Can a TU advance my career like a traditional university can?

Both technological and traditional universities are required to meet specific standards and criteria

Close links with industry, a broad range of programmes, and plenty of work experience opportunities make technological universities (TUs) an alluring option for any student who wants to advance their career.

We caught up with some of the career officers from across the sector to find out how students can explore the curriculum in the TUs, as well as research career paths and seek out mentoring and networking opportunities.

From a career point of view, how do TUs differ?

Christiane Brennan, career coach with TU Dublin: We have a different method of teaching here. There are lots of chances for students to apply their own learning, so it’s not a question of just sitting in a lecture theatre being passively taught. Students take part in group, individual and live projects where they liaise with an industry partner. There are also regular lecturers for talks and laboratories.

In labs, students get hands-on use of the equipment and they do a lot of industry-focused case studies.


Aidan Haughey, spokesman for Atlantic Technological University (ATU): Technological Universities address the social and economic needs of their region and engage in industry-focused research. What makes TUs different compared to traditional universities is the focus on delivering professionally oriented programmes, while addressing the social and economic needs of the region we serve. Facilitating access to education and strengthening partnerships with further education providers is a significant focus of TUs.

Aoife Prendergast, careers and employability manager at Technological University of the Shannon (TUS) Midwest: Our careers and employability service actively engages with students to enrich their understanding of the graduate skills and attributes required to make a successful transition from TUS to the world of work.

TUS is richly contributing to transformative higher education post Covid-19 in the area of careers and employability by providing relevant and authentic work-based learning opportunities for students and a careers service across all multicampus locations in TUS. Our research-informed education will produce work-ready and world-ready graduates who will make a notable impact on our region and drive wider societal transformation.

Has the status of their degrees changed since the institutes of technology became technological universities?

Christiane Brennan, TU Dublin: It has made a difference for students to be able to get a university degree. It has also meant that, for students who may have found it harder to commute to a city centre DIT campus, they now also have options in Tallaght and Blanchardstown.

Do the TUs open up new career opportunities for students?

Christiane Brennan, TU Dublin: In second-level, some students may struggle academically and find few subjects that interest them. At third-level, however, they can choose what really interests them, and do exceptionally well.

I have seen students come into a TU with lower CAO points [than they may need for a traditional university degree], and come out with first-class honours on a course they love and can really engage with.

We have students who may start at level six certificate, move through the [National Framework of Qualifications] ladder into level seven or eight, and ultimately end up coming out with a PhD.

Aidan Haughey, ATU: Our legacy campuses have always attracted students with high CAO points, but what makes TUs different is that we offer programmes from level six higher certificate level to PhD level 10. As a TU, we continue to attract students with high CAO points because of our strong programme provision and reputation for academic excellence, while continuing to provide students from all backgrounds with an opportunity to progress to third-level education.

Are there work experience opportunities at the TUs?

Aoife Prendergast, TUS Midwest: Work placement is a distinctive feature of the “work ready” curriculum in our undergraduate programmes. Students [have an opportunity] to gain the transferable skills that employers seek to meet contemporary challenges, while also integrating theory into professional practice.

Christiane Brennan, TU Dublin: Most of our programmes have a placement in third year. In some of our programmes, including human nutrition and dietetics, or in optometry, it is threaded throughout their time in college.

Our masters programmes also include placements, which is a really big advantage: if, for instance, a graduate is studying, say, fashion buying or digital marketing, there is a placement as part of that.

What sort of links do TUs have with employers?

Aoife Prendergast, TUS Midwest: The team is committed to fostering and maintaining strong regional partnerships with employers and university staff to deliver programmes, services and resources to help students explore their career options, build their employability skills, secure work placement and develop effective career management strategies to ensure their competitiveness in the global workplace.

Christiane Brennan, TU Dublin: TUs are very vocationally oriented, and the courses are quite practical – as opposed to theoretical. We change to meet the needs of industry, whether that means developing and offering new courses or simply keeping up to date with what is happening in that industry. Some of our programmes also have professional accreditation from the relevant industry or professional body.

How can students find out more about their programme?

Christiane Brennan, TU Dublin: Do try to research as much as you can about a programme. Go beyond the website, ask to talk to the programme chair, look at the reading list. Investigate as much as possible.

Focus on: ATU and links to the professions

ATU offers multiple routes both directly and indirectly into the teaching profession.

St Angela’s College is the leading provider of home economics teacher education, with options to combine with biology, Irish or religious education.

ATU Galway offers a four-year level 8 degree in education (design, graphics and construction), with students qualified to teach construction studies and design and communication graphics (DCG) to senior cycle honours level.

Across ATU, numerous level eight honours degrees are mapped to the Teaching Council of Ireland’s subject requirements to teach various subjects at secondary school level including PE, English, business, Irish, science, chemistry, art, biology, engineering and more.

ATU also offers students alternative pathways into allied health professions: ATU Donegal offers level six higher certificates in health science with direct entry into Coventry University for those seeking careers in physiotherapy, occupational therapy or dietetics. Students spend two years studying in ATU Donegal and then progress on to study for a further two years in Coventry University, exiting with an honours degree in their chosen profession.

ATU’s school of nursing, meanwhile, is working with the further education sector on unique pathways into the profession, with the aim of expanding provision within the west and northwest, widening accessibility and participation in the sector.

In addition to undergraduate studies, each of the nursing schools offer postgraduate studies, delivered in a flexible learning environment, as blended learning or modular study, facilitating lifelong learning and career development.

Focus on: SETU’s career development centres

The role of South East Technological University’s (SETU’s) award-winning careers development centres across its campuses is to support students in discovering and developing their career and life goals for the future. Enhancing students’ self-confidence, self-efficacy and self-esteem is critical to success in studies, and career search, career management and wellbeing are at the core of its mission.

The centre delivers presentations to students throughout the year to ensure they are ready to compete for the so-called “milk round” of graduate opportunities, placement opportunities, summer placement and other job opportunities as they arise.

The university connects students to a wide range of potential employers throughout the year, and also invites employers and organisations to visit on an ongoing basis to facilitate fairs, seminars and a general on-campus presence throughout the academic year.

Students can attend one-to-one consultations and appointments with their expert careers advisers on topics as varied as jobs, further education and career paths.

SETU advertises a wide range of opportunities, from seasonal work and summer internships to graduate-level roles. They also work closely with the disability department providing specific support for neurodiverse students.

There are established work experience programmes on nearly all SETU courses, ensuring students get the opportunity to put their learning into practice and allowing them to start building contacts within their chosen field.

Part of the work of the careers development team is to encourage engagement with a broad range of extra and co-curricular activities, enabling students to apply their skills to other situations such as the workplace. It also encourages broad engagement at university and, in turn, develops a more engaged future employee.