Athlone granted university status

A new era in the midlands has dawned this morning (Wednesday) with the announcement of government approval for a new university in the region.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris today granted Technological University (TU) status to Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology.

This is the third TU to be created since 2019 and is a milestone for the Midlands and the MidWest regions.

The AIT-LIT consortium submitted its application for Technological University status to the government in November last.

An international advisory panel considered the application and submitted a report to the Higher Education Authority, which, in turn, forwarded the report and its views, to the Minister.

In deciding to grant TU status, Minister Harris said “This is another hugely important day for higher education in Ireland and in particular for the Midlands and Mid-West regions.”

Westmeath Minister of State Peter Burke has also welcomed the establishment of a new Technological University in the Midlands.

The Fine Gael public representative said: “This is a great day for the Midlands and Mid-West and will hugely benefit students and staff but also businesses and communities. Athlone IT has for many years been the backbone of the education community in the midlands, providing education, research and innovation in a wide variety of fields to those in our local towns and increasing their offering and college places year on year.

“It will soon be the case that people from Athlone and the wider midlands community can study in a university in their own town, to grow their roots in their county and to help address the regional imbalance. We no longer must travel further than outside of Westmeath to access a world class university of our own.

“I am very much looking forward to this new TU bringing those benefits from Athlone and its environs through Mullingar and Longford and across the midlands, providing not just top-class education but further employment and innovation to the region.

“This will allow people across the Midlands and Mid-West and beyond through digital connectivity to obtain a university degree in their home places.”

Minister Harris said: “The higher education landscape is rapidly evolving and the people of the Midlands and Mid-West will be at the heart both geographically and practically of that evolution.

“This new TU – our third since 2019 - will now take its rightful place in the higher education landscape in the country’s heartlands. The new higher education institution of increased scale and reach will benefit the students and communities of Westmeath, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare and Offaly to name but some of the counties which will be served by the new university.”

Technological universities are envisaged as anchor institutions in their respective regions to drive and support social, cultural and economic development, as well as deliver an enhanced student experience and range of options to learners.

The first TU in the history of the state, TU Dublin, was established on 1 January 2019 followed by the second , Munster Technological University or MTU (formerly Cork IT and IT Tralee) on 1 January 2021.

The process to designate a new TU is enshrined in the Technological Universities Act 2018. The next steps in the legislative process require the Minister to bring forward a draft order establishing the appointed day on which the new technological university will be legally established and Athlone and Limerick ITs consequentially dissolved for approval by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Minister said a date for this requirement is currently being considered but subject to the order being approved in due course all students graduating in the 2021-2022 academic year will do so with university qualifications.

Former Fine Gael TD and Senator Gabrielle McFadden hailed the announcement as “a great day for Athlone and the Midlands”.

She said when she became Mayor of Athlone in 2013, she had identified the creation of a university for Athlone as one of three ambitions for the town.

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