-east, most likely through a merger with the IT in Carlow.
The news comes on the same day the Irish Times reported that the heads of the seven current Irish universities were due to meet and issue a statement opposing the establishment of a university in the south-east.
Seán Flynn had reported from a confidential discussion paper which outlined the university presidents’ fears that the creation of extra universities would place the sector under even greater funding pressures at a time when it was already under threat.