Taoiseach Micheál Martin has paid tribute to Ireland’s regional technical colleges for helping to attract multinationals into the country and stimulate indigenous tech companies.
A flag raising ceremony for the new Munster Technology University (MTU), the result of a merger between Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee, was held on Monday.
Mr Martin and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris attended a ceremony at the campus in Bishopstown, Cork, with Minister for Education Norma Foley doing the honours in Tralee.
The Taoiseach said it was “a fantastic day” for the institutions and region.
“Most people would say that the forerunners to this college, the institutes of technology and the regional technical colleges, were actually central to inward investment into the southwest by foreign multinational companies as well of course as helping stimulate Irish companies,” he said.
Mr Martin said pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies spoke very highly of the quality of graduates that came out of life sciences, engineering and other courses in the Cork and Tralee colleges over the last 30 years.
He said the new MTU would have a vital role to play in producing graduates to help address the major challenges that Ireland and other countries currently face such as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Fianna Fáil leader said “the importance of higher education has never been greater” and that “we will need to maximise our ability to produce talented and responsible graduates who can lead, innovate, create, inspire, and transform”.
“We will need these graduates in every village, town, city and region in Ireland if we are to achieve the ground-up community engagement required to succeed in a sustainable manner. Developing technological universities is key in this context, and the establishment of MTU, in particular, will prove to be transformative for the southwest region.”
Mr Harris said the MTU would help to increase access to higher education, boost regional development and increase opportunities for students, staff, businesses and local communities. He paid tribute to staff at the former Cork IT and IT Tralee who had "worked tirelessly to make it possible".
Ms Foley said the development was a very positive one for education in the region.
“In the department it is our imperative that every child has access to the very best that education has to offer, and that they feel supported and cared for within the school environment,” she said.
"I would like to wish (MTU president) Prof Maggie Cusack and all the staff and students at MTU the very best as they continue this tradition in providing excellence in education for communities across the country."
Prof Cusack said demand for places at the technological university through the CAO system had surged, with first-preference honours degree applications for courses rising by more than 16 per cent, almost twice the national average.
She said the KTI Annual Knowledge Transfer Survey indicated that total research expenditure exceeded €22 million last year at MTU, which has 18,000 students enrolled across six campuses in Cork and Kerry and more than 140 programmes of study.