A key aspect of Irish higher education policy over the past decade has been the planned move of the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) to a new campus in North Dublin – the Grangegorman project. This was not just a higher education plan; it was part of a bigger project of north inner city regeneration, and a public agency was established to coordinate and run it. The Granegorman Development Agency was tasked with building a new ‘city quarter’ with retail, residential, health and educational elements. DIT was to be the key part of the latter aspect.
I am writing all this in the past tense because the Irish government has now announced that the project is being ‘deferred’. Given the public exchequer position in Ireland, it is not easy to see how the proposal could be resurrected in the foreseeable future. This has significant implications for DIT, currently spread over ten or so Dublin sites only some of which are really fit for purpose, and necessarily also for the plans of DIT, with Tallaght and Blanchardstown institutes, to form a new ‘technological university.’ All of this in turn changes the assumptions previously made about the North Dublin higher education landscape.
In fact the government announcement has a bigger effect still, because the Metro North plans are also being ‘deferred’, and this will have a major impact on plans to create better access to Dublin City University.
Nobody doubts the tricky nature of Ireland’s public finances, but this announcement has major implications for higher education, and it would have been sensible to have these debated first.
PS. According to an RTE report released later this afternoon, DIT has announced that it will seek to proceed with the Grangegorman project even without public funding. Whether it will be able to access sufficient capital for this purpose remains to be seen. During the property boom that would have been more likely, given the opportunities for public private partnerships. But as DIT does not own the land and would probably still have to observe the general Grangegorman development principles, this will not be easily achieved now.