Athlone Institute of Technology is to become a technological university, according to the college’s new strategic plan launched yesterday (Thursday ).
President of AIT Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin said the move would help AIT to better meet the needs of both students and employers, by providing highly qualified and work-ready graduates.
The new plan would see AIT’s student population increase by 15 per cent to 6,000, with a higher proportion of postgrads, and increased retention rates of 78 per cent.
The institute will also develop a new research centre, which will work in collaboration with industry and academic partners. This will lead to a 50 per cent increase in the number of companies that the college engages with across the areas of materials, software, and bioscience.
More students will have the opportunity to undertake an international placement or study programme abroad, while there will be a renewed emphasis on languages and increasing the international student body from 11 to 15 per cent.
In addition, the professional development of staff will be a priority, with a particular focus on staff reaching the PhD level required for TU status.
Entitled ‘Global Focus - Regional Impact’, AIT’s new strategic plan sets out a series of goals for the development of the institute through 2018. It was launched by international expert on higher education, Professor Simon Marginson of the Institute of Education in London, yesterday.
Speaking at the launch, AIT president Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin said: “Becoming a technological university will enable us to better serve the needs of our students by providing them with an applied and internationally focused education. It will enable us to better meet the needs of employers for highly qualified and work-ready graduates. It will enable us to better meet the needs of entrepreneurs and industry for a research and innovation partner. And, it will enable us to better serve the many and various community groups that are the backbone of this Midlands region.”
Acknowledging that achieving TU status is “an ambitious goal”, the president said: “When you examine the criteria for TU status published by the Government, it quickly becomes apparent that AIT is one of the leaders in terms of reaching those metrics. We are to the forefront in terms of the percentage of staff with PhDs, research activity, and the diverse nature of our student population.”
AIT is adopting a phased approach towards the attainment of TU status, and has set a revenue target of €6 million per annum from non-exchequer sources, some of which will be generated through the development of a high performance sports centre of excellence.