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.
The 2019 TU Research Network (TURN) Report entitled ‘Technological Universities: Connectedness & Collaboration enabled by Connectivity’ details the case and requirements for a state change in higher education reform whereby TUs will assist in the delivery of national strategic objectives for regional socio-economic development, higher education access, research and skills progression.
On foot of the TURN report, Government announced in Budget 2020 the provision of €90 million over the next three years under a new TU Transformation Fund to support Institutes of Technology (IoTs) to jointly achieve TU designation and to further the advancement of established TUs through implementation of the appropriate TURN report recommendations. This dedicated funding is additional to the €31 million in Exchequer funding invested in TU development and progression to date.
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.
As autonomous higher education institutes established under statute, it remains a matter for the governing body of an IoT to set the institute’s particular strategic direction within the higher education landscape, including whether or not to seek TU designation through the prescribed legal processes.
In June 2020, Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT) launched a new three-year strategic plan which articulates it’s 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. In this context the Department understands that DKIT has been in discussions with a number of TU development consortia.
The HEA is currently involved in a process with eligible higher education institutions to ascertain funding requirements under the new TU Transformation Fund towards 2023. In this context the HEA has indicated its willingness to work with and support DKIT to facilitate a process to place the institute on a trajectory in line with their stated ambition to pursue TU status. Formal submissions under the fund were made to the HEA at the end of August 2020. The HEA is currently reviewing these and considering future funding allocations, with a view to making allocations in October.