Institutes of technology warned on applications for university status


TUI:THE TEACHERS' Union of Ireland (TUI) has warned that institutes of technology that have applied for university status must be careful not to neglect their "original mission of provision of apprenticeship and technological courses".

Speaking at the TUI annual congress in Wexford yesterday, general secretary Peter MacMenamin said that a major strength of the institutes of technology was that in addition to degree and post-graduate courses, they provided courses at certificate and diploma level and have developed expertise in apprentice education.

Waterford, Dublin and Cork institutes of technology have all applied for university status, leading to fears that if that status is granted, students studying for certificate courses and apprenticeships may be displaced.

It is believed in the event of an institute of technology achieving university status, the apprenticeship courses may be the first to suffer.

Indeed during the economic downturn of the 1980s, a number of institutes decided, according to Mr MacMenamin, "to get rid of the dirty overalls and bring in the nice clean professional courses".

These institutes changed their tune as the economic boom started and there was a scramble to reinstate them.

The TUI is opposed to any such withdrawals from the provision of these courses, according to Mr MacMenamin.

He maintained that provision of this range of qualifications should continue "irrespective of the institutional aspirations of any particular Institute."

He continued: "The level six and seven courses and the apprenticeship levels are so crucial and somebody has to do it."

Waterford IT applied for university status in 2006 and it is probably the most high-profile contender for university status. A 2004 OECD report on Higher Education, stated that there should be no further institutional transfers to the university sector in Ireland.

A Government decision on the recommendations of a report on the issue by Dr Jim Port is expected in the coming weeks.

Institutes of technology fulfil a particular role in the Irish education system, Mr MacMenamin said.

When the Dublin Institute of Technology first applied for university status in the mid-1990s it was said that if DIT became a university, somebody would have to invent another DIT. That application failed but the institute reapplied late last year.

While the TUI welcomed further development of courses at degree and post-graduate level in the institutes, Mr MacMenamin maintained that any move by an institute towards university status should not result in the neglect of its original mission.