The development and progression of technological universities is an established policy objective of Government in the context of overarching national strategy on higher education landscape restructuring and this is underscored in the commitment in the current Programme for Government.
Under the statutory framework provided in the Technological Universities Act 2018, two or more IoTs may jointly seek TU designation through a prescribed legislative process. Section 29 of the 2018 Act provides for the application jointly by two or more applicant institutes to the Minister of Education and Skills for an order seeking designation as a TU subject to their jointly meeting specified eligibility criteria. Section 38 of the 2018 Act provides that an applicant institute and an established technological university may apply to the Minister for an order.
In June 2020, Dundalk Institute of Technology launched a new three-year strategic plan in which the Institute articulates a mission to be a leader for higher education and craft apprenticeships, and the engine for growth and social cohesion in North Leinster-South Ulster through the achievement of TU status and strengthened cross-border alliances.
The Department understands that in this context the Institute has been exploring with a number of TU development consortia and with TU Dublin the potential for mergers under the relevant legislative framework. The Department has not been directly involved in any such discussions. As autonomous higher education institutes established under statute, it remains a matter for the governing body of an Institute of Technology to set the institute’s particular strategic pathway within the higher education landscape, including whether or not to seek joint TU designation through the prescribed legal processes.
On 7 October 2020, together with the Higher Education Authority (HEA), I announced the first funding allocations under the new TU Transformation Fund. Total funding allocated amounted to €34.33 million. Dundalk IT was invited to make a submission under the fund given its stated commitment to becoming a TU which it did and was allocated €0.76m.
The HEA has indicated its willingness to work with and support the Institute to facilitate a process placing it on a trajectory to achieve TU status. This includes the services of a HEA advisor on higher education policy to assist the Institute as an external advisor going forward. It is understood the HEA is currently awaiting a vision document from the Institute which will assist in this regard.
Subject to the assistance received, it remains a matter for the governing body of Dundalk IT to advance its proposals under the TU agenda accordingly.