Fianna Fáil TD for Longford – Westmeath Robert Troy has criticised Minister for Education Richard Bruton for his failure to bring forward the Technological Universities Bill, delaying the opportunity for Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) to make a formal application for university status.

Deputy Troy said, “AIT has been providing an invaluable service since 1970 and has allowed thousands of students in the Midlands to pursue third level education down through the years. Its presence has supported the local economy in Athlone and has led to increased inward investment into not only Westmeath but also the wider Midlands area.

“The management at AIT have made it clear that they would like to see the institute being designated as a Technological University. This would lead to exciting new prospects for AIT and would safeguard its future. The Programme for Government makes a specific commitment to support the creation of Technological Universities, however despite this little has been done to assist AIT in becoming a university.

“AIT is currently precluded from applying for Technological University status as the current Government policy is the demand mandatory mergers of Institutes of Technology. It has been suggested that AIT should merge with Dundalk Institute of Technology, but the practicalities make it impossible to do so. This has led to the bizarre situation whereby AIT is being denied university status despite already meeting all of the criteria needed to fulfil the requirements.

“The Technological Universities Bill is meant to deal with these outstanding issues but the Government has failed to progress this legislation. Accordingly AIT has been left in limbo and has been unable to plan properly for the future. This is simply unacceptable as it is restricting AIT from reaching its true potential.

“I’ve been raising this issue in the Dáil with Minister Bruton and have highlighted the need to get the Technological Universities Bill back on track. The time has come for the Minister to declare his intentions for the future of AIT and allow it to apply for university status. This cannot be allowed to be left on the backburner any longer,” concluded Deputy Troy.