THIRD level education Minister Simon Harris has said that the Munster Technological University (MTU )will not be pressurised to pay off a multi million Euro emergency loan that was previously provided to the Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT).
TT and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) were merged in January 2021 to form the new MTU.
In mid 2019 the Government approved a one off payment of €5 million in emergency funding to IT Tralee in order to keep the institution afloat.
The third-level institution had been experiencing serious cash-flow problems and the emergency payment was granted in order to avoid the possibility of significant cutbacks.
At the time the Department of Education confirmed that funding had been approved to ensure the “stability” of the institution, but did not clarify whether the €5 million payment would be repayable to the State.
The Department said that the question of repayment would be considered following a review of a “sustainability plan” for ITT and a further assessment of the institute’s financial position.
The issue was raised in the Dáil last week by Independent Waterford TD Matt Shanahan who asked Minister for Education and Skills Simon Harris what arrangements have been made regarding the potential repayment of the emergency funding payment.
Minister Harris said that “serious cash-flow difficulties” emerged at ITT in 2018 and that additional funding and a series of cost saving measures were needed to ensure its future.
“The once off and repayable funding was provided in 2019 to ensure immediate stability of the college and predicated on the completion of the financial sustainability plan for the college.
The provision of emergency funding was essential to maintain current services at the Institute,” said Minister Harris.
Mr Harris said that in April 2020 the Higher Education Authority had approved the Institute’s sustainability plan prepared with the assistance of Deloitte consultants and submitted it to the Department for consideration and progression.
“The plan includes actions to reduce the cost base and increase income including from additional apprenticeship blocks, increasing student numbers and lifelong learning course uptake” said Minister Harris.
ITT and CIT’s merger was completed the following January and Minister Harris said that on foot of the two institutes’ amalgamation the new MTU would not be put under pressure to pay off the emergency loan provided to the Tralee college.
“The Government is committed to the continued provision of higher education in Tralee. In that context there is no question that the actions to secure a resolution to IT Tralee’s/MTU Kerry’s financial difficulties would be expected to give rise to creation of a potential burden which would undermine the financial stability and sustainability of MTU,” said Mr Harris
“Given the position and development of MTU this funding has not been scheduled for repayment to date, however this is under regular review by the HEA and my Department”.