Technological Universities in Ireland: the new imperative!
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Higher education in Ireland has been characterized for some time as having a distinct two-tier structure. The top tier is comprised of the university sector, which features a number of older and newer entrants. Firmly in second position based on research outputs, funding, status and societal esteem have been the Institutes of Technology (IoTs; Hazelkorn & Moynihan, 2010). However, the recent re-designation of DIT, ITB and ITT as Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin), has challenged the status quo. Despite initial setbacks the success of TU Dublin will inevitably be followed by Munster Technological University and the Technological University of the South-East. The anticipated success of these alliances is acting as a catalyst throughout the entire IoT sector in Ireland. The emerging Technological Universities are forcing all of the remaining IoTs to redefine their roles and aspirations. In this new scenario the option of remaining an IoT in a sector that has re-cast itself to Technological University status is increasingly problematic. This new imperative is therefore forcing the remaining IoTs to explore future options in haste. No institution wants to hold the moniker of the ‘last IoT’. However, the current trajectory of the remaining IoTs in their bid for TU status is highly problematic. The question of what will be lost in this transition is paramount. In addition, the almost unseemly haste in which the remaining IoTs are desperately searching for partner institutions is glossing over undercurrents that threaten the future stability of any resulting TUs. The requirement that merging IoTs adopt the term Technological University must also be re examined if equity is a goal. Finally, the current dominance of the now dated Hunt Report must be questioned, as should the prohibition on mergers crossing the binary divide. This paper explores the experience of the former polytechnics in the UK as a comparator to predict potential outcomes for the Institutes of Technology/Technological Universities in Ireland, as well as highlighting spatial aspects of their development.
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