Technology institutes to apply for university status by end of year

Quinn publishes Bill to allow for the creation of a number of technological universities

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn said he would expect applications to come in before the end of the year. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn said he would expect applications to come in before the end of the year. Photograph: The Irish Times

Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 15:39

Applications to become Ireland’s first technological university could reach the Department of Education as early as the end of the year.

Legislation should be ready by that time to allow former institutes of technology to take on this new status, the Minister for Education and Skills said today.

Mr Ruairí Quinn published the heads of Bill for legislation that will allow for the creation under statute of a number of technological universities.

“We would expect applications to come in before the end of the year but it might be early 2015,” he said this morning when publishing the General Scheme of the Technological Universities Bill.

A new kind of university for Ireland, the institutions will be formed by existing institutes of technology joining together to agree a complete amalgamation of formerly separate institutes and then making a bid for the new status. Existing campuses would be retained however so the new universities would have multiple locations.

Three groups of institutes have already expressed an interest in doing so once the legislation is in place. The group most advanced towards achieving this goal includes the Dublin Institute of Technology, the Institute of Technology Tallaght and the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown.

Similar interest has been expressed by Cork Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology, Tralee who would form a technical university in the southwest and by Waterford Institute of Technology and Carlow Institute of Technology in the southeast.

The assessment process to follow the applications would be stringent, Mr Quinn said. “This will not be a political decision,” he indicated. “It would not be for me or the department to decide this.”

Rather an international panel would assess whether the institutes seeking technological university status had achieved the highest international standards for such bodies.

“We can’t simply rebrand the institutes,” he said. The new institutions would also be “fundamentally different from the academic universities”, he added.

Their “distinct mission” would be to provide high quality enterprise focused education and research, he said.

The bill represented a milestone in the modernisation and reform of higher education institutions.

The bill follows recommendations from the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (the Hunt Report) and by the Higher Education Authority’s landscape report on third level institutions.