LIT president Dr Maria Hinfelaar has declared herself “100 % confident” the proposal to establish a Munster Technological University will go ahead.
The plan, which would see LIT, Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and Institute of Technology Tralee (IT Tralee) band together to form an amalgamated unit and thereby create the largest higher education institution in the region, would also bring Limerick’s tally of universities to two.
In an interview with the Limerick Leader this week, Dr Hinfelaar referred to precise figures and the pertinent sections of the Hunt Report (National Strategy for Higher Education) which was published in January 2011, to back up her argument.
“The Hunt Report was commissioned by the minister to look at the structure and configuration of the sector, which included universities and ITs, and come up with recommendations,” explained Dr Hinfelaar.
“In the strategy it actually said in the document that we should collaborate with each other, which we already do, I think we are probably ahead of the posse on that one. While it did say that there should be ‘no new universities on the basis of section 9 of the universities act’, it did go on to say that the ‘Institute of Technology sector should commence a process of evolution, consolidation and amalgamated institutions, reaching the appropriate scale, (which) could be redesignated as technological universities’.
“So it is in there in the strategy and what we are seeing now is that these clusters are beginning to form, all with the same ambition, to come together to attain technological university status and that is what we are seeking,” she added.
The institutes have been working toward the proposal to form the MTU since January in consultation with international experts who have experience in establishing multi-campus universities. However, the application process is expected to be rigorous and has been sent for approval by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn. It is thought the entire process could take up to two years.
“What we know at this point is that the HEA has drawn up the final version of the criteria and that they have gone to minister, who then needs to get them signed off around the cabinet table but I would imagine there will be quite a sense of urgency behind it now because the Hunt Report came out over a year ago now. It is decision time for the government as well,” argued Dr Hinfelaar.
*A full version of this story was published in the Limerick Leader, print edition, dated February 11, 2012