Irish project aims to help west-coast islanders learn and work locally

19 Apr 2022

ATU president Dr Orla Flynn with Dr Brendan McCormack, head of college at ATU Sligo. Image: ATU

Sustainability, inclusion and access to higher education are key focus areas of the recently opened Atlantic Technological University, which is launching a new Islands Project initiative.

Atlantic Technological University (ATU) has launched a new higher education and research initiative focused on enabling people living on islands off the west coast of Ireland to learn and work in their communities.

The Islands Project will focus on nine inhabited islands off a section of the west coast from Galway to Donegal. ATU aims to build a network to ensure people from the islands do not have to leave their communities to learn and work.

The project was launched last week with a roundtable discussion at ATU’s Connemara campus in Letterfrack, Co Galway. The event was attended by representatives from county councils, tourism, renewable energy and community and enterprise development agencies across the west and north-west.

The attendees discussed the needs of the nine islands and their inhabitants. The project will see regional agencies work in collaboration with islanders to address educational, societal, economic and environmental needs.

Speaking at the launch, ATU president Dr Orla Flynn said that sustainability, inclusion and access to higher education are key themes for the newly launched university.

“We have a strong interest in ensuring that small rural communities on the periphery of the region can be supported,” she added.

“This proposal is a first step for ATU to develop a greater understanding of the needs of the island communities and how ATU can support their sustainable economic, social and cultural growth and development through education and research,” she said.

The first part of the ATU Islands Project is a research initiative focusing on sustainable destination management for island tourism.

The data for this project will be gathered during the coming summer months using the European Tourism Indicator System. Researchers from ATU will collaborate with island communities as well as stakeholders such as Údarás na Gaeltachta, Fáilte Ireland, destination managers and local authorities to better manage sustainable tourism.

Diarmuid Ó Conghaile, co-supervisor of the research project and head of the Department of Heritage and Tourism, Languages and Humanities at ATU’s Galway city campus, said that an “evidence-informed approach to tourism planning” would be essential “given the impact the industry can have on the local communities, economy and environment”.

ATU is the latest technological university to open its doors in Ireland, having officially launched at the beginning of this month. It merged Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and Sligo Institute of Technology.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.