Minister of Higher Education Simon Harris has this week confirmed that Athlone Institute of Technology together with Limerick IT has been granted Technological University (TU) status, a decision that has been described as a ‘game changer’ for the region.
The decision will increase higher education access for local students and is expected to drive regional development.
Local councillor and member of the AIT Governing Body, Kathleen Shanagher, welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.
“I am very much aware of the huge amount of work which has gone on in the background over the last 18 months to achieve Ireland’s third Technological University. I welcome the announcement by the Minister today and look forward to the benefits it will bring to the region.
“The institution is expected to comprise a student population of more than 14,000 and a staff complement of approximately 1,200 people across six campuses in Athlone, Limerick, Clonmel, Ennis and Thurles.
“The Roscommon County Development Plan is currently under review. It is a policy objective of Roscommon County Council to support the potential development of an off-campus third level facility in Roscommon town in order to facilitate the delivery of third-level courses, possibly in collaboration with the new Technological University.
“I would like to acknowledge the work of the staff and students in both institutions who have worked extremely hard to achieve this status which will bring economic benefit to this region. It is an exciting time for students in this area who are planning their future and will now have another Technological University to choose from,” Cllr. Shanagher said.
Fine Gael Senator Aisling Dolan described the announcement as a “fantastic achievement for the west and midlands”.
“It will be a game-changer for students and staff as well as our businesses and communities,” she said.
“With a dedicated focus on research as well as academic excellence, this new Athlone Limerick TU will attract more European and international funding, as well as linking in closely to support industry, and develop new product ideas.
“With highly-skilled graduates in areas of global demand such as Medtech, Pharma, Healthcare, AI, and engineering, we will embed multi-national, SMEs and start-ups in the west.
“Congratulations to the AIT-LIT consortium on this incredible achievement, and particularly Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin (President of Athlone IT), and Professor Vincent Cunnane (President of Limerick IT)”.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Senator Eugene Murphy said it was a very exciting prospect for the region that would enable students to gain university qualifications closer to home.
“This is well-deserved and fantastic news for the midlands and mid-west,” he said.
“It will lead to huge economic benefit in our region and will allow many students to stay local and receive their university qualifications.
“The process to designate a new TU is enshrined in the Technological Universities Act 2018. The next steps require the Minister to bring forward a draft order establishing the appointed day on which the new technological university will be legally established.
“A date for this requirement is currently being considered but subject to the order being approved in due course all students graduating in the 2021-2022 academic year will do so with university qualifications,” he concluded.