Athlone Institute of Technology
University description (as per official university website)
Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) is the only higher education institution (HEIs) in the Midlands of Ireland. Established in 1970, it has expanded in size, scope and influence over the period. There are currently 5,700 full-time and part-time students in AIT studying a broad range of courses offered by the institute’s four schools of business, engineering, humanities and science.
A new strategic plan for the institute, which sets out a vision to 2013, establishes a series of ambitious targets including increasing student numbers by 40 per cent; developing e-learning platforms for students; generating research income of €10 million per annum; and increasing collaboration across the tertiary education and industry sectors.
Academic programmes at AIT are available at undergraduate and postgraduate level, while an increasing number of extramural options are also offered. Students may access degree programmes through a progression system of qualifications (known as the ‘ladder’) or through the traditional ab initio route. Such flexibility is a hallmark of the institute.
The institute’s appeal for students can be traced to the quality of courses offered, its highly accessible and centralised location, supports provided for students and its attractive modern campus. In addition to Irish students, 10 per cent of the student population is drawn from Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East.
AIT has established partnerships and agreements with over 220 universities and third level institutions around the globe. The institute is a participant on the International Centre for Graduate Education in Micro- and Nano-Engineering (ICGEE), together with 13 other partners from Europe, America and Asia.
According to successive surveys, AIT graduates do exceptionally well in securing well-paid, quality employment. Some 98 per cent of graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months of completing their programme of study. Average salary earnings for honour’s degree holders are €27,500, with 36 per cent earning in excess of this.
Furthermore, the institute has one of the highest retention rates of any Irish third level institution. More than 81 per cent of students complete their programme of study in Athlone, which is 6 per cent higher than the national average. This is a reflection of the duty of care which the institute exhibits to the students.
AIT is also actively engaging with non-traditional learners and approximately one-fifth of the student population is classified as mature (i.e. over 23-years). In addition it has played a leading role in higher education in working with people with disabilities. The quality of this work was recognised at the O2 Ability Awards (now known as Kanchi), at which AIT won several awards.
Research capacity and capability is being continually expanded in Athlone. AIT has three strategic research institutes: in materials engineering, biomolecular sciences and software engineering. Further research clusters exist at school level. The research institutes, which have developed international collaborations with leading multinational companies and universities in Europe, Asia and the US, have attracted significant multimillion euro funding. In 2008-09, it is expected that this will be in excess of €7.25 million.
Assisting in the economic, social, cultural and environmental development of the region is also a strategic priority for AIT. The institute plays a major role in fostering and developing entrepreneurial activity in the Midlands Gateway/region. The Midlands Innovation and Research Centre (MIRC), located on campus, operates as a converging hub for innovation, research and enterprise. It provides incubation facilities for innovative and knowledge-based enterprises, an enterprise programme for entrepreneurs and start-ups, and makes available the resources and expertise of the institute to support client companies.
In addition, AIT is in the top three HEIs nationally in driving innovation among small Irish firms through their participation in the Enterprise Ireland-supported innovation voucher scheme.
The excellence of its sporting and social facilities has been widely recognised and they are used by a large number of organisations. The institute was successful in its bid to host the National Finals of the HSE Community Games, which will be held in Athlone from 2009.