A new €90m fund has been announced for Ireland’s new Technology Universities (TUs), enabling them to play a pivotal role in meeting the challenges facing Ireland as a society and an economy.

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh, TD, and Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, yesterday (6 November 2019) welcomed the report of the TU Research Network (TURN) ‘Connectedness & Collaboration enabled by Connectivity’, which was presented to the Department by the TURN high-level working group.

“The TURN group’s analysis outlines how TUs can be supported to focus on quality and excellence. The Government has responded both positively and swiftly,” Minister McHugh said.

“TUs will offer a deep and broad range of teaching, from apprenticeship to doctoral degrees”

“As announced during Budget 2020 we are dedicating €90m over the next three years to support our institutions to achieve TU designation and to support the further advancement of established technological universities. Great work is already underway, and I look forward to continued progress across all areas. 

“A network of technological universities in our regions will make a real difference in helping people to develop skills, to ensure balanced regional development and to meet the demands from digitalisation and technological disruption.”

National strategic policies

Group of men in dark suits talking with a woman in a white dress.

Pictured were Prof Philip Gummett Independent Chair (TURN), Prof David Fitzpatrick, President TUD with Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D, William Beausang, Assistant Secretary Dept Of Education & Skills with Dr. Joseph Ryan, Director General THEA . Picture Jason Clarke

Speaking at an event to launch the report at the Department’s Marlborough Street campus, Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “TUs will offer a deep and broad range of teaching, from apprenticeship to doctoral degrees. They will also support an increased intensity of research activity, which will deliver benefits for students, staff, employers and local communities, opportunities for collaboration with industry and benefits for the economy and wider society. 

“The TU ‘family’ now includes the new consortium of Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology, bringing the total number of institutes involved in TU development to nine, of 11 nationally. As the TURN report clearly demonstrates, they all recognise the unique opportunity we have now to create a new and highly effective type of institute of real substance, critical mass and reach in the higher education landscape.”

Properly resourced and empowered TUs will provide a more diverse, flexible and dynamic tertiary education system.

TUs will marry both an attractive physical multi-campus presence with state-of-the-art digital connectivity, providing new modes of learning where the student and learner is placed centre-stage and can access course content and avail of first-class tuition irrespective of location or circumstance. This will be achieved by focusing on the three main themes identified in the TURN report: reforming the policy and funding framework for TUs; investing in their digital infrastructure; and building and strengthening their research capacity. 

Each TU will serve as an anchor institution in the development and advancement of its region. Drawing frontier technological developments to regions through intensive collaboration, engagement with and connectedness to national and international researchers will be fundamental to TUs acting as regional knowledge hubs. These hubs will, in turn, act as major catalysts for further direct investment, research, innovation and employment growth in a self-generating virtuous circle. 

The report correctly emphasises that Government must continue to support TUs both in their pathway to establishment and in their vital formative years. There are critical actions that must be taken to ensure this happens as set out in the TURN report. 

Minister Mitchell O’Connor concluded: “The higher education multi-campus, digitally enhanced and research-oriented model and accompanying regional development transformation envisaged by TURN will be achieved through significantly increased levels of funding and through appropriate policy development, to give TUs the optimal conditions to succeed. Success for TUs is success for Ireland, regionally, nationally and internationally. It is success writ large for students, staff, employers and local communities.”

Main image at top: Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D with TU students Daniel Izquierdo and Tara McElligott.  Picture Jason Clarke

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 7 November, 2019

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