Thursday, 8 July 2021

Questions (80)

Joe Carey

Question:

80. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the plans and facilities including the range of courses and number of students and staff involved with the Ennis third-level campus of the Technological University of the Shannon; his views on the measures needed to ensure that Ennis will prosper as a university town; the regional assistance that will be needed to facilitate the new facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36623/21]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

Following my granting on 5 May 2021 of their application for TU status under the Technological Universities Act 2018, the dissolution of Athlone and Limerick Institutes of Technology requires the approval by both Houses of the Oireachtas of a draft order appointing the date of establishment of the new Technological University of the Shannon : Midlands Midwest. The date in prospect is 1 October 2021. The order was approved in the Dáil on 7 July 2021 and is scheduled for consideration by the Seanad on 12 July 2021.

My officials are informed that in 2020/2021 there are 96 students registered on the Limerick IT Ennis Campus in County Clare. As the new TU is not yet established currently it has no registered students on the Ennis campus. Limerick IT staffing on the Ennis campus are understood to vary from semester to semester. Depending on the number of students who are off campus on work placement, the academic staffing may vary between 5-7 WTE. The number of professional, management and support staff is 1.5 WTE.

The plans and proposals, mission and values of any specific TU are matters for the governing body of the higher education institution in question.

However, the Deputy may obtain an understanding of the ambition for the new TU in the application for TU designation of Athlone and Limerick Institutes of Technology which I approved on 5 May and which is publicly available on the website of the Higher Education Authority at:

https://hea.ie/policy/he-reform/technological-universities/technological-university-of-the-shannon-midlands-midwest/

In addition, Section 9 of the Technological Universities Act 2018 prescribes the many and varied functions required of all TUs legislatively.

It will be a matter for the governing body of the new TU to fulfil its functions under the Act, a number of which relate to regional development and community interaction, and to pursue relevant missions that facilitate delivery of these functions across the university’s multi-campuses including in Ennis in concert with the university’s staff and students, external regional stakeholders and wider community interests.

The communities in areas where there are campuses of the new TU, including at Ennis will, over time, benefit from the university attracting more students, the retention and creation of skills and employment in its regional hinterlands and acting as a catalyst for research, innovation and enterprise with a view to attracting increasing levels of investment including Foreign Direct Investment and to contributing to further regional and socio-economic development.

Both Project Ireland 2040 and the National Development Plan reiterate the pivotal role of Higher Education in regional development, enabling deep collaboration between industry and other employers and the Tertiary Education and Skills system through, for example, shared objectives for applied research and innovation in strategic sectors of the regional and national economy. Future Jobs Ireland strongly endorses the role of TUs to drive the development of regional clusters with a particular focus on innovation, technology and SMEs.

Government has invested heavily in the TU agenda to date with over €65 million invested through higher education landscape and transformation funding since 2013. The TU Transformation fund will expend €90 million in total to 2023 with €34.3 million having been allocated in its first tranche last October. In total, over €120 million will have been invested in TU development and progression by 2023.

I am strongly committed to appropriate capital investment to underpin the ambitions of our higher education institutions including TUs. Officials from my Department and the Higher Education Authority have regular engagement with HEIs, including Athlone and Limerick Institutes of Technology, in relation to their future campus development plans.