The National Strategy for Education to 2030 characterises the formation of alliances on a cross-border basis as a potentially exciting and creative way of aligning the higher education resources of those regions with the needs of students, enterprise and other stakeholders and to be encouraged. This is an approach that is supported by Government in terms of ongoing higher education landscape restructuring.
In terms of the funding of higher education landscape restructuring in 2018 €0.5 million in Exchequer co-funding support was allocated under the Higher Education Authority’s call for funding proposals to a number of projects with a cross-border strategic dimension. This included a project involving Dundalk Institute of Technology which facilitated a regional landscape restructuring approach, including improving skills ladder progression pathways in the North East in a cross-border axis with Higher Education Institutions and Further Education and Training colleges such as Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast Metropolitan College and Southern Regional College.
My Department is not aware of any amalgamation process involving Dundalk Institute of Technology and other institutions at this time. It is a matter for each individual Higher Education Institution in the State as to where and how it seeks to position itself in the Irish higher education landscape. The primary legislation governing the establishment of Higher Education Institutions in the State is contained in the Institutes of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006, the Universities Act 1997 and the Technological Universities Act 2018. This legislation does not provide for the specific cross-jurisdictional amalgamation of higher education institutions in the State.
Section 29 of the Technological Universities Act 2018 provides for the application jointly by two or more institutes to the Minister for an order seeking designation as a technological university in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act. Section 38 of the 2018 Act provides that an institute and an established technological university may also apply to the Minister for such an order. The term “institute” is defined in the 2018 Act as meaning the Dublin Institute of Technology, or a college within the meaning of section 2 of the Regional Technical Colleges Act 1992, these being Higher Education Institutions in the State.