Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. and Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today (6 November 2019) welcomed the report of the TU Research Network (TURN): Connectedness & Collaboration enabled by Connectivity, which was presented to the Department by the TURN high level working group.
Minister McHugh said: “Technological universities are a core part of this Government’s plan to meet the challenges facing us as an economy and a society.
“The TURN group’s analysis outlines how TUs can be supported to focus on quality and excellence. The Government has responded both positively and swiftly.
“As announced during Budget 2020 we are dedicating €90 million over the next three years to support our institutions to achieve TU designation and to support the further advancement of established technological universities. Great work is already underway, and I look forward to continued progress across all areas.
“A network of technological universities in our regions will make a real difference in helping people to develop skills, to ensure balanced regional development and to meet the demands from digitalisation and technological disruption.”
Speaking at an event to launch the report at the Department’s Marlborough Street campus, Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “As Minister for Higher Education I am deeply committed to supporting the development of technological universities in the State and established the legal framework for Technology Universities in Ireland in the Technological Universities Act, 2018.
“The TURN report demonstrates that technological universities have a pivotal role in achieving the Government’s national strategic policies as set out in Project Ireland 2040, Future Jobs Ireland and Horizon Europe.
“We believe in the transformative potential of technological universities. Our objective is to have a Technological University presence in every region of the country. This will provide increased choices for students, an enhanced student experience and greater access for potential students tackling educational disadvantage.
“TUs will offer a deep and broad range of teaching, from apprenticeship to doctoral degrees. They will also support an increased intensity of research activity, which will deliver benefits for students, staff, employers and local communities, opportunities for collaboration with industry and benefits for the economy and wider society.
“The TU ‘family’ now includes the new consortium of Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology, bringing the total number of institutes involved in TU development to 9, of 11 nationally. As the TURN report clearly demonstrates, they all recognise the unique opportunity we have now to create a new and highly effective type of institute of real substance, critical mass and reach in the higher education landscape.”
Properly resourced and empowered TUs will provide a more diverse, flexible and dynamic tertiary education system.
TUs will marry both an attractive physical multi-campus presence with state-of-the-art digital connectivity, providing new modes of learning where the student and learner is placed centre-stage and can access course content and avail of first-class tuition irrespective of location or circumstance. This will be achieved by focusing on the three main themes identified in the TURN report: reforming the policy and funding framework for TUs; investing in their digital infrastructure; and building and strengthening their research capacity.
Each TU will serve as an anchor institution in the development and advancement of its region. Drawing frontier technological developments to regions through intensive collaboration, engagement with and connectedness to national and international researchers will be fundamental to TUs acting as regional knowledge hubs. These hubs will, in turn, act as major catalysts for further direct investment, research, innovation and employment growth in a self-generating virtuous circle.
The report correctly emphasises that Government must continue to support TUs both in their pathway to establishment and in their vital formative years. There are critical actions that must be taken to ensure this happens as set out in the TURN report.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor concluded: “The higher education multi-campus, digitally enhanced and research-oriented model and accompanying regional development transformation envisaged by TURN will be achieved through significantly increased levels of funding and through appropriate policy development, to give TUs the optimal conditions to succeed. Success for TUs is success for Ireland, regionally, nationally and internationally. It is success writ large for students, staff, employers and local communities.
“Given the high quality, clarity and impact of this report and the dedicated and detailed work of TURN in its preparation, I have requested that the TURN group should continue with an expanded remit. This will ensure that new funding is prioritised and used as effectively as possible on a value-for-money basis to deliver the transformative, system-wide approach that will see more TUs being created and delivering significantly on regional development, socio-economic progress and related national strategic priorities.”