A transformational development for education within the Midlands region, formal designation, confirmed on Wednesday morning, of Technological University (TU ) status for the AIT and LIT consortium is the conclusion of a strong and dedicated collaboration process between both third level institutions.
The TU designation will increase higher education access, provide enhanced research-led teaching and learning, drive enhanced regional development and increase opportunities for students, staff, business and enterprise, local communities and regional stakeholders, facilitating and promoting economic progression.
Recognising the announcement as a historic occasion for Athlone, the Midlands and the Mid-West of Ireland, AIT President, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, welcomed the realisation of the consortium’s TU status ambition.
“This is a historic day for Athlone, the Midlands and Mid-West of Ireland, as we see our ambition of achieving technological university status realised.
“This formal designation will see AIT and LIT come together to form a new educational powerhouse, linked by the River Shannon. Unique in its geography, the new university will border almost half of Ireland’s 26 counties, providing unprecedented levels of access to higher education.
“This will be a transformative change in accessibility and one that we are proud to lead. As a new university, we will be bold and ambitious. We will drive future development and technological innovation across Ireland and on an international stage through cross-cutting, high-TRL research and knowledge transfer to stakeholders in industry. Today marks the start of an exciting future for all,” Professor Ó Catháin remarked.
Noting his family connection pertaining to the origin and evolution of the AIT, Town Mayor, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, stated that the awarding of TU status to the consortium was a “transformative realisation”.
“The beneficial impact that this development will realise both educationally and economically is immeasurable.
“I was delighted to be involved in part of the realisation process and I wish to congratulate the transition team and the Governing Body at AIT for driving this project and for seeing it through to its wonderful conclusion.
“I also want to afford immense gratitude to the President of AIT, Professor Ciaran O’Catháin, who for two decades has pushed the boundaries, put university status on the agenda for Athlone, and in the end made this day possible.
“I feel a great deal of personal pride and honour also today knowing that 54 years ago on the 3rd of August 1967, my grandfather, Paddy Lenihan, then a TD for this area, secured agreement from cabinet for a new Regional Technical College to be located in Auburn, Athlone and, here I am 54 years on as Mayor of Athlone, welcoming university status for that same college.
“University status 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 with such increased capacity and scale leading to more economic activity both directly and indirectly.
“To have a university in our region will be transformative. Initially, I think it will certainly attract new investment into the region, both indigenous and foreign direct. This of course will help, on the one hand to retain and sustain jobs, but also to create new employment and skills in the region.
“University status will also give students from the Midlands region greater choice along with the highest quality of education across all qualification levels, from apprenticeship to doctoral degrees, whilst residing in their own locality and for me, that is key,” Cllr O’Rourke enthused.
A member of the AIT-LIT Governing Body, local Fianna Fáil Councillor, Frankie Keena, spoke of his pride with regard to his involvement in the TU designation process.
“As a member of both the AIT Governing Body and the joint AIT-LIT Governing Body, I am absolutely delighted to welcome the announcement that TU status has been granted to the joint consortium.
“This marks a new beginning, the start of an exciting bright future for the Midlands region and Athlone as a university town. We can now offer third level university education to our local student population.
“This marvellous news will also further assist the IDA and Enterprise Ireland in attracting more sustainable jobs to Athlone. I would like to sincerely thank Professor Ciaran Ó Catháin and his excellent academic team for delivering on this TU for Athlone and region.
“Further gratitude must be afforded to my fellow colleagues on the AIT Governing Body led by Chairman Liam Rattigan for their endless work on this focussed consortium project.
“Finally, to our marvellous partners at LIT I say thank you so much and well done. It was a joy working with you so far in achieving this TU status. We are now moving onto the next exciting chapter of our journey in delivering on excellence in education and research. I am so proud to have been part of this process,” Cllr Keena asserted.
The awarding of TU status to the AIT-LIT consortium, the third such announcement since 2019, reflects the continuing evolution of the higher education landscape with students within the Midlands and Mid-West region soon to be an integral inclusion of this progressive development.