€200m building spend to create 8,000 spaces at ITs

A €200m building spend at 11 institutes of technology will create extra spaces for around 8,000 students in state-of-the-art facilities for everything from catering to computer science.

€200m building spend to create 8,000 spaces at ITs

The projects, whose approval is being announced this morning, are to be funded through a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement for the Department of Education.

It expects the first projects to be open to students by 2021 at the earliest, assuming everything goes smoothly with the process of design and planning and agreement with the private contractor or contractors selected to build them.

Under the PPP model, the private partner fronts the building and equipment costs but the State pays them back over a typical term of 25 years, in a deal that also sees private partners responsible for maintenance.

The anticipated cost of the 11 projects to be funded is €200m before Vat, but the long-term cost to taxpayers will depend on the deals reached. It has yet to be decided if the facilities will be developed with a single partner, or in a number of smaller bundles like those used to build over 30 schools over the last 20 years.

While there is a major emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and maths disciplines in the selected projects, they include space on some campuses for other teaching areas like culinary training and digital media.

Further spaces will be provided for libraries, classrooms, study areas, seminar rooms, and facilities to host and promote start-ups or to hold exhibitions.

More than 8,000 students are expected to benefit from the estimated 70,000 sq m of buildings, which will require around 1,500 workers during construction and fit out.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said the projects will benefit the colleges’ localities as many make their grounds and buildings available to the community.

He said these and the €257m extra allocated for higher education capital investment in last week’s budget for 2018-21 mark a turning point in State investment in third level.

Higher Education Minister of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor said the investment will also focus on supp-orting regional development.

A number of the institutes of technology are at different stages of developing plans to merge and apply to be redesignated as technological universities, for which she hopes to have the necessary legislation in place by the end of the year.

The disproportionate effect on the institutes of technology sector of the economic downturn and the drop in public investment was a factor in the entire PPP funding being directed at these colleges, with no capital proposals from any of the seven universities included.

While all third-level colleges have suffered cuts in capital funding over the past decade, universities have access to borrowing for some projects and nearly 40% of their capital investment in the last five years came from non-exchequer sources.

Institutes of technology are legally banned from borrowing, a factor which has raised issues around their ability to develop on-campus student accommodation.

Projects funded under PPP scheme

Cork Institute of Technology: A learning resource centre with learning, study, exhibition, engagement, and entrepreneurial space, allowing CIT to increase capacity across STEM, business, and humanities subjects.

Institute of Technology, Tralee: Building on the college’s Dromtacker campus to accommodate IT Tralee’s STEM school.

Waterford Institute of Technology: A new engineering, computing and general teaching building at the Cork Road campus, will consolidate a number of faculties in one space and help free up space elsewhere at WIT.

Institute of Technology Carlow: Additional space for STEM provision and science.

Institute of Technology Tallaght: A technical development centre would provide practice-based learning facilities for engineering and science courses, but culinary arts facilities, and new classrooms and computer labs are also included.

Institute of Art, Design, and Technology, Dun Laoghaire: Animation and visual design labs will be accommodated in a digital media building, with capacity to grow courses in creative computing, creative, and entrepreneur technology.

Limerick Institute of Technology: New applied science and IT building on the Moylish campus, to provide science labs, teaching facilities, computer labs, tutorial rooms, and meeting spaces.

The others will be built at: Athlone IT (STEM building); IT Blanchardstown (expanded teaching facilities); Galway-Mayo IT (STEM building); Letterkenny IT (library, IT and teaching building).

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