Clonmel and Thurles set to become university towns after merger of Limerick and Athlone ITs

02 Nov 2021 Admin Manager By Admin Manager

The towns of Clonmel and Thurles in Tipperary are set to receive university town status following the completion of works on a merger of Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT). 

The new designations for the two towns has been described as a major step forward in securing Tipperary’s future as an educational centre.

The merger of LIT and AIT is expected to be completed later this year.

Speaking on Tipp FM this morning, Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill said the plan would provide "a great academic boost" for the county.

"My clear understanding now is that the deal is done and that the Minister will be announcing this in the near future," he said.

"There will be extra investment in there and extra variety of courses available.

"I know there are plans in Thurles to invest in more all-weather pitches so there will be extra sports facilities as well." 

It is understood Higher Education Minister, Simon Harris and Head of St Patrick’s Campus in Thurles, Finn Ó Murchú will meet soon to discuss the plan and the development of new teacher training courses in Thurles. 

Midlands and Mid-West Technological University plan

The plan for the merger of LIT and AIT was first laid out in 2019 when a financing application was submitted and a formal consortium was formed.

The Government has provided €7m in funding for the project.

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said the move could be “hugely transformative” for the Midlands and Mid-West regions.

LIT and AIT currently have a combined student population of almost 14,000 and some 1,300 combined staff members.  

The Midlands and Mid-West Technological University will be the third such merged higher education institution in Ireland.

In 2019, TU Dublin became the country’s first technological University when Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology, Tallaght were amalgamated.

In January of this year, Munster Technological University was established following the merging of Cork Institute of Technology and IT Tralee.

Possibility of three new TUs in 2022

Further applications for TU status are expected from the Connacht Ulster Alliance - comprising the Institutes of Technology in Galway-Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny - and from Institute of Technology Carlow and Waterford Institute of Technology who are seeking the establishment of a Technological University for the South East of Ireland.

These institutions, along with the Midlands Mid-West TU, could all be established in 2022.

"These new types of higher education institution are key drivers of a wide range of national strategic policy objectives relating to higher education access, skills retention and creation, research capacity building and research-led teaching and learning excellence, regional development and socio-economic progress," Mr Harris said.

"We wish to ensure that the benefits of higher education and regional development are spread equitably across the country and that everyone can avail of the high-quality provision that TUs deliver for students, staff, employers, enterprise and for the wider local and regional communities they are embedded in."