A programme for the construction of six higher education buildings has progressed and will go out to tender “immediately”, the Department of Higher Education has said.
Under Project Ireland 2040, the Government has pledged to deliver 11 higher education buildings across the country, which will facilitate an additional 8,000 student places upon completion.
The tender for the first bundle under this Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme – which includes six projects in the eastern and southern regions and in the midlands – will proceed to tender immediately.
The projects are located in the TU Dublin Tallaght and Blanchardstown campuses; in Cork IT and IT Tralee, which will merge to create the new Munster Technological University in January 2021; in the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dún Laoghaire; and in Athlone Institute of Technology.
Following a "pre-qualification process", three construction companies have been shortlisted and are invited to tender for the bundle. The shortlisted companies are BAM Building Ltd, JJ Rhatigan and John Sisk & Son.
Announcing the progress, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said it is a "key milestone" in a "very ambitious programme of investment".
“Such investment has never been more important. The higher education sector, and within that our new Technological Universities and our Institutes of Technology, have an essential role to play in driving recovery across Ireland’s regions and in preparing for the opportunities and challenges of a changing economy,” Mr Harris said.
The buildings will have “a strong focus” on supporting practice-based learning, including laboratories, workshops and studios, he said.
“They will also have significant flexibility to adapt to changing teaching and learning needs, and to support hybrid and remote learning,” he added.
The second bundle of five projects includes investments in the southeast, west and in northwest, and is expected to go to tender in early 2021, the department added.
The projects are located in Waterford IT and IT Carlow, which are part of the consortium seeking to establish a technological university for the southeast; in Galway-Mayo IT and Letterkenny IT, which are part of the Connacht Ulster Alliance; and in Limerick IT, which has formed a consortium with Athlone IT.
The department said it is envisaged the PPP will operate on a Design, Build, Finance and Maintain (DBFM) contract.
The successful tenderer for each of the bundles will construct the buildings using private finance, and will then operate and maintain the buildings over a period of 25 years.
Payment by the department will be by way of monthly unitary charge payments over the 25-year operational period, which will start when construction has been completed, the department added.