21 May 2021
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD has today confirmed he has received an application from the Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA) comprising the Institute of Technology Sligo, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and Letterkenny Institute of Technology.
The application is seeking the establishment of a Technological University in Connacht/Ulster in accordance with the prescribed legislative requirements of the Technological Universities Act 2018.
Minister of State, Anne Rabbitte wholeheartedly welcomed the news:
The landscape of higher education is changing. New types of institutions are being formed, and other institutions are engaging in strong alliances, including consolidation and mergers. Before Corona, it was already clear that the current education model must change to keep up with the dynamic job market that demands lifelong learning. Our future will see a demand for education offerings that offer viable routes to employment.
Edtech’s role to help acquire skills to access employment opportunities has never been more important. Edtech companies are seeing 3–10x the normal surges in usage. The coronovirus has advanced us toward the future of learning, by at least 2–3 years based on user signup numbers for digital platforms, and by even more years based on institutional mindset shifts about technology adoption. The future is a world of personalised learning. A world where each student is challenged with materials that are customised to their strengths, needs and interests in a manner that maximises their potential and continues their journey of learning throughout their lives.
Many online educational advocates are urging reporters to draw a distinction between remote learning and online learning because they know the current scramble has resulted in a suboptimal learning experience that is turning some off of distance learning altogether. It makes perfect sense for these three campuses in the West, who already have strong links with local enterprise, business and community stakeholders, to come together an move forward with a modern learning excellence programme ensuring that higher education pathways and access are expanded and enhanced.
Speaking today, Minister Harris said:
This is an important day for the West and North West and for higher education generally with the submission of a fifth application for Technological University designation.
TUs are step-change institutions in the higher education landscape. They are embedded in their regions with strong links to local enterprise, business and community stakeholders and which provide research informed and applied teaching and learning excellence in pursuit of more balanced regional engagement and development through expanded higher education access and pathways and lifelong learning progression.
Today, three institutions have come together to make this application and in it the case for a new TU with campuses encompassing Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal. Such a TU would have the potential to further drive the development of higher education and regional growth in the West and North West with strong cross-border links.
I will carefully consider the application and the requisite reports and views on it such as are required under the Act to be furnished to me without prejudice and in accordance with the relevant legislative requirements and timeframes
Approval of this application, like all applications for TU designation, is subject to the applicant institutes meeting the eligibility criteria set out in the 2018 Act and the wider policy related requirements to which the Minister must have regard in his role as the legislative decision-maker.
The Minister is now required to appoint an advisory panel including international experts to assess the application and to be furnished with their report, the views of the Higher Education Authority on it and any other relevant information considered relevant before making his decision within legislatively prescribed timeframes.
Without prejudice to the legislative assessment and decision making process now set in train, were the application to be granted and an establishment order made by the Minister and approved by the Oireachtas subsequently, it is anticipated that the three applicant institutes could potentially be legally dissolved and a new TU established in early 2022 enabling students of the dissolved institutes graduating in the 2021/2022 academic year to do so with university level qualifications.