DIT academics protest over process for technical university

Heads of schools write letter of complaint of ‘inferior’ status in TU4Dublin talks

DIT president Prof Brian Norton said detailed discussions on the merger with the Tallaght and Blanchardstown institutes were “beginning again”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

DIT president Prof Brian Norton said detailed discussions on the merger with the Tallaght and Blanchardstown institutes were “beginning again”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

 

Eighteen senior academics at Dublin Institute of Technology have written to the chairman of the college’s governing body to express dissatisfaction with the process of setting up a new technical university for Dublin.

The academics, each a “head of school” at DIT, told the college’s chairman Prof Tom Collins they were taking the “unprecedented step” of writing the letter because they were “seriously aggrieved” with the process.

Under Government plans DIT and the institutes of technology at Tallaght and Blanchardstown would be amalgamated to create a new university headquartered on the Grangegorman Campus on Dublin’s northside.

The project has been given the working title TU4Dublin and a steering committee overseeing the proposed move is being chaired by former civil servant Michael Kelly. DIT president Prof Brian Norton, Dr Mary Meaney president of Tallaght IT, and Patrick McLaughlin, president of Blanchardstown IT, are also on the committee.

At a meeting last week, the 18 heads of school at DIT unanimously agreed to write to Prof Collins raising “the nature of engagement” by the committee.

In the letter they claim to have been “excluded” in the process which saw heads of school from Tallaght and Blanchardstown being made “ex-offico members of the senior team discussing the future of the technological university”.

The academics say they were initially told they were being sidelined because the sheer number of DIT personnel would swamp the smaller institutions.

‘Operational managers’

However, the DIT academics say they have been told “the DIT head of school cadre are merely operational managers”.

They told Prof Collins the description had been “reiterated by members of the TU4Dublin steering group on several occasions”. They said their role was “undermined” which was “ a travesty” considering that the DIT staff had created a “de facto” university in “everything but name”.

The letter pointed out that DIT was recognised internationally for its position in “the top 100 young universities” of the world “in repeated surveys”.

Regarding DIT staff “as being at operational level and inferior in nature” to other staff in the other institutions was “simply not acceptable” and “will disable from the outset the ability of the institution to function as a university”.

Prof Norton told The Irish Times that detailed discussions on the merger were “beginning again” as the enabling legislation was due before the Oireachtas following a two-year hiatus. He said the “first joint meetings of heads of school from the three institutions have taken place, picking up from where discussions had reached in 2015.

“Circumstances and personnel have changed in the interim and it was agreed that further discussion is needed to find the best way to involve all colleagues in an equal and transparent way, with the objective of creating an innovative institution that responds to student needs and those of wider society.”

He added: “While there will be different views about the roadmap, there is a shared commitment to achieve the best outcome.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said “concerns raised are matters to be resolved by the individual institutions” and that the department was confident the structures were in place “to support a positive dialogue”.

She said it was hoped that the Technological Universities Bill would be enacted by the end of the year.