Institutes set 1 January 2022 as TUSEI start date

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The briefing note said that the institutes are now in the final stages of establishing a TU

The briefing note said that the institutes are now in the final stages of establishing a TU

The briefing note states that both institutes will apply to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research and Innovation in late spring/early summer 2021 for an order to establish the university

The chairpersons of the governing bodies and the presidents of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow today (23 September), in a briefing note to business and other community leaders, announced their objective that the Technological University of the South East of Ireland will be established on 1 January 2022.

Stating that the institutes are now in the final stages of establishing the TU, the briefing note states that both institutes will apply to the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research and Innovation in late spring/early summer 2021 for an order to establish the university. That application will set off a series of steps, including a review by a panel of international experts, and a formal decision by the Minister next summer. A period of time will then be required to prepare fully for establishment day and to appoint a president for the new university.

To support success, the institutes announced a range of structural changes to the project, including the setting up of a Project Office with a Project Executive Director, and the organisation of the project into seven workstreams, each of which will be jointly led by a senior executive from each of the institutes. An eighth workstream will be led by the presidents of the students unions. Wide-ranging staff engagement will be supported and encouraged through a series of working groups in each workstream. A Joint Governing Body Steering Group will oversee the project, as at present.

The briefing note ends by committing the institutes to continued interaction with the stakeholders and by stating, “Our objective is that, on 1 January 2022, the Minister will establish the university. We have a high level of confidence that we will achieve TU status within this time. Our confidence is based upon the commitment of our staff and students, who have already contributed so much to its achievement, and to the support directly and indirectly of our most valued stakeholders”.

Policy context

Establishing a technological university in the South East has, for some time, been a central part of Government policy and is seen as a key element in the social and economic development of the region. This policy aligns well with broader government policy for regional development, as reflected in policy documents such as The National Planning Framework, Project 2040, the South East Action Plan for Jobs and the Action Plan for Rural Development, Realising our Rural Potential. National regional development policy is also well aligned with European regional development policy, which in turn reflects the sustainability goals of the United Nations. Most recently, the Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, refers to rolling out “the development of the Technological University model, with a particular focus on establishing the Technological University in the South East.”

Statutory context

The creation of technological universities was put on a statutory basis by the Technological Universities Act 2018, which became law on 19 March 2018. The first TU to be established was Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin). Earlier this year, the Minister for Education and Skills made a decision to establish Munster Technological University (MTU), a consortium of Cork Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology Tralee. The MTU will be established on 1 January 2021. Two other consortia are working towards designation as TUs – Limerick and Athlone institutes of technology and a consortium formed by Galway/Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny institutes.

International expert panel

The Technological Universities Act 2018 refers to this panel as the “advisory panel”. It is a core element in the creation of a TU. It is designed to ensure objectivity and that any proposed TU meets high international standards in its academic, research, governance and corporate affairs. To-date, two such panels have been appointed to review the applications by TU Dublin and MTU. The panel has four to five members, all of whom are internationally recognised as experts in various aspects of higher education and research. The panel normally spends up to four days on site in the institutes where they conduct a series of searching interviews with governors, presidents, senior management, staff, students and external stakeholders. They make a recommendation to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) who consider it and, with their own views, make a report to the Minister.

Timeline

The Technological Universities Act 2018 provides a specific timeline from the date of application to the Minister, to the date of a ministerial decision. In practice, the process has moved more swiftly than the maximum period allowed under the Act.

1. The Minister, within 30 days of receipt of an application must forward it to the HEA and the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), directing each to nominate at least three persons for appointment by the Minister to an advisory panel.

2. Within 60 days of the direction, the HEA and QQI must provide their nominations to the Minister.

3. Within 30 days of that, the Minister must appoint an advisory panel of at least three people from amongst the nominees.

4. Within 120 days of being appointed, the advisory panel, having assessed the application, must report to the HEA.

5. Within 60 days of receiving the report, the HEA must refer the report to the Minister, together with their views regarding the report.

6. Within 60 days of receiving the HEA’s views and the advisory panel report, the Minister must make a decision. There follows, in certain circumstances, a process for interaction between the applicant institutes and the Minister,

Criteria for establishing a technological university

Applicant institutes are required by the Technological Universities Act 2018 to meet very stringent criteria on application. These are a mix of quantitative and qualitative criteria. The former relates to issues involving the qualifications of staff, research fields and the proportion of research students, while the latter relates to the state of readiness of the institutes in terms of managing the academic and corporate affairs of a technological university. In general, the criteria are aimed at ensuring that a TU can operate as a single, coherent institution on its first day, serving the interests of its students and the wider community.


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