Ireland’s new technological education sector

Technological Universities have a focus on science and technology programmes

New Technological Universities have been created under reforms set out in Ireland’s National Strategy for Higher Education and subsequently legislated for under the Technological Universities Act.

Published in 2011, the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 recommended significant reform of the Irish higher education sector, including the consolidation of Institutes of Technology to create amalgamated institutions.

Five Technological Universities are the result of this consolidation which involves 12 of Ireland's 14 Institutes of Technology. The two remaining Institutes of Technology, Dundalk IT and IADT Dún Laoghaire, are expected to achieve TU status in due course.

The five new Technology Universities are:

Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin): Established in January 2019, TU Dublin was the first Technological University to be established following the merger of DIT, IT Blanchardstown and IT Tallaght.

Munster Technological University (MTU): Established in January 2021, MTU was created following the amalgamation of Cork IT and IT Tralee.

Technological University of the Shannon (TUS): Established in October 2021 following the merger of Athlone and Limerick ITs.

Atlantic Technological University (ATU): Established in April 2022, ATU was created following the merger of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo, and Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

South East Technological University (SETU): To be established in May 2022 following the merger of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow.

So Ireland will have five fully established Technological Universities by the beginning of the new 2022 academic year, but why should you opt to study at one of these institutions?

1. Technological by name, technological by nature: Technological Universities have a focus on science and technology programmes that are vocationally and professionally oriented. Courses range from bio-medical engineering to ICT, engineering and construction and many more. While not replacing traditional universities, some courses also extend into areas not traditionally associated with technology such as human nutrition, law, nursing and business.

2. Access: Technological Universities are expected to address the social and economic needs of their region and to provide access for all students who can benefit from higher education. Part of the thinking behind the amalgamation is that students should have access to university in every region of the country. They are also required to pay particular attention to those without a family tradition of participation in higher education. Technological Universities have also been given access to funding to build student accommodation to address the student housing crisis. TUs will also be more attractive for international students who may not have been aware of what Institutes of Technology had to offer.

3. Selection of qualifications: The supply of skilled graduates is a key component of any successful economy and Technological Universities offer a range of qualifications from apprenticeships, degrees, professional accreditations to master's and PhDs. Students who graduate from a TU will do so with university qualifications.

4. Career-oriented training: Practical career-focused courses are often viewed in other countries to be of equal status to those traditionally offered by third-level colleges. Students often have a vocational path in mind from the outset and, as such, Technological Universities can be an attractive option not only for school-leavers but also for late developers or mature students who wish to upskill or train for a new career.

5. Hands-on learning: Hands-on practical learning boosts student engagement and the retention of information. It usually combines theory and practice and can be more interactive than attending large lectures and writing essays often associated with the traditional approach taken by universities. Many technology and science oriented programmes take a hands-on approach and students can find the learning experience more engaging when they actively participate in class.

6. Industry partnerships: Technological Universities engage closely with local and regional businesses to develop partnerships, industry-focused research, and programmes which give students valuable exposure to industry before starting their career.

7. Educated staff: To qualify as a Technological University, each institution had to meet detailed eligibility criteria set out in the legislation. At least 90 per cent of the full-time academic staff engaged in the provision of a programme that leads to an award at honours degree level and above must hold a master's or doctorate level qualification, and at least 45 per cent must hold a doctorate level qualification. Each institution is obliged to have a plan demonstrating that they would have the capacity to increase the number of doctorate level qualified staff from 45 to 65 per cent within 10 years.

8. Collaboration and services: The amalgamation of multiple Institutes of Technology means each Technological University will have access to the full range of supports the wider institution can offer. This will allow for better collaboration between academics but also access for students to services ranging from libraries to sports facilities.

9 Jobs: Technology graduates tend to be quickly hired after graduation and, because the qualifications are often specialised, starting salaries can be higher on the pay scale than many other disciplines.

There are a lot of options and a lot of courses to consider in almost every field of study. Students considering their options ahead of the CAO Change of Mind deadline should visit university websites and read up on each course. The practical side is also important and students would be advised to establish if the TU offers on-campus accommodation. Most third-level institutions organise on-campus open days which give prospective students an opportunity to get a better feel for the place.

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