Tension in DkIT over funding row

The relationship between DkIT President Dr Michael Mulvey and a number of TUI affiliated staff members is at breaking point over decisions from the college boss which a source claims has cost the college millions. The relationship between President Mulvey and TUI staff has deteriorated to the point where it is expected that the TUI will shortly call a motion for a vote of no confidence in the DkIT President who has been in the role since 2017.
Last week it was announced that DkIT received €760,000 in funding via the Technological Universities Transformation Fund (TUTF) to progress plans towards becoming the region’s first Technological University. However, a source in DkIT has accused President Mulvey of making a ‘serious strategic mistake’ by delaying talks with potential partners (other Institutes of Technology around the country) to form a consortium while also making the startling claim that the college would not even have received the funding for €760,000 had it not been for the TUI’s intervention.
While DkIT received €760,000 HEA figures show that the local IT is getting a much smaller amount of funding compared to other IoT’s. A number of IT’s have formed consortiums and in doing so received much bigger funds via the TUTF.
For example, Athlone and Limerick Institutes of Technology formed a consortium and are getting €5,000,000, Sligo IT, Letterkenny IT and GMIT joined together to form CUA and will get €5,700,000 between, while Cork and Tralee ITs are getting €8,250,000 after joining forces to become MTU. According to a DkIT source, President Mulvey’s refusal to speak to other IoT’s last year was a decision which cost the college millions.
“This disparity in funding is because the DkIT President Michael Mulvey made a serious strategic mistake by failing to negotiate with other Institutes of Technology for DkIT to join a Technological University Consortium.
“Despite claiming on his arrival in 2017 that he would pursue TU status he discontinued talks with potential partners shortly after his arrival and instead became bogged down in internal processes while the rest of the IoT sector formed consortia, got access to TU funding, and moved forward towards TU status.
“Despite repeated warnings from staff that he was making a serious mistake by remaining outside negotiations that were going to influence the Institute’s future and deny DkIT access to Technological University funding the President took no action to enter negotiations with the other IoTs.
“The local TUI raised their concern publicly in June 2019 that DkIT was the last major IoT not to have joined a TU Consortium, which is a precursor to achieving Technological University status, and that the window of opportunity to join a Consortium was closing. Again, Michael Mulvey took no action. In November 2019 the President signed an agreement pledging to an immediate engagement with all existing TU Consortia with a view to joining a TU consortium. He reneged on that promise and it emerged in April 2020 that he had not contacted any of the prospective partner institutes of technology,” stated the source.

“When finally forced to meet with the other TU consortia Dr. Mulvey was informed by the other TU Consortia that they were too advanced in their process to consider admitting DkIT as a new member, as many of them had by that stage working together for years toward achieving TU status. This confirmed the concerns that DkIT staff had raised the previous year, that The President’s refusal to talk to potential partners had essentially frozen DkIT out of the TU process.
“Both Technological University Dublin and the Consortium comprising Athlone and Limerick ITs dismissed any post designation interest in a merger with DkIT. Only the Connaught Ulster Alliance composed of Sligo, Letterkenny and Galway/ Mayo expressed any interest in possibly admitting DkIT at some point in the future, but this will be after their Technological University has already been formed.
“Michael Mulvey DkIT has therefore delayed engagement with potential partners so long that DkIT has been deprived of its opportunity to be a participant in the formative negotiations that will define the organisation (the TU which will be formed by the members of the CUA) which now represents its only remaining chance at Technological University status.

“The TUI Union has been working hard to extricate the Institute from the mess the President has made of the TU process. Thanks to the efforts of the TUI locally, the HEA has intervened to “assist” the Institute and has now included DkIT in the Technological University Research Network fund, from which it was not previously a member due to Michael Mulvey decision to not enter the TU process.

“The €760,000 announced this week is welcome and has only been achieved because of the work of the TUI without who’s intervention DkIT would not have access to this fund. When compared to 5.7 million and 5.0 million allocated to the CUA and AIT/LIT it is not so much a story of money gained but millions lost due to the mishandling of the TU Process by the President.

“Staff have been calling for a motion of No Confidence in the President since April when it emerged he had broken his word on his commitment to open talks with the potential partners at a time when joining a consortium. Instead of playing a part in designing its own future, DkIT will now have to seek TU status on the terms dictated by the new institution which emerges from the CUA.”
When asked by the Dundalk Leader if DkIT were the last major IoT in the country to become part of an established TU consortium Thomas Redmond, Head of Communication for the college stated that they remain open to engagement across the sector but currently are fully committed to the agreed three year development pathway with the Higher Education Authority.
“Dundalk Institute of Technology and the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) are currently not part of an established TU consortia. DkIT remains open to engagement with partners across the sector however it is now fully committed to the agreed three-year development pathway with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in progression towards and realisation of established TU status.

“The Institute has engaged with all partners over recent years in relation to TU designation. The outcome of this consultation resulted in a decision by the DkIT Governing Body to pursue the agreed three-year development pathway with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in progression towards and realisation of established TU status,” explained Thomas.

“DkIT is extremely supportive of the HEA’s recent announcement of €760,000 funding via the Technological Universities Transformation Fund which will be provided exclusively to the institute to pursue its ambition to become a TU. This funding will be critical to the implementation of its three-year development pathway. It is important to recognise that the TUTF is a €90M funding programme offered over three years and the institute will continue to pursue funding opportunities in 2021 and 2022. In accordance with its commitments under the agreed development pathway, DkIT remains confident for a positive outcome,” he added.
“There was an agreement with the Teacher Union of Ireland (TUI) on 15th November 2019 in relation to a variety of matters. This includes a confirmation of the institute’s unequivocal commitment to achieving Technological University status, an agreement to commence this process and further commitment to immediately start the process of engagement with existing TU’s and other consortia members before the end of April 2020.
“Subsequent to this agreement, the institute fulfilled its commitment to immediately prioritise its ambition to become a TU by concluding extensive staff consultation with all staff (academic, administrative and functional areas) around the TU designation. During this period, the new DkIT Strategic Plan 2020-22 was approved by the institute’s Governing Body which unequivocally articulated its commitment to achieving Technological University Status. Engagement with consortia partners had been scheduled to take place in 2Q1/early Q2 2020 however, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and its significant impact on all operating procedures within the institute (and on all other Higher Education Institutes nationwide) did postpone progress in this area. A subsequent agreement was reached with the TUI in May 2020 to engage with 4 existing consortia by early June. The institute met this commitment and the outcome of this engagement, along with the outcome of the institute-wide consultation process was presented to the Governing Body for consideration.
“I can confirm that it was the Institute that sought a meeting with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to discuss progress in relation to TU Designation. Representatives from TUI were, in turn, invited by DkIT to attend and be present during the meeting. During this meeting, the CEO of the HEA, Alan Wall proposed the option of a three-year structured development pathway which would allow DkIT to participate in the TURN process and make an application for the Technological Universities Transformation Fund (TUTF) with a view to progression towards and realisation of established TU status. Agreement was secured with the TUI to explore this option. The proposal was subsequently brought to the Governing Body for consideration in July and this was confirmed as the best approach to fast-track its pathway to TU designation at that time.
“It is important to note that DkIT secured Landscape Funding via the HEA in 2018 and 2019 to primarily develop its research capacity and deliver on its Further Education to Higher Education progression ambitions. The Technology University Transformation Fund replaced the Landscape Funding and DKIT was deemed eligible to apply for this in line with its commitment under the new three-year structured development pathway in conjunction with the HEA. The success of attaining this funding of €760K is recognition by the HEA of the strategic pathway that the Institute has been on for the past number of years,” stated Thomas.

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