Launch of THEA a Significant Step in Irish Higher Education - AIT Founding Member
Athlone Institute of Technology is proud to be a founding member of the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA), which was launched formally today (Monday April 3rd) by the Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Richard Bruton TD.
The launch of the THEA marks a significant step in Irish higher education and affords Athlone Institute of Technology the opportunity to reflect on our distinct contribution, together with the other thirteen institutes of technology, to Irish society. Over recent decades Ireland has consciously fostered a diverse higher education landscape in which the institutes of technology have played a seminal role.
The fourteen member institutes within the Technological Higher Education Association are themselves diverse but they share much in common including the role of providing apprenticeship training in higher education; integration of entrepreneurship and work experience; optimum expressions of regional support; the digitalisation agenda; and a strong focus on work-based learning.
We can celebrate the particularly successful role that we have played in widening access to higher education and the manner in which we have largely removed geographical location as an access barrier, contributing considerably to greater social equality and cohesion.
The keynote address at today’s inaugural conference by Dr Charles Larkin of Trinity College clearly demonstrates that institutes of technology are an essential part of the economies of regional Ireland and that each job at Athlone Institute of Technology generates an additional 8.04 jobs in the local economy.
Today’s conference was also reminded that the third level technological sector is in the midst of a funding crisis that must be addressed. The sector has seen a decrease in the state grant of 35%, a drop in core staffing levels of 12%, a virtual halt to capital investment and an increase in student numbers of 30% between 2008 -2015. The sector has relied on increased productivity from its talented staff at a rate that is not sustainable in the longer term.
We welcome today’s discussion on income contingent loans and strongly support the view that funding solutions should not limit student access.
Facilitating access to higher education on the part of a larger proportion of our society is the single greatest achievement of the technological sector and we have expanded countless individual’s horizons while also enhancing the welfare and quality of life for our society as a whole.
Prof Ciaráin Ó Catháin, President of Athlone Institute of Technology