A technical university for the south?

CIT and IT Tralee are apparently planning to put together a submission to establish a Technical University of Munster. I have to say that my initial response to this was “what the hell is CIT thinking”? The statement that “The leadership and management roles will be based at the two main campuses,” may be telling. I suspect that this is being driven by the ‘lads’ at the top, rather than being something more organic. But, maybe I’m being cynical and the managers see something I don’t.

But, let’s look at the IoTs in the south and include Carlow in the analysis, which is summarized in Table 1. Limerick is out of the game, having made the sensible choice to strengthen links with UL. Obviously there are many factors that will ultimately determine whether any merged organization will be granted technical university (TU) status, but possessing a core of high-demand courses is one of them.

Table 1 Level 8 Programs with entry points at or above 300*

Institution Number of programs (Based on CAO 2012)

20 (7)


17 (4)


17 (2)


9 (0)

*Figure in brackets is the number of programs with points at or above 350

By all accounts, Waterford and Carlow are currently moving ahead together and on the basis of the above data, that looks like a good move. They seem to  have the potential to develop into an institution that could rival DCU and UL at least. They already have a core suite of programs for which demand is reasonably high. (This would undoubtedly increase with a change to TU status.) There is also not a huge amount of overlap between their programs, especially in the programs with the highest demand.

Placed against a Waterford/Carlow proposal, it has hard to see the Cork/Tralee one going anywhere, especially when you consider the politics of the situation. Cork will always have the disadvantage of being in the same small city as UCC and, as the dominant partner in the proposed new TU, it will have a very tricky job differentiating itself from UCC.

I think CIT will be left stranded and might be encouraged to strengthen those features that differentiate it from UCC; or encouraged to strengthen links with UCC. Perhaps it could be encouraged to look east and link up with Waterford.  A merged institution combining Waterford, Cork and Carlow would be interesting but the merger might be too difficult to implement. Tralee will rightly stay as an IoT because it will never (I predict!) attract large numbers of high calibre students to high demand courses. Tralee  will never be able to offer anything that the ‘big boys’, located in the cities, won’t be able to trump.


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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