A Technological University for the west and northwest is to be established early next year, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has announced.
The move follows an application from the Galway-Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny institutes of technology to come together to gain university status.
The multi-campus technological university, the fourth to be announced since 2019, will involve thousands of students spread across locations in Castlebar, Galway city, Killybegs, Letterfrack, Letterkenny, Mountbellew and Sligo.
“This new technological university will increase higher education access, drive enhanced regional development and increase opportunities for students, staff, business and enterprise, and local communities,” Mr Harris said.
“Its establishment will allow people in the furthest-flung corner of the island through digital connectivity to obtain a university degree in their home places. I am delighted to see this milestone being reached and I want to congratulate all involved.”
The first technological university in the State was TU Dublin – a merger of the former institutes of technology in the capital. It was established in January 2019. It has been followed by a Munster Technological University – formerly Cork IT and IT Tralee – last January and the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest, which was announced at the start of this month.
Mr Harris said the “final piece in the national TU jigsaw” was creating a university for the southeast region and that he would be making a decision on an application for the region in the coming days.
The Government says technological universities have greater critical mass and capacity to meet local skills and build international links. They offer a range of qualifications ranging from apprenticeships to PhDs.
There have, however, been concerns expressed among some staff over employees’ terms and conditions in the new institutions.
The presidents of the three institutes of technology in the Connacht-Ulster Alliance warmly welcome the announcement.
They said the new TU would offer almost 600 academic programmes from pre-degree to doctoral level to a student population of more than 20,000 students supported by over 2,200 staff.
Business group Ibec also welcomed the designation. Its northwest regional president, Seamus Hughes, said the university would “support more balanced regional growth” and would help to boost investment in innovation and research locally.
“The establishment of a Technological University is an immensely positive achievement that will underpin the regions’ future economic and social progress,” he said.
Minister of State for Further Education Niall Collins said the development could be “a transformational event for people across Donegal, Galway, Mayo and Sligo”.