Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today announced the government’s approval of the application from Dublin’s institutes of technology to become Ireland’s first technological university, after years of delays and pushback.
Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (ITB) and Institute of Technology Tallaght (ITT) will now begin the process of merging into one larger institution that will be known as Technological University Dublin from January 2019.
The government also announced €4.4 million of funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for the technological university, under the organisation’s 2018 higher education landscape restructuring funding call. This brings the overall state funding for the technological university in Dublin up to €9.3 million.
The development of technological universities has been led by Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and is part of a wider goal to drive regional growth.
Just a few months ago, DIT celebrated the construction of its historic expansion on the site of the new €220 million Grangegorman campus.
Speaking at today’s launch of Technological University Dublin, Varadkar said it was “an historic day for the future of higher education in Ireland”. He said that the ambition behind the newly established technological universities was “to drive regional development and provide more opportunities for individuals, enterprise and the community”. Varadkar emphasised that this development would improve access to higher education and “promote an entrepreneurial ethos”.
“It will be the only university in Ireland offering programmes from Level 6 to Level 10, from apprenticeships to doctorates, serving students from right across Dublin and the wider region”, he said.
TU4Dublin – the group made up of DIT, ITB, and ITT – submitted its application to become a technological university in late April after the Technological Universities Bill finally passed through the Seanad in March. The application was considered by an international advisory panel, the HEA and the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton.
Speaking at the launch, Bruton said he was happy to grant technological university status to TU4Dublin. He said that “TU Dublin has the potential to be ground-breaking by providing a new, flexible teaching and learning framework to students that is informed by research and offers opportunities for students to pursue diverse programmes across the range of levels”.
Mitchell O’Connor said at the launch that it was the “dawning of new era in Ireland’s higher education history”. “The technological university model provides the template to drive regional development, enhance opportunities for students, and create a step change in the impact and influence of these institutions regionally, nationally and internationally”, she said.
In a press statement, Prof Brian Norton, the President of DIT, said: “This is a milestone day that marks the beginning of a new type of Irish University that will revolutionise Higher Education in this country. TU Dublin will be positioned at the convergence of the arts, business, science and technology, and will strengthen the Greater Dublin Region and its [sic] prominence as a location that encourages and supports knowledge advancement, sustainable development and inclusive education.”
The Technological Universities Bill was first proposed in 2015 but experienced years of delays and pushback. While it took a long time to win support for the proposal, the bill passed through the final stages quickly, with the Dáil approving it in January and the Seanad in March.
Institutes of Technology pushed for technological university status to improve their international standing, to attract more foreign students and investment and to diversify the education they were providing.
Students’ unions in the Dublin-based institutes of technology were initially sceptical about the amalgamation of the institutions, with particular concerns about a spike in CAO points. However, students’ union presidents in ITB and ITT reported that these concerns had been alleviated and that prospective students were very excited at the prospect of the new technological university.
Three other applications are expected to be made for technological university status in the coming years. Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee have formed the Munster Technological University consortium. Connacht Ulster Alliance is made up of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology Sligo and the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Waterford Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology Carlow are set to merge to form the Technological University for the South-East.