President of Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT ), Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin says he remains committed to achieving Technological University (TU ) status for the third level institution.
Speaking at this week’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District, which took place in the Institute Boardroom at AIT, Professor Ó Catháin told councillors that work to achieve TU status is ongoing, with “finding the right dance partner” being the aim.
Professor Ó Catháin had previously expressed the wish that AIT become a standalone university. However, the Technological Universities Bill passed earlier this year ruled this possibility out, by declaring that two or more institutes must apply together for university status.
Professor Ó Catháin told local councillors on Tuesday that Maynooth University has been identified as a college that compliments what AIT offers very well, however, its university status means it does not meet the required criteria. While admitting there are other options to explore, Professor Ó Catháin referred to Maynooth as “the best” option.
Professor Ó Catháin was speaking during a presentation to local councillors of the Draft Master Plan for AIT, which loosely maps out what the institute would like to achieve during the next 10 years and beyond.
Plans include the updating of existing buildings and the building of new ones, including a new STEM building and a much needed library. Plans also include improving the AIT experience, with inner areas of the campus being developed for pedestrian use only, and vehicular traffic being moved to its outer perimeters. The aim is to create a welcoming space for students and visitors alike to enjoy.
However, Professor Ó Catháin also informed the meeting that all plans for the future are heavily based on the granting of funding. Unlike universities, who can borrow directly from the European Investment Bank to pay for such developments, institutes like AIT do not currently enjoy such a luxury.
A lack of student housing is also something that needs to be rectified if AIT is to maximise its potential, the meeting heard. However, again the issue comes down to funding. AIT cannot borrow in order to construct student accommodation, and so is reliant on government to meet its requirements.
Local councillors pledged to do all they can in order to facilitate the ambitious plans AIT has for its future.