Plan to form technological university for the west moves a step closer

GMIT, Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo submit bid to create new university in January 2022

Plans to form a new technological university for the west and northwest region have moved a step closer after an alliance of three institutes of technology submitted a formal application to the Government.

Galway-Mayo IT, Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo – known as the Connacht Ulster Alliance – have formed a joint bid to merge and secure technological university status.

If approved, it is likely the new university would be legally established in January 2022.

The colleges said it would result in one of the largest multi-campus universities in Ireland, with 20,000 students across eight campuses in Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.

Two other groups of institutes of technology have also submitted applications to form technological universities which, if approved, are likely to be established in the coming months.

Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology hope to create a technological university for the midlands and midwest by September of this year.

Waterford IT and IT Carlow have also submitted plans to form a technological university for the southeast. They hope to secure university status in January of next year.

The Government’s argument in favour of creating technological universities is that they can deliver greater impact by combining their resources and expertise.

However, some plans have been delayed by concerns among unions over terms and conditions for academic staff.

Regional growth

Speaking following the formal receipt of the application to form a technological university for the west and northwest, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said it was an important day for the region.

He said a technological university would have the potential to further drive the development of higher education and regional growth in the west and northwest with strong cross-border links.

“I will carefully consider the application and the requisite reports and views on it, such as are required under the act to be furnished to me without prejudice and in accordance with the relevant legislative requirements and timeframes,” he said.

In a joint statement, the presidents of the Connacht Ulster Alliance – Dr Orla Flynn, Paul Hannigan and Brendan McCormack – said a new technological university would be "of critical importance" to the region's future prosperity, offering academic depth to attract, educate, nurture and retain talent in the region.

They said that as a merged technological university they would be a leader in the provision of apprenticeship, part-time, full-time, campus- and work-based modes of learning.

Employer’s group Ibec welcomed the submission, while students’ union presidents across the three institutes have given the application their support.

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