A transformational development for education within the Midlands region, plans for the opening of a new technological university on the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT ) campus in September 2021 have progressed following confirmation that the AIT-LIT consortium has formally submitted its application to Government.
The institution is expected to comprise a student population of up to 15,000 and a staff complement of approximately 1,200 people across six campuses in Athlone, Limerick (two ), Clonmel, Ennis, and Thurles.
An economic impact study commissioned by the consortium has found that the combined impact of the two institutions on the Irish economy is close to €420 million euros in economic output, while they support more than 800 jobs in addition to their own staff complement.
The consortium, which formally commenced in October 2019, has targeted a date of September 1 2021 for the new university to open and is embarking on a broad consultation process to name the new technological university.
“This is a transformational development for the Midlands, and once it comes to fruition, it will provide significant social and economic benefit to communities across the region and beyond. Becoming a TU will broaden access to higher education and create opportunities in areas that have previously been underserved with respect to apprenticeships right through to PhD.
“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. This has culminated in us reaching and surpassing the substantive TU metrics set out by Government and increasing our research capacity. Our commitment to our technological mission is resolute and will result in a talent pipeline of professionally and technically skilled graduates capable of propelling regional and national growth,” AIT President, Professor Ciaran Ó Catháin, remarked, upon confirmation of the application submission.
Lauding the welcome development, Town Mayor, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, noted that the formal TU application submission was a significant milestone for third level education within the Midlands region.
“I am delighted to welcome the good news that both Athlone and Limerick Institutes of Technology have achieved yet another significant milestone en route to becoming Irelands latest Technological University.
“The beneficial impact that this merger will realise for both Athlone and Limerick educationally and economically is immeasurable.
“A vast amount of work which has been afforded to this project from an AIT perspective is to be highly commended, so I want to congratulate the governing body of the institute for driving this consortium initiative and for seeing it through to this significant milestone. The consortium hopes to see the new Technological University open its doors on September 1, 2021, and I wish them well with their plans in this regard.
“This development is another major step in the right direction for Athlone as the designated regional growth centre for the wider Midland’s region. TU status will see more people working and studying at AIT, soon to be called ALTU. This increased capacity and scale will lead to more economic activity both directly and indirectly,” Cllr O’Rourke commented.
Echoing similar sentiments, constituent elected representative, Fine Gael Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, noted that a “world class level of education in key sectors” would now be available to intending third level students in the Midlands region.
“This is fantastic news for the wider Midlands area. We have seen AIT go from strength to strength, and TU status will mean that we can truly offer world class education in key fields on our doorstep here in Westmeath. This will be a huge development for our region, and will mean more and more students and graduates can continue their studies in this locality, without having to travel to Dublin or sacrifice any element of their learning in the process. Graduates from AIT are highly sought after from employers all over the country and this new status will strengthen this employability even more,” Deputy Burke asserted.
Government colleague and fellow Minister of State, Deputy Robert Troy, stated that the TU submission application was the realisation of long held ambition of which he was wholly supportive.
“The TU status uniquely provides higher education programmes across all levels of the National Framework of Qualifications from apprenticeships to doctoral degrees and brings with it many opportunities for students, staff, employers, enterprise and for the wider local and regional communities.
“I want to thank the President and staff of AIT for all they have done so far to deliver this application. The leadership and commitment to world class education is to be commended,” Deputy Troy remarked.
Affording her congratulations, local Sinn Féin Deputy, Sorca Clarke, in noting the extra challenges which the year has accrued, commended the diligent and cohesive work ethos of the AIT-LIT consortium and expressed her aspirations for a positive TU status outcome.
“I would like to offer my congratulations to the AIT-LIT Consortium and the staff in both institutes for their hard work since October 2019. Considering the extra challenges this year has brought, to be on course for a September 2021 opening as Ireland’s next Technological University is a remarkable achievement. I note the consultation process to name the new Technological University commences this week and I look forward to discovering the outcome,” Deputy Clarke concluded.