Atlantic Technological University: Name of State’s newest university revealed

New third-level institution to be based in Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny

The name of the country's newest university, to be established in the west and northwest region next year, has been revealed: Atlantic Technological University.

The move follows an application from the Galway-Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny institutes of technology to come together to gain technological university status.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris confirmed that the university is due to be formally established on April 1st next year.

This means students of the current three institutes who graduate in this academic year of 2021/2022 will do so with university qualifications.

The new name – chosen by the applicant institutes of technology – follows a survey of staff, students and industry.

Mr Harris said Ireland’s fourth technological university will be established subject to the relevant legislative processes being completed.

The multi-campus technological university will involve thousands of students spread across locations in Castlebar, Galway city, Killybegs, Letterfrack, Letterkenny, Mountbellew and Sligo.

In a joint statement, the three institutes said the new name reflects the “deep connections to the region and our ability and ambition to impact at a national and international scale”.

They said it also expresses a “sense of place, culture and heritage” and “ speaks to our unique perspective on an island in the Atlantic that makes waves on an international stage.”

Atlantic Technological University will be the latest technological university to be created in recent years and follows a policy of restructuring the higher education landscape.

It has its genesis in recommendations contained in the National Strategy for Higher Education - published in 2011 - which envisaged creating “stronger” amalgamated institutes of technology.

The first technological university in the State was TU Dublin, based on a merger of the former institutes of technology in the capital. It was established in January 2019.

It has been followed by a Munster Technological University – formerly Cork IT and IT Tralee – last January and the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest, which was announced last October.

A technological university for the southeast region – based on the merger of IT Carlow and Waterford IT – is on course to be established next year.

The Government says technological universities have greater critical mass and capacity to meet local skills and build international links. They offer a range of qualifications from apprenticeships to PhDs.

However, there have been concerns expressed in the traditional university sector that funding for research and other activities may end up being diluted across the higher education sector.

Other education sources accuse the Government of simply making changes to the names of institutions and “dumbing down” the criteria needed to secure technological university status.

Atlantic Technological University, meanwhile, is due to offer almost 600 academic programmes from pre-degree to doctoral level to a student population of more than 20,000 students supported by over 2,200 staff.

It believes it will support more balanced regional growth and help to boost investment in innovation and research locally.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent