First technological university a step closer to reality

Education Minister Richard Bruton

The likelihood of the first technological university (TU) being established in Dublin should be known by the end of summer.

A recommendation by international experts has been submitted by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in relation to the proposed new institution being formed by a merger of the Dublin, Blanchardstown, and Tallaght institutes of technology.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said he plans to communicate a proposed decision by the end of July.

However, the law provides for the applicant institutes to make representations in relation to the proposed decision within a month of it being issued. The minister may then decide within another month to grant or refuse the application.

He could also postpone the granting of TU status until any conditions are satisfied, which may include compliance issues that could have been raised by the international experts.

The criteria for TU status include having minimum proportions of students in certain categories, and 45% of academic staff having a doctoral degree or a combination of a degree and professional experience equivalent to a doctoral qualification.

In addition, an expert panel must also be satisfied of the strength of proposed governance arrangements, and that the colleges have strong business, social, and cultural links in the region.

While a number of applications have been under discussion for several years, the law under which a formal submission seeking TU status could be made was only passed in March.

The Dublin grouping had originally included four colleges but the Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in Dun Laoghaire decided to remain a standalone college in 2014, leaving the three others to continue the alliance without it.

Their combined enrolments are more than 28,500, with over 20,000 of them currently registered with Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

Building work continuing at its new Grangegorman campus will see half of DIT’s students and staff studying and working in the north inner city by 2020.

Almost €4.9m was provided from 2013 to 2017 through the HEA to the TU4Dublin Alliance to help it work towards meeting the relevant criteria to achieve TU status.

Mr Bruton said the application is a key stage in the process for the Dublin proposal.

Technological universities are a crucial part of this Government’s drive to build strong regional hubs, which will be the engine of our economy,” he said.

The next application to be considered is likely to be from Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee for a Munster Technological University.

A spokesperson told the Irish Examiner a submission was likely in the final quarter of this year or early 2019.

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