The late 1950s and 1960s were a pivotal period in Ireland’s economic development. Visionary civil servants and modernising politicians led significant changes in Irish society; nowhere was this more obvious than in education. Free secondary education, free school transport and the development of a non-university, technically oriented higher-education system – the regional technical colleges and the national institutes for higher education – combined to create a new dynamic that furnished a missing rung in Irish education and democratised access to education.
The regional technical colleges, and their successors the institutes of technology (excepting Dublin Institute of Technology), conceived primarily as sub-degree institutions, now stand on the threshold of redesignation as technological universities; they are thus internationally unique.
This book paints the landscape of political chicanery, conflict and control, policy weakness, institutional ambition and autonomy, and the belief in self-efficacy within which the regional technical colleges developed. The book does not draw a map of dates, numbers, statistics, lists and places. In offering a painting rather than a map, it is hoped the book will appeal to those who have come from, or have been associated with, the regional technical colleges and who are interested in the richness of the story of their colleges. It is hoped also that the book will appeal to those interested in education and policy development.
Richard Thorn is president emeritus of the Institute of Technology, Sligo. He has worked across the higher-education sector in Ireland and Europe at institution and sectoral level, and has undertaken research into, and published on, a wide range of higher-education topics.
Chapter 1: The 1960s: ‘nothing happens out of a blue sky. You approach development through gradualness’
Chapter 2: The 1970s: ‘the problem faced by the Government whether to develop the existing binary system or to initiate a fully
comprehensive system of higher education’
Chapter 3: The 1980s: ‘We stress that each Governing Body should be established in its own right so that they can perform executive
tasks and perform actions in law’
Chapter 4: The 1990s: ‘the Committee recommends Regional Institutes of Technology as a new title for the RTCs’
Chapter 5: The 2000s: ‘We are particularly impressed by the extent to which the institutes see themselves as different
from the universities’
Chapter 6: The 2010s: ‘traumatised group of HEIs’
Appendix 1: Notes on the Irish Political System
Appendix 2: Timeline of Significant Events for the Regional Technical Colleges