AIT’s rise up the ranking further erodes the traditional divide between the Universities and Institutes of TechnologyAthlone Institute of Technoogy


Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) has been named as the “Institute of Technology of the Year – 2018” in the Sunday Times Good University Guide. AIT has moved up in the ranking and has finished in its highest position in the league table this year. Last year, AIT was awarded the “Sunday Times Good University Guide, Institute of Technology of the Year, Runner Up 2017” and ranked in 10th place.


AIT’s strength in identifying areas of skills shortage and working with businesses to improve links between enterprise and academic were among the reasons for the Institute scooping the prestigious award.

Alastair McCall said: “Athlone has risen to its highest ranking in The Sunday Times Good University Guide league table this year, further eroding the traditional divide in league tables between the universities and institutes of technology. It makes an attractive offer to students nationally and plays a pivotal role regionally as a centre of excellence in everything from polymer engineering to smart manufacturing.”

“Its appeal to students is evidenced in the findings of the Irish Survey of Student Engagement. The fact that nearly two-thirds of them respond to the survey, against a national average of 27%, speaks volumes, as do results that put Athlone ahead of the field in vital areas for students including effective teaching practice, a supportive learning environment and providing high-quality interactions between academics and undergraduates. Its win this year is thoroughly deserved.”


The student experience was part of the stand out case in AIT’s win with its reputation for openness and friendliness which all contribute to the quality of the student experience. This is attested by the engagement with the current Irish Survey of Student Engagement (the ISSE). AIT’s response rate continues to be the highest in the country by a considerable margin at 61% which is achieved via a partnership approach between the quality office, academic staff and the students union. AIT’s graduates also enjoy jobs success with over 93% of the graduate class of 2016 were either employed, in training or in further study 6 months after graduation, which is a further testament to AITs innovative approach and close links with industry.


Commenting on the award, President of AIT, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin said “We have always been as ambitious for our institution as we have been for each and every one of our students. This award is an important inflection point in our near 50 year history as we continue to further solidify our status as an academic centre of excellence. AIT is a community of like-minded, driven, thought leaders. It is this sense of community that fuels the dynamism and energy you feel at AIT and what allows us to continuously match industry needs and consistently high student satisfaction so seamlessly. This award is a recognition towards the culture of innovation cultivated at AIT and a vindication of the hard work put in across the entire community, from the academic and support staff and to the student body.” 

AIT’s association with polymer engineering is particularly strong, with PhD graduates each year, plus level 8 honours degrees in the area and applied and basic research. AIT is now also the lead provider for a new three-year apprenticeship that leads to a BSc in polymer processing, one of the first of the new employer-led apprenticeships in the country. These address an important gap in the market and one that is on trend: IBEC groups in the medical technology and polymer sectors launched three new apprenticeship schemes this summer.


AIT is a partner in the CONFIRM Centre for Smart Manufacturing – led by Prof Conor McCarthy, University of Limerick.  Since early 2016, AIT has been part of a consortium led by UL-Tyndall National Institute which developed and submitted a proposal focused on Advanced Manufacturing under SFI’s Research Centres Programme Call 2016.

Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin, President of AIT, commented “AIT is delighted with the success of CONFIRM. Building on the Midlands’ demonstrated capabilities in manufacturing processes and technologies and AIT strengths, CONFIRM positions AIT as a Centre of Excellence for the development of advanced manufacturing processes and technologies. CONFIRM will support sectors that are critical to the Irish economy in joining a Smart Manufacturing ecosystem.”

AIT also identified a skills shortage in the biopharma and medtech sector and, after two years in development, has launched a degree in microbiology — the only course of its type offered through the CAO. The unique programme addresses a substantial skills shortage in the region and has been backed by industry.


AIT staff have the expertise and authority to educate students from BSc (Hons) to doctoral level in the discipline of microbiology as it is one of the four research disciplines that AIT has been granted Delegated Authority to award PhDs in. Many of the staff lecturing on this courses are actively involved in research in different areas of microbiology, so are up to date with current trends in microbiology research.


Dr Don Faller, Dean of Faculty of Science & Health said that, STEM is becoming more and more important in everyone’s daily life as we approach the third decade of the 21st century. Science is everywhere, from the discovery and development of new medicines and medical devices to attempts to understand of how the universe was formed. Technology is continuously evolving all around us, from electric cars to mobile smart devices and the development of alternatives to climate-changing fossil fuels.” He added, “Within the Faculty of Science and Health at AIT we continue in our mission to develop a wide range of employment-focused science and health programmes to equip 21st century graduates with knowledge, skills and competence to participate in and contribute to Ireland’s industrial and technological future.”


Sports Science is a rapidly growing area at AIT with the development and provision of new courses and attracting national and international research funding.  Nine Masters Students are working on exciting areas of research including Obesity; Fundamental Movement Skills in children and developing interventions aimed at improving FMS proficiency; Physiology and Biomechanics and working with elite athletes and sporting teams – in cooperation with national and international sporting and regulatory bodies.

The Institute’s research capacity continues to grow and develop and is strategically aligned with the Institute’s vision. AIT’s researchers attract competitive funding from external sources across a number of programmes from agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Research Council, Health Research Board, Environment Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture (FIRM), EU Horizon 2020 and INTERREG among others.

The Sunday Times Good University Guide is now in its 16th year of publication. It provides the definitive rankings for Irish third-level institutions, together with profiles of each institution and a view from students of what it is like to study there. It also contains the first full listing of 2018 degree courses and the first round entry points needed to access these courses from the recently-completed 2017 admissions cycle.