Fine Gael has promised to complete the process of creating another four technological universities by 2025, with the amalgamation of institutes of technology its top priority for higher education.
The creation of the new universities – which has been underway for some time now – will see the end of institutes of technology around the country.
At an education briefing this morning, Minister for Education Joe McHugh and Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor repeated a pledge of €90 million funding towards the creation of the universities.
Mitchell O’Connor said she hopes that “two or three of the TUs can be established in the next two to three years”, but warned that the “fourth may take a little longer, as there are three Institutes of Technology involved”.
Technological University Dublin was established formally in January 2018, with the other four at various stages of completion.
Limerick IT and Athlone IT are set to merge, as well as Cork IT and IT Tralee, Waterford IT and IT Carlow, and GMIT, IT Sligo, and Letterkenny IT.
Mitchell O’Connor said Fine Gael would not allow any increase in registration fees for students or introduce student loans. She said she did not want to make higher education so expensive for students that they had to move abroad to do degrees, that the government would continue to increase funding to higher education from the exchequer and the national training fund.
Mitchell O’Connor is to participate in a debate on higher education and research in Trinity today. Education spokespeople from several parties will also participate in a debate that will likely see funding, accommodation and university autonomy discussed.
The proposed merger of Cork IT and IT Tralee into a new technological university suffered a huge blow last June, after an international assessment panel sounded the alarm over its financial sustainability.
The biggest issue, according to the Irish Times, is the uncertainty surrounding the financial wellbeing of IT Tralee, with Cork IT reportedly unwilling to take on the Kerry institute’s debts in the case of a merger.
Last year, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Institute of Technology Tallaght (ITT) and Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (ITB) merged to become the country’s first technological university.
The new university held its first-ever set of students’ union elections in March, after students in the three institutes voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new constitution for the amalgamated union.