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Professor Vincent Cunnane, President of Limerick Institute of Technology. Picture Sean Curtin True Media.

IT upgrade makes Ennis a university town

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THE announcement this week that Ennis is to become a university town has been described as “fantastic news” for the county capital and the entire region.
The green light has been given for a new Technological University in the Mid-West and Midlands.
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has designated Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology Ireland’s next technological university. LIT’s Ennis campus on Bindon Street will fall under the remit of the new institution.
Announcing the designation of the new TU on Wednesday Minister Harris TD said, “This is another hugely important day for higher education in Ireland and in particular for the Midlands and Mid-West regions.
“The higher education landscape is rapidly evolving and the people of the Midlands and Mid-West will henceforth be at the heart both geographically and practically of that evolution.
“This new technological university designate will increase higher education access, provide enhanced research-led teaching and learning, drive enhanced regional development and increase opportunities for students, staff, business and enterprise, local communities and regional stakeholders, thereby facilitating and promoting deepened socio-economic progression.
“This new TU – our third since 2019 – will now take its rightful place in the higher education landscape in the country’s heartlands.
“I would like to warmly congratulate and sincerely thank the very many people from the two Institutions including their management, governing bodies, staff, students and the wider regional and community stakeholders who have enabled today’s announcement and who can now look forward to an exciting future for this new university and the regions it will serve.”
Minister of State with responsibility for Skills and Further Education Niall Collins TD added, “This is a transformational event for the people of the Midlands and the Mid-West.
“We know the many faceted benefits of TUs and we are seeing how they can transform regions elsewhere. This will allow people across the Midlands and Mid-West and beyond through digital connectivity to obtain a university degree in their home places.
“As a former LIT lecturer and a proud Limerick man, I am delighted to see this milestone being reached, and I want to congratulate all involved.”
Welcoming the announcement, the presidents of both institutes of technology, LIT’s Professor Vincent Cunnane and AIT’s Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, described the designation of the new TU as the conclusion of a strong and dedicated collaboration process between two institutions with a shared vision and ethos.
Professor Cunnane said, “Today is a Red-Letter Day for the Midlands and Mid-West, and a significant day in the educational history of the regions and indeed Ireland.
“Receiving TU designation is a huge achievement – an achievement based on a strong, comparable strategic direction in both organisations over a number of years, and a real concerted effort for the last 18 months.
“The new TU promises to be a university with a strengthened regional focus and a national and international outlook, that will benefit our staff, our students and the communities we serve.
“It will take its place as an economic driver for the regions in a post pandemic Ireland, rebuilding our economy and our society, researching new ideas, providing solutions, supporting business and industry, while ensuring a first-class education for all its students.”
Chair of Governing Body LIT Tony Brazil said, “The new university points to a strong future serving a region that stretches along the River Shannon, making this area even more attractive to Indigenous SMEs and foreign direct investment, by linking knowledge, research, education and innovation.
“The new TU will require significant public investment and support to reach its full potential, as it opens up educational opportunities to areas previously underserved. This new university will carry with it the student-centred ethos of its predecessors ensuring access to education for the communities it serves.”
Professor Ó Catháin said, “Unique in its geography, the new university will border almost half of Ireland’s 26 counties, providing unprecedented levels of access to higher education. This will be a transformative change in accessibility and one that we are proud to lead.
“As a new university, we will be bold and ambitious. We will drive future development and technological innovation across Ireland and on an international stage through cross-cutting, high-TRL research and knowledge transfer to stakeholders in industry.”
New SU President-Elect Áine Daly and LIT SU President Dylan Ryan added, “We were delighted to be part of the process that brought us to TU designation today, and proud of our students who ensured they had their say in the formation of Ireland’s next technological university.”
Fianna Fáil TD for Clare Cathal Crowe welcomed the news saying, “Elevating (LIT/AIT) to TU status is a real boost for the town and for our county as a whole. It’s also important to note the new TU campus being so close to Shannon Airport and the Shannon Free Zone is invaluable and no doubt played a major role in securing this upgraded status for LIT. I think there’s huge potential here to pioneer aviation courses and training from a university in Clare.
“Along with the huge boost in terms of the provision of education in Clare and the Midwest region, this has massive potential for the economy of Ennis. I look forward to seeing hundreds of students living here, working here and spending their money in the wealth of local businesses we have in our county town.”
Deputy Joe Carey said, “The fact that Ennis will now become a university town is a huge boost. The town and county will benefit in the years ahead, as this new technological university evolves.
“The presidents of LIT and Athlone IT deserve enormous credit for their foresight in combining to make this happen. The potential created by LIT and Clare County Council in working together to establish the campus in Bindon Street has already paid dividends. This latest development will build on that to the benefit of current and future generations in our county.”

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