There really is a need to re-think ‘Technological Universities’

As I have pointed out previously, I am not a supporter of the plans in Ireland to establish ‘technological universities’ through forced marriages between institutes of technology. The very questionable nature of these endeavours is now further underlined by the burgeoning costs of the process of discussion between institutes leading up to the proposed mergers and the subsequent applications for ‘technological university’ status. An article in the Irish Times suggested that the cost of these discussions to date has been ‘over €3 million’, before anybody has even got to the point of a formal merger proposal.

While I genuinely respect those who have been working on the legal framework and in the discussions between institutes, I remain of the view that the whole scheme is daft, based on assumptions that would stand up to very little scrutiny. There may well be a case for assessing whether individual institutes are of university standard, but compelling institutes to merge with each other, creating unwieldy multi-location institutions that will almost certainly run into trouble early on.

I suspect it’s too late, but now would be a good time to re-think the whole framework. It’s costly and complex, and it’s not going to work.

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3 Comments on “There really is a need to re-think ‘Technological Universities’”

  1. Steve Says:

    There may still be time to oppose this. Only one TU (the TU4D) is ready to go now. The legislation is still in draft – there would be time to enact it before the election if the government stays for its full term, but this seems less and less likely. The other TUs are facing serious opposition, particularly internal opposition. Plenty of time for changes of mind.

  2. Greg Foley Says:

    From what I can make out, there are at least 5 reasons for the TU project, none of which have anything to do with education. These are: (i) local politics and the fact that politicians have backed themselves into a corner where the must ‘deliver’ a university for their region, (ii) a very strong tendency in this country for politicians and policy makers to suffer from merger mania – tidy systems are always presumed to be better and more efficient than diverse ones despite evidence to the contrary – creating tidy systems is seen as an an end in itself, (iii) a probability that some of the IoTs are in deep financial trouble and this is a way of covering that up, (iv) many politicians haven’t a clue about third level education and actually believe the spin about TUs being a ‘new kind of university’ that will deliver all sorts of wonderful things in the area of innovation and regional development – while existing on a shoestring budget, (v) a belief that by being re-branded as universities, the IoTs will be better able to be ‘leverage’ non-exchequer funding – think international students etc. (Sean O Foghlu let this slip recently.)

    The sad thing about all of this is that what the country needs is a highly diverse education system suitable for our huge participation rates. Instead, the medium term future will be a system that is highly homogeneous with everyone aspiring to be essentially the same kind of institution. This same drive towards homogeneity is to be seen in the recent changes to college entry being proposed by TGRUSE. The expectation is that everyone will just fall into line (with Maynooth and UCD) and adopt exactly the same kind of degree structure with generic entry rather than denominated entry.

  3. cormac Says:

    A further cause for concern is the recent statement from the HEA that, once engaged, the process of converting IoTs to TUs should be ‘cost neutral’. This is proof, if ever it were needed, that we are talking about a process of renaming, not a process of upgrading..

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