A transformational moment for education in the Midlands region, a ceremony to formally unveil the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest (TUS ) will take place in the Athlone IT International Sports Arena tomorrow afternoon (Friday, October 1 ).
The official unveiling of the TUS marks the culmination of a period of cohesive work by representatives of the AIT-LIT consortium which formed in October 2019 with the sole purpose of achieving such a realisation.
TUS will comprise a student population of more than 14,000 and a staff complement of approximately 1,200 people across six campuses in Athlone, Limerick (Moylish and Limerick School of Art and Design, Clare Street ), Clonmel, Ennis and Thurles and will drive significant development and investment across the Midlands and Midwest regions.
Inaugural TUS President, Professor Vincent Cunnane, will be among the keynote speakers during the ceremony and speaking prior to the occasion, he noted that TUS will be distinct in its connections with local communities and economies and will bring a new beginning to the Midlands and Midwest regions.
“The official opening will be a pivotal and momentous occasion that celebrates and recognises the great collaborative effort that has brought us to the point of becoming a Technological University,” he stated.
“It is a tremendous achievement that will truly transform and bolster our region both from an education and economic perspective for generations to come. TUS will be distinct in its orientation towards the economic, social and cultural life of its local communities and will bring a new beginning to the Midlands and Midwest,” Professor Cunnane asserted.
Noting his pride prior to the opening ceremony, Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Cllr Frankie Keena, stated that Friday, October 1, was a historic day for the town of Athlone.
“Over the last 50 years we have enjoyed the presence of a third level educational college in our town, commencing with Athlone Regional Technical College, evolving into Athlone Institute of Technology and now, the Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest.
“It has been a long number of years since this TU designation was first mentioned for Athlone and it would not have happened without the drive, commitment and vision of Professor Ciaran O’Cathain. Supporting Ciaran on this journey was an excellent academic team plus an exceptionally strong Governing Body expertly chaired by Liam Rattigan.
“It is important to put this transformative development in context and to explain what TU status mean to the people of Athlone, Westmeath and Midlands region.
“Firstly, we will now have a university that offers a wide range of excellent educational opportunities from Level 7 to PhD status. Additionally, there will be an increased focus on apprenticeship provisions to meet the demands of relevant industries.
“Furthermore, there will be a massive savings on rent and travel for parents as no longer will their children have to travel to our cities to obtain a university education.
“The close collaboration between IDA, Enterprise Ireland and local industry with Athlone Institute of Technology has been exceptionally strong over the years. This new TU status will now pave the way for the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to attract further inward investment into Athlone and the Midlands region. This will most definitely boost the economy and create strong sustainable employment in the area.
“Athlone is now branded as a university town which will most definitely assist us on our journey to becoming a regional growth centre,” Cllr Keena emphasised.
Athlone Deputy Mayor, a former student of Athlone Institute of Technology, also lauded the occasion, noting that the appointment of Athlone as a university town would be highly beneficial from an education and economic perspective.
“Friday, October 1, will be a momentous day for Athlone the town attains university status. I know the work that has been afforded towards this ultimate realisation on the Athlone side, so I want to congratulate the Governing Body at Athlone IT for all their work conducted in this regard.
“Advancing to university status is another major step in the right direction for Athlone as the designated regional growth centre for the wider Midlands region. TU status will see more people employed at the university and studying there also, such increased capacity and scale leading to more economic activity both directly and indirectly.
“I want to sincerely wish the incoming President of TUS, Professor Vincent Cunnane, the very best of luck in his new and exciting role. I also want to recognise on this occasion Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin whose dedication, foresight and relentless ambition for the college has undoubtedly brought us to this momentous day.
“I am sure I am joined by the people of Athlone and the staff of Athlone IT when I say thank you to Professor Ó Catháin for all he has done for the college and for the town of Athlone. Ciarán leaves a very impressive legacy, one for which we are all grateful and one that will greatly benefit this town in the many decades to come,” Cllr O’Rourke concluded.