Third Irish technological university could open by September 2021

23 Nov 2020

Prof Ciarán Ó'Catháin, president of AIT. Image: Nathan Cafolla/AIT

The consortium of AIT and LIT said it aims to open Ireland’s third technological university in September 2021.

A new technological university could be up and running next year to serve Ireland’s midlands and mid-west regions. A consortium of Athlone IT (AIT) and Limerick IT (LIT) announced today (23 November) that it had formally submitted its application to the Government, with expectations that the new university will open in September 2021.

It’s expected that it would have a student population of up to 15,000 and staff numbering approximately 1,200 across six campuses in Athlone, Clonmel, Ennis, Limerick and Thurles. The consortium, which was formed in October 2019, said it will now embark on a consultation process to name the new technological university.

An economic impact study commissioned by the consortium claimed that the combined impact of the two institutions on the Irish economy is close to €420m in economic output, while supporting more than 800 jobs in addition to their own staff.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, described the application as “welcome news”.

“This is the third application to be made under TU legislation by a consortium of Institutes of Technology who are seeking to make the step-change to a new type of higher education institution,” he said. “There is a formal legislative process to take place now, but this is an exciting prospect for the midlands and mid-west and can be regionally hugely transformative.”

‘A regional development powerhouse’

LIT president Prof Vincent Cunnane said a new technological university would “cross regions and transcend geography”.

“While this will be an institution of scale, it will retain the familiarity of local campuses across two significant regions,” he said. “This enables us to act as a regional development powerhouse into the future, delivering education and research that will benefit students, educators, communities, business and industry in a strategic way.”

AIT president Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin added that the “transformational development for the midlands” will provide significant opportunities for communities in the region and beyond.

“Becoming a technological university will broaden access to higher education and create opportunities in areas that have previously been underserved with respect to apprenticeships right through to PhD,” he said.

“I am immensely proud of the progress that have been made since the formation of the AIT–LIT consortium a little over a year ago and of our staff, who have worked together in the spirit of common purpose to share knowledge and expertise.”

Ireland’s first technological university, TU Dublin, was announced in 2018 and launched last year. Earlier this year, the Government granted technological university status to the consortium of Cork Institute of Technology and IT Tralee, which will form Munster Technological University from January 2021.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic