Colleges don’t have enough staff with PhDs to qualify as tech universities

The chances of any colleges becoming technological universities in the next few years look slim because some need to more than double their number of staff holding PhDs.

Applications to become technological universities are being planned by four groups comprising 13 institutes of technology.

However, figures obtained by the Irish Examiner show that only 23% of their combined full-time academics have a PhD, whereas qualification would require 45%.

The criteria published by the Higher Education Authority last month also require that 90% of academics have at least a level 9 qualification, which is a master’s degree or equivalent. Only 83% of the institutes’ 3,746 full-time academics have reached that level, with the figure just 75% at Cork Institute of Technology.

Only 14% of full-time academics at the college’s partner in the prospective Munster Technological University, Limerick Institute of Technology, have a PhD. The third member of the group — Institute of Technology, Tralee — has one of the highest proportions of staff with a level 9 qualification, at 95%.

Just 24% of academics at the proposed Technological University for the South-East — a merger of Carlow and Waterford institutes — have a PhD, but 84% have at least a level 9 degree.

The data, received from the education authority under the Freedom of Information Act, shows the proposed grouping of three institutes in Dublin is closest to the qualification requirements, with 29% holding a PhD and 82% having at least a level 9 qualification.

The figures for the planned consortium of five Border, Midlands and West institutes are 22% and 84%, respectively.

The standards decided last month also include requirements in relation to the numbers of students on research-focused level 9 and PhD courses.

When the criteria were published it was suggested that it could be two years before any grouping could successfully apply to become a tech university. However, the figures suggest they are some way short.

A source close to the design of the application process and the standards told the Irish Examiner a five-year timescale for the creation of the first TU was much more realistic.


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