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Technology institutes open campaign to form university

Dublin’s three institutes of technology have launched a campaign for redesignation as the Technological University of Dublin.

The proposal has received a muted response from the government and in part runs counter to a study delivered last year that advised no more universities were required.

Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology Tallaght signed a memorandum of understanding on 25 October to establish the Technological University of Dublin Alliance. This body has begun lobbying government for redesignation as the country’s first technological university.

To advance the proposal it has formed a steering group that includes the three presidents and is chaired by Michael Kelly, a former chair of the Higher Education Authority.

The three institutions account for 13 per cent of all higher education students, according to the alliance.

A merger would deliver benefits in terms of structured cooperation and collaboration “up to and including the possible establishment of a new single Institution”, the alliance said in a statement.

Technological universities existed in other jurisdictions, the alliance argued. It emphasised that the goal was not to compete with the universities but to complement them.

“We believe it can constitute a significant addition to Irish Higher Education,” the joint statement said.

The government has not issued a formal statement about the proposal. Governments have resisted Dublin Institute calls for university status for years, arguing that there were enough university places. Waterford Institute of Technology has also waged a long-running campaign for an upgrade to full university.

Cost implications have been a factor in government opposition, not least a demand for parity of salaries and resources with the university sector.

In 2010, however, the education minister, Ruairi Quinn, encouraged institutes to collaborate and suggested that there might be room for a new kind of technological university.

In a report released last January, the National Strategy for Higher Education, better known as the Hunt Report, argued against the creation of more universities. It did, however, leave open the door to designating institutes as technological universities, provided strict requirements were met.

This was the option that the three institute presidents, Brian Norton (Dublin), Mary Meaney (Blanchardstown) and Pat McLaughlin (Tallaght), highlighted in their 25 October statement.

“The Hunt Report on higher education in Ireland offers support for enabling the creation of this new type of institution,” they said. “We envisage that what may emerge from this Alliance will be a civic and technological university with a nationally unique profile.”