05 December, 2014 - Dublin and Munster take further steps towards Technological University Status

Statement by Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, T.D.

The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, today welcomed the positive assessment by an international independent panel of plans submitted by Dublin and Munster to develop technological universities.  This concludes stage 3 of the 4-stage process towards designation as a technological universities for the two consortiums.

Detailed plans were submitted to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) earlier this year by the two consortiums.  Cork and Tralee Institutes of Technology put forward proposals for a merger in Munster leading to an application for a technological university for the region.  Dublin, Blanchardstown and Tallaght institutes of technology also propose to form a strong new institution for the city and county of Dublin. 

Both consortiums have been assessed by an international expert panel appointed by the HEA to be on a clear trajectory to meet the very robust performance and quality criteria that have been set down for merging institutes who wish to apply for the new technological university status.

The Minister thanked the independent international expert panel who looked intensively and objectively at all aspects of the proposals put forward by the alliances in Munster and in Dublin.

According to Minister O’Sullivan, “The international panel have confirmed that the proposed technological universities in Munster and Dublin are well on track.  I am convinced that these new institutions have the potential to deliver high quality, enterprise-focused university education for their regions and for Ireland.” 

“Both consortiums have more work to do to complete their mergers, and to reach the criteria which have been set out by Government. But the completion of stage 3 will give great impetus to those involved in Dublin and Munster, that they are on the path to achieve technological university status”.

It is expected that the two consortiums will now carefully consider the reports of the expert panel before moving forward with their plans to merge.  Following merger, stage 4 consists of an application to become a technological university submitted to the HEA, who will consider whether the high performance bar has been reached following another independent international expert assessment. The HEA will then make a recommendation to the Minister on whether technological university status should be awarded.

A third consortium involving Waterford IT and IT Carlow, completed stage 1 of the application process in 2013.  While merger activities between those institutions have been suspended in recent weeks, both institutions have confirmed that they will engage with Michael Kelly.  Mr. Kelly was appointed by Minister O’Sullivan to lead a process of consultation with all regional stakeholders, and with the governing bodies, staff and students in Waterford Institute of Technology and Carlow Institute of Technology in order to develop a shared vision for a technological university in the South East. Mr. Kelly is expected to complete his work and report to Minister O’Sullivan in early 2015.

ENDS

Notes for Editors

Process for Designation as a Technological University

The designation process consists of four stages –

Stage 1 - an expression of interest,

Stage 2 - the preparation of a plan to meet the criteria,

Stage 3 - an evaluation of the plan (this stage was completed by Dublin and Munster today), and

Stage 4 - an application for designation.

Stage 1 - Expression of Interest

Higher education institutions in Ireland wishing to apply for designation as a

technological university must submit an expression of interest to the Higher Education Authority. The expression of interest must state, inter alia, how the transition from the institutions’ current status to final designation will be financed. The expression of interest will be considered by the HEA in the context of a system wide analysis of Ireland’s higher education needs and the strategic implications arising from the establishment of a new university. The HEA will, having considered the system level implications of the proposal, advise, within a reasonable period (no longer than six months), as to whether or not the proposal may proceed to the next stage.

Stage 2 - Preparation of Plan to Meet Criteria

At this stage a plan will be prepared by the applicant, addressing how it is proposed to meet the criteria for a technological university and the process requirements and related timelines. 

The establishment of a technological university requires the consolidation of two or more institutions. Accordingly, the plan must be based on a legally binding memorandum of understanding between a consortium of existing institutions describing their consolidation into a new single institution, which has been approved by the Governing Body of each institution.

The plan must demonstrate that legally binding academic and administrative

arrangements are in place to ensure that national and regional needs for graduates at higher education Levels 6 and 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications are met.

Stage 3 - Evaluation of Plan (completed by Dublin and Munster today)

 The plan will be assessed by an Expert Panel which will have regard to -

1.   the capacity of the proposed consortium to achieve the objectives of consolidation in terms of academic rationale, scale, the degree of integration through alliances and membership of clusters and the extent to which workplace practices have been developed to bring them into line with those of a modern university, and

2.   the existing position of the proposed consortium in relation to each of the technological university designation criteria (Appendix 1) and its capacity, based on its developmental trajectory, to meet these criteria within a reasonable timeframe.

A decision will be provided by the HEA to the applicant within six months of receipt of the plan. If, in the opinion of this Expert Panel, the proposal is not likely to meet the criteria for designation as a technological university within the proposed timeframe the application will not proceed further. In that case, a further application will not be accepted for a period of five years. If the Panel is of the view that the plan presented represents a credible and realisable proposal, the Panel may provide advice to the applicant or the HEA on any matter relating to its implementation.

Stage 4 - Application for Designation as a Technological University

Where a legal consolidation has been achieved and the applicant considers that all other requirements for designation have been met, the applicant may apply for designation as a technological university. The application for designation will be evaluated by an Expert Panel. In carrying out that evaluation, this Panel will have regard to the criteria set out, the legal and administrative requirements applying to universities in Ireland, the configuration of institutions within the Irish higher education system, the characteristics of technological universities internationally, detailed statistical profile data on Irish higher education institutions and the overall merits of the application.

This Expert Panel will report its recommendation to the HEA which will consider the

report and advise the Minister for Education and Skills.

Terms of Reference in relation to a TU for the South-East:

It has been agreed that Michael Kelly will lead a process of engagement and consultation with the governing bodies, staff and students in Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow, together with the wider community in the South East, in order to develop and articulate the following:

·        A shared vision for a Technological University for the South-East to serve the South-East region;

·        To report to the Minister within ten weeks on the feasibility and steps required to progress an application for technological university status within an acceptable timeframe.   This to be done having regard to the published criteria and process for designation as technological university which is already in place.