Written answers

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Department of Education and Skills

Technological Universities

Photo of Peter BurkePeter Burke (Longford-Westmeath, Fine Gael)
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97. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills his plans to upgrade AIT Athlone to university status; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18867/16]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy will be aware, the new Programme for Government outlines that this new Government will continue to support the creation of Technological Universities.

This is in line with the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 which provides a framework for the development of the higher education sector to 2030. With regard to the institute of technology sector, the Strategy recommended significant reforms to position the sector to meet national strategic objectives. In particular, in order to qualify for technological university status, the Strategy recommended that Institutes of Technology would have to merge and to demonstrate significant progress against robust performance criteria before they can apply to be designated as a technological university.

The Government is keen not to replicate the mistakes made in other countries and to avoid a scenario whereby Institutes of Technology are allowed to become Technological Universities simply as a rebranding exercise, in the process damaging the strengths of the sector, and the national and international reputation of the Irish Higher Education system, built up over many years.

Regional Focus: There will also be a specific focus on the particular contribution the university will make to the needs of the region in which it is located. The development of technological universities has the potential to deliver greater opportunity to students in these regions, to staff working in the institutions, and to the broader local economy and society.

Consortiums who have applied: As part of the implementation of the Strategy, the Higher Education Authority in 2012 published a four-stage process and criteria for applicant groups of institutes of technology wishing to apply to become technological universities.

The designation process consists of four stages as follows:

- an expression of interest,

- the preparation of a plan to meet the criteria,

- an evaluation of the plan, and

- an application for designation.

There are currently four consortia engaged with the process to become designated as TUs. These are TU4Dublin (Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Tallaght, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown), Technological University for the South-East (TUSE – consisting of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow), Munster Technological University (MTU – consisting of Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee) and the Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA – consisting of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo and Letterkenny Institute of Technology).

Position of Technological Universities Bill: The first Government Legislative Programme of this new Partnership Government was published on 8 June 2016, and the Technological Universities Bill has been restored to the Dáil Order Paper at Committee Stage.

I recognise that there were a significant number of matters raised in respect of the Bill at both Committee and Report Stage. It is my intention to now consult with all of the relevant stakeholders, including Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), in relation to both the matters raised during the legislative process and the commitments contained in the Programme for Government.

Following the finalisation of this consultation process I will then advance the legislation having determined a position in relation to any matters raised as part of this consultation process.


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