LYIT authorities to debate National Strategy report as cross-border alliances emphasised
By PaDDY wALSH
Letterkenny Institute of Technology authorities will meet next week to debate the contents of the National Strategy for Higher Education report which could see the college benefit from a University merger on a cross-border basis.
While formal mergers between Institutes of Technology and universities would not be considered, the 20 year strategy plan indicates, there is potential for an exception with the formation of alliances linking third level establishments between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
"We are too small as we are to be designated as technological universities but our connections with the University of Ulster which we first established in 2007 could be key," reacted LYIT President, Paul Hannigan, yesterday.
In her address at the launch in Dublin on Tuesday, Tanaiste and Minister for Education, Mary Coughlan said a "clear pathway" of evolution for Institutes of Technology was laid out in the report."This opens the potential for institutes to amalgamate on a regional basis, and if they meet defined performance criteria, to then seek re-designation as Technological Universities. The criteria for re-designation will be robust and will be based on the strong foundation of the existing Institute of Technology sector mission," the Minister pointed out. Initial work on their development had already commenced and international expertise had now been engaged to assist in their finalisation. "I expect their publication for public and stakeholder consultation later this spring. Our aim is to support the development of stronger performing institutions that remain true to their very critical role in Ireland's economic and social development.
"Direct discussions with individual institutions on their future strategic intentions in terms of regional cluster formations, and where appropriate alliances or mergers, will also now be advanced."
The national strategy suggests the Higher Education Authority should promote such regional clusters by providing incentives and by requiring institutions to build regional collaboration into their strategic plans. The benefits of clustering would extend to both staff and students of all participating institutions, the Hunt Report maintains.
It said there was a "significant potential" for institutional collaboration on a North-South basis to advance cross-border regional development.
The Letterkenny I.T. President, who attended Tuesday's launch at the National Convention Centre, said internal discussions would now take place on all aspects of the 20 year strategy as outlined in the report.
The college's Academic Council will meet on Monday next while the Governing Body will offer their perspective on the plan at a meeting on Tuesday. A management team meeting later in the week will also focus on the main points of the report.
"The challenges are there for us - we now have to make decisions on how to engage with it," Mr. Hannigan declared.