DIT academics criticise institute’s president over merger

Senior staff accuse Prof Brian Norton of not taking their concerns on the plans seriously

DIT academic staff have written to Prof Brian Norton saying they fear the complicated merger will be botched. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

DIT academic staff have written to Prof Brian Norton saying they fear the complicated merger will be botched. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Senior academic staff at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) have accused its president of failing to take seriously their concerns about plans to turn it into a technological university.

Eighteen heads of school in DIT have written to Prof Brian Norton saying the institute has not addressed the “serious nature of the issues and grievances” raised about the proposed merger of DIT with the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and the Institute of Technology Tallaght.

Plans are advancing to merge the three institutions to create a technological university for Dublin, but some DIT academic staff fear the complicated merger will be botched.

They are also seeking assurances about their own status in the technological university.

The TU4Dublin steering group has been set up to manage the merger. The group is chaired by Prof Norton and includes Dr Diarmuid O’Callaghan, president of ITB; Thomas Stone, president of IT Tallaght; and Dr Mary Meaney, former ITB president. She has been seconded as programme leader to manage the team working on preparation and application.

Last month the 18 heads of school told the college’s chairman, Prof Tom Collins, they were taking the “unprecedented step” of writing the letter to Prof Norton because they were “seriously aggrieved” with the process of setting up the technological university.

In response, Prof Norton thanked them for “sharing very honestly your views and concerns” and said they had raised a number of issues he would reflect on with the steering group.

He said it was time for “meaningful discussions to take place on academic provision and organisation design, but it is important that everyone has a sense of ownership of this complex process if we are to succeed”.

Steering group

He stopped short of offering the DIT academics places on the steering group.

In response the 18 heads of school asked to know who was on the group and what were its terms of reference. They also requested that it be expanded to reflect the fact that DIT is much the biggest of the three institutions involved.

In addition they sought information on who was on the TU4D programme team, which is looking at the practicalities of the project.

In their letter, they wrote: “The lack of transparency in this uncontested process by which appointments have been made to the TU4D programme team has afforded those appointed additional benefits . . . and have conferred an unfair advantage with regards to future appointments within the technological university.”

Prof Collins responded to the letter by acknowledging there was a “communication deficit with your group regarding developments and proposals concerning the future of the TU4D”.

He said the steering group has agreed to appoint an independent external facilitator to work directly with the heads of school in the three institutions.

He also promised to set up a meeting with Prof Norton and the heads of school to discuss the technological university.

* This article has been amended to correct a factual error