Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

3:00 am

Photo of Maurice CumminsMaurice Cummins (Fine Gael)

Senators Bacik, Healy Eames, Conway and Barrett called for a debate on third level education, in particular the criteria in respect of designation for technological universities. The HEA published the criteria for designation of technological universities yesterday. It also published two other papers, Towards a Future Higher Education Landscape, which provides a basis for institutes to review their mission in terms of how they will fit into the coherent higher education system now being developed, and Guidelines on Regional Clusters, which sets out how clusters of institutions are to be formed to serve regional needs. These documents have been sent to the universities and institutes of technology and each institution has been asked to make a submission to the HEA within six months setting out its strategic intentions as to where it proposes to position itself in the Irish higher education system. Submissions are to cover such areas as the institution’s distinctive mission, its preferred institutional structure, having regard to its current strengths, its institutional alliances and its involvement in regional clusters, as well as any other matters relevant to its future strategic development. There is much detail in this regard and I certainly will try to facilitate a debate on the structure.

From a personal perspective, I can state with certainty that Waterford Institute of Technology has started this process. The take-up of graduates and people involved in third-level education is lower in the south east than in any other region and it is the only region that does not have a university. Consequently, Waterford Institute of Technology has legitimately set out its place and laid its cards on the table. I realise that many other institutes of technology are beginning to come on-stream to try to get in. When Waterford Institute of Technology was upgraded from being a regional technical college to the status of an institute of technology, it was supposed to be the only such institute at the time. However the then Government - I acknowledge my party and the Labour Party also was involved - decided for political purposes to upgrade all the regional technical colleges to the status of institute of technology.

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