THREE INSTITUTES of Technology have given education minister Ruairí Quinn a new headache – by announcing their intention to come together and merge into a new technological university.
The ITs in Cork, Tralee and Limerick say they wish to establish a Munster Technological University (MTU), which would have an enrolment of around 24,000 people across its five campuses.
In a statement published this morning, the three institutes said they had been working together to establish MTU since the publication of the Hunt Report on higher education last year.
That report had recommended against the designation of any new universities in their current format, but said there was room to create ‘technological universities’ if the definition of a university was expanded.
The announcement of the MTU project creates difficulties for the government, as it means that every single one of the country’s 13 Institutes of Technology is seeking to become part of a new university, for which there is no legal basis as yet.
Three institutes in Dublin – DIT, Blanchardstown IT and IT Tallaght – are hoping to join with IADT Dún Laoghaire and form a Dublin-based technological university, while the ITs in Waterford and Carlow have been seeking university status for a merged institution for the south-east for decades.
Last week five ITs in the ‘Border, Midlands and West’ (BMW) region – Athlone, Dundalk, Galway-Mayo, Letterkenny and Sligo – announced their intention to seek designation as a BMW technological university.
The heads of Ireland’s seven existing universities – Trinity College, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Galway, NUI Maynooth, University of Limerick and University College Cork – last week said they opposed the creation of new universities.
They argued that the creation of extra universities – when the existing ones are seeing their State funding begin to dry up – would place the higher education sector under even greater pressures.
They also believe the creation of 11 universities – with only a handful of non-university colleges remaining – could undermine or devalue the status of a university.