A decision on the long-awaited Munster Technological University, has been set back to early 2020 amid financial concerns and a “lack of clear vision and strategy”.
A bid by Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and the Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT) seeking to become Munster’s first technological university “leaves questions unanswered regarding the specifics of how the two applicant institutions are to become one”, an independent review has found.
Carried out by an international advisory panel, a review of the Munster Technological University bid found the administrative, managerial, and financial capacity to take on technological university functions is “not clear”. The review also found questions remain about the resolution of financial deficits at ITT.
“While concerns were expressed about these reported deficits, the panel did not receive any planning information regarding how these deficits are to be addressed, although it did receive assurances from a representative of the Department of Education and Skills that they are looking at this issue,” the review states.
A Deloitte review also found the merger will cost closer to €14.3m — €2.3m more than originally costed. However, the panel also found there is a “strong consensus” in both institutions that the designation of technological university status would bring great benefit to students and the region. The panel also recommended the minister for education request more information demonstrating plans are in place for managing “academic, financial, and administrative matters”.
Education Minister Joe McHugh said the Government is “strongly committed” to the establishment of the Munster Technological University.
However, his proposed decision on the making of an order establishing the technological university will be postponed by six months to allow the Munster Technological University consortium to “work energetically” to meet the requirements recommended by the panel, he added. However, the Higher Education Authority believes this six-month timeframe to be “too ambitious” and should be extended.
Minister of state for higher education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “I am confident that the two institutes, supported by the Department and the Higher Education Authority will rise to the challenge of making this a reality in the coming months.”
The Technological Higher Education Association welcomed the panel’s findings.
“This signals progress toward the second in what is intended as a series of technological universities that will strengthen Ireland’s higher education infrastructure and such institutions are critical instruments in supporting the delivery of national policy priorities,” said the association’s chief executive Joseph Ryan.