More than 300 staff jobs are to be created at University of Limerick (UL) as part of an ambitious five-year investment worth hundreds of millions of euro.
At the launch of “UL@50”, UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald, along with former Tánaiste and UL Chancellor Mary Harney, jointly revealed plans to increase UL’s student population by 4,000 to 20,000 students per annum, and raise staff numbers by approximately 330 to 1,930.
Dr Fitzgerald said UL’s “big ambitions” would place it “amongst the leading universities in these islands”.
The announcement was delivered on the site of UL’s proposed first-ever city-centre campus, located off Sarsfield Bridge, encapsulating stunning views of the River Shannon.
It acquired the 5,500sq m former Dunnes Stores shopping centre for an estimated €8m last May, and plans to develop a “significant landmark building” on the site to accommodate much of its additional student population.
This city campus, which will seek to attract mostly postgraduate and international students, will aim to bring an estimated additional €30m annual spend to the local economy.
“We will work with Limerick City and County Council to maximise what can be achieved on the site,” Dr Fitzgerald said.
"We have already begun identifying all possible sources of funding including, government funding, philanthropy and our own sources to get us to a place where we can begin to plan what is possible."
The University is currently “developing the specifications of an international architectural competition to achieve the most progressive, grand, effective and ambitious design possible”, he added.
“We have a lot of hard work ahead to raise the substantial funding that will do justice to the opportunity here, but we are determined that the UL City Campus will be a flagship for our University and our city.”
Dr Fitzgerald said that “a revolution in teaching styles and philosophies” was the future of third-level education, and that “UL would seek to lead this transformation in Ireland”.
“We believe that the teaching model which has characterised universities for a hundred years is coming to an end.
"We want to put flexible learning spaces and tech-enhanced teaching models at the heart of our education and training.”
Mary Harney offered that “ambition has always been key to UL”.
Since its emergence in 1972, with 113 students and seven academic staff members, it has grown exponentially to accommodating 16,000 students across 250,000 sqm of state-of-the-art lecture theatres, classrooms and research facilities, on a 360-acre campus in Castletroy.
“By matching the ambition and drive of our founders, we will ensure that the university reaches its fullest potential over the coming years,” Ms Harney said.
UL is expected to announce a further development Masterplan for the Castletroy campus as part of its 2022 celebrations.
Major development plans were also drawn up by the University in April last year, to construct a 200-bedroom four-star hotel and additional student residential accommodation, subject to planning, on a site adjacent to the National Technology Park in Plassey.
The NTP is home to a number of global pharmaceutical, science, and information technology firms, employing more than 4,000 people, including many UL graduates.