Quinn to outline proposals for technological universities

Creation of universities set to involve mergers between current institutes

 Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn: Government sources said the Minister does not want a similar situation to arise as happened in the UK some two decades ago where many dozens of institutions were accorded university status without sufficiently rigorous scrutiny.

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn: Government sources said the Minister does not want a similar situation to arise as happened in the UK some two decades ago where many dozens of institutions were accorded university status without sufficiently rigorous scrutiny.

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 08:30

Legislative proposals will be brought to Cabinet this morning paving the way for new technological universities to be established in the State.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will bring the general scheme of Technological Universities Bill to the weekly meeting of Government Ministers this morning.

The memorandum will give the legal underpinning that will allow new universities in the State for the first time since the University of Limerick and Dublin City University were given that status.

The other two main universities are Dublin University (TCD) and the constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland (UCD, UCC, NUIG, and NUI, Maynooth).


Comprehensive review
In a separate development, Mr Quinn will also be bringing the report of an expert group that conducted a comprehensive review of existing apprenticeship schemes in Ireland and which has recommended major changes for the future.

The review looked at traditional apprenticeships – such as plumbing, carpentry and electrician-training – and has also identified the need for training and new skills in more modern industry such as ICT, pharma, and green energy.

The heads of the technological university legislation will allow some of the institutes of technology in the State progress to university status.

Government sources said Mr Quinn does not want a similar situation to arise as happened in the UK some two decades ago where many dozens of institutions were accorded university status without sufficiently rigorous scrutiny.

“The word ‘university’ is very important,” said the source. “We want to make sure that we protect the word and the concept.”


Mergers
In addition, the creation of universities will also involve mergers between current institutes. The standards that will be laid down will be very exacting, said the source, and institutes will need to merge in order to demonstrate a sincere and full commitment to attaining the new status.

The final evaluation of whether or not the applicants meet the criteria will not be made at a political level or within the State. It will be conducted by an international panel comprised of experts in this area.

It is understood that from Mr Quinn’s perspective he believes a strong apprenticeship system is vital for the future. He is also keen to see a move towards a proper gender balance in apprenticeships.

The review group has recommended that Solas, the training authority, continues to oversee the apprenticeship schemes but that it work in close co-operation with the Higher Education Authority. Another recommendation is for an apprenticeship council to be established to plan and deliver the new system.

The group puts a lot of emphasis on the vital role that employers will play and suggests that consortiums of employers should identify occupations suitable for apprenticeship.

Employers should pay apprentices in new apprenticeship areas for both the on-the-job and off-the-job periods, with the State meeting the off-the-job training costs, it recommends.