Marriage takes work and is never easy

January 31, 2013

I am the leader of one of the few higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland that has completed a merger in the past two decades (my institution, the Limerick Institute of Technology, incorporated the smaller Tipperary Institute in 2011). As such, I read with great interest Times Higher Education’s feature on the country’s higher education sector and its opinion article by Ferdinand von Prondzynski, principal and vice-chancellor of Robert Gordon University (“Reconfiguring the landscape”, “Leave the Irish sector alone to get on with the task of renewal”, 24 January).

The prevailing view in these articles, one shared by the Irish academy, is that the university sector will be left untouched by the upcoming consolidation process, as none of the nation’s seven existing universities is expected to merge with each other. It is mentioned in passing that they will absorb smaller colleges such as teacher training institutions and an array of other niche players.

Make no mistake: when it comes to mergers, it does not matter how large or small each entity is or what pecking order is implicitly assumed. Any integration process will be governed by Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations and will bring challenges in regards to organisational culture and academic cohesion, never mind the practicalities of system unification. Good luck!

Maria Hinfelaar, President, Limerick Institute of Technology.

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