The idea of a technological university sector was proposed in last week’s report of the group chaired by economist Colin Hunt on a 20-year strategy for higher education.
But, as reported by the Irish Examiner last week, a number of technology institutes have already been in talks about joining forces under the new structure.
The four technology institutes in Dublin have already said they may seek technological university status together, while another partnership between the institutes in Cork (CIT), Waterford (WIT) and Kerry (IT Tralee) is also under discussion.
Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and Institute of Technology Carlow (ITC) have agreed further collaborations on courses, research, attracting overseas students and other areas.
Their statement announcing the Trans-Ireland Higher Education Alliance said both colleges will continue to take part in consultation and action to identify further potential for co-operative initiatives across the academic, administrative and support of each institution.
The two colleges operate campuses, not just in Limerick and Carlow but also in Clare, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow and have more than 12,000 full-time and part-time students between them.
Other immediate areas of collaboration will include academic portfolio development, lifelong learning and staff development.
The prospective partnership between technology institutes in the southern region could meet the requirements of WIT and CIT for university and technological university status. They had both made applications to Government for redesignation before the Hunt group began its deliberations in 2009.
IT Tralee president Michael Carmody said the attainment of a university for Kerry has been a long-term objective and the engagement with CIT and WIT is a welcome development in helping to achieve this goal and university designation would enhance international opportunities, including student recruitment and research.