Dublin set to get a brand new technological university

17 Jul 2018

Image: Nirat Pix/Shutterstock

Coming together of Irish institutes of technology will create a powerhouse of innovation and learning.

Ireland’s first dedicated technological university was formally announced today (17 July) at Grangegorman in Dublin by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, along with Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, TD; Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe, TD; and Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD.

The university will represent the merger of Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), IT Tallaght and IT Blanchardstown.

While centred on the new Grangegorman campus close to Dublin’s north inner city, the existing campuses of DIT, IT Tallaght and IT Blanchardstown are expected to remain in place.

Bidding on the future

The three ITs had submitted a joint application for technological university status.

It is understood that the other ITs in Ireland, including Cork, Limerick, Tralee and Letterkenny, applied for the status but the Dublin consortium’s bid succeeded.

The new university will add to a powerful existing cluster of universities in Dublin, including Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Dublin.

The coming together of the Dublin ITs as well as the collaboration between the existing universities in Dublin to create a technological quarter in Dublin’s docklands, including a new €1bn campus for TCD, signals greater collaboration between Irish academic bodies.

It has long been the opinion of academics and science policymakers that Ireland’s universities and colleges, while of a high global standard, on their own would struggle to compete with the scale of leaders such as Stanford or Harvard – combined, though, they could be a force to be reckoned with.

In recent months, we reported how funding cuts were blamed by the Irish Universities Association for Irish universities failing to make the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings 2019.

The new technological university will be required to maintain the current industry-focused approach of the ITs as well as reflect the needs of enterprises and regional stakeholders.

The coming together of ITs was also a prerequisite in the bidding process.

No doubt the centring of more university resources in Dublin will be met by grumbling and claims of neglect for the regions. However, if Ireland wants to field the legions of engineers that the fast-growing tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Intel and Microsoft require, it needs resources of scale.

Prof Tom Collins, chair of the three institute’s governing bodies, spoke at the announcement: “The members of the Technological University Dublin Alliance are delighted to receive confirmation today from An Taoiseach that we are to become Ireland’s first technological university (TU Dublin) in 2019. This is the historic culmination of seven years of hard work and commitment on the part of our three institutes.”

DIT president Prof Brian Norton said: “This is a milestone day that marks the beginning of a new type of Irish university that will revolutionise higher education in this country. TU Dublin will be positioned at the convergence of the arts, business, science and technology, and will strengthen the Greater Dublin region and its prominence as a location that encourages and supports knowledge advancement, sustainable development and inclusive education.

“After many years of laying the groundwork, today is the realisation of our long-held collective ambition to become a technological university, and the beginning of an exciting new chapter in higher learning in Ireland.”

Additional reporting by Shelly Madden

Updated, 11.22am, 17 July 2018: This article was updated to confirm the announcement of Ireland’s first dedicated technological university and include comments from professors Tom Collins and Brian Norton.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years