Minister to set up expert group on RTCs


THE Minister for Education is setting up an expert group to advise on how regional technical colleges can become institutes of technology, The Irish Times has learned.

When the procedures proposed by the group are established it is expected that Cork RTC will be the first college to take advantage of them.

Ms Breathnach's move follows last week's controversy over the unilateral upgrading of Waterford RTC to become an institute of technology, which caused outrage in Cork and protests from several other RTCS.

The Cork college quickly mounted a high-profile campaign to demand that as the largest RTC in the country, it should be granted the same status as Waterford. Staff and student leaders warned that they could register several thousand voters to cast their votes against Labour in Cork in the forthcoming election.

Last Friday and again yesterday Department of Education officials had lengthy discussions with delegations from Cork RTC. According to a joint statement these were about "a process to facilitate the future status and development of the college, within a national framework for the technological sector".

It is understood that the Cork RTC authorities are now putting together a detailed submission on their case for upgrading.

Department of Education sources said last night the experts group being set up by the Minister would "develop criteria for RTCs, to become institutes of technology and advise on the processes or mechanisms by which the colleges could be independently evaluated on an individual basis".

This process would be open to all RTCs and "each college would go forward on its own merits".

The chairmanship and composition of the expert group is currently being finalised and the Minister is expected to make a public statement announcing its establishment before the end of the week.

Department of Education officials yesterday also had talks with the chairman of the Council of Directors of the RTCs, Dr Sean McDonagh, director of Dundalk RTC, and its secretary, Mr Joseph McGarry.