The Munster Technological University is hoping to enrol its first students in September 2020 or January 2021 after the Education Minister delayed his decision on the TU proposal until early next year.
The delay comes after a review carried out by an independent panel highlighted that the capacity of both Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) and IT Tralee to take on “technological university functions” was not clear.
The review also stated that the MTU submission contained a “lack of clear vision and strategy” and leaves “questions unanswered regarding the specifics of how the two applicant institutions are to become one”.
While Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh said the government is “strongly committed to the establishment of MTU as a key priority”, he said he is delaying his decision until early next year.
This is to allow the MTU consortium to address the “important issues set out by the Review Panel”, he added.
Speaking to The Echo, MTU project director and CIT lecturer Professor Hugh McGlynn, said the consortium welcomed the findings of the review.
“We need to satisfy a few things that were raised by the panel which all seem very achievable and constructive,” he explained.
Professor McGlynn described the visit of the international panel in May as “very encouraging”.
“They sent their advice to the Minister and the Minister has said we have a piece of work to do to satisfy some of the requirements that were raised by the panel.
“We’ve been given a six month period to put a plan in place to the satisfaction of the Minister and I think we’re well on the way to that - it’s very achievable,” he added.
“We’re heartened by the comments from the Minister and we’ve taken on board the requirements that we have to meet.” It was previously reported that the MTU proposal was in doubt due to financial difficulties at IT Tralee.
According to a report in The Irish Times, CIT management was warned in recent months that the current debt at IT Tralee could rise from €10 million to €21 million in a worst-case scenario.
It was previously revealed at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that IT Tralee was €1.8m overdrawn at the end of 2016.
Professor McGlynn said:
“The Department of Education and Skills and Higher Education Authority are very aware of the financial situation at IT Tralee as it’s been in the media a number of times.
“We’ve put a plan in place to look at managing the financial strategy of MTU,” he added.
Professor McGlynn said that the MTU hopes to enrol its first students in September next year or January 2021, but that the decision rests with the Minister.
The MTU consortium had previously said that it would like to welcome students in September 2019 or January 2020.
“It was an aspiration, we had to put down a date to work towards but it’s absolutely at the discretion of the Minister,” said Professor McGlynn.
“We work towards a date but we can move the goal posts accordingly.”
Minister of State at the DES, Mary Mitchell O’Connor said she is confident the two institutes, supported by the Department and the HEA will rise to the challenge of making the MTU a reality in the coming months.