The Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) has agreed to purchase prefabs to facilitate the growth in student numbers on campus.
At the same time, the management of Dublin Road College has warned that demand for places is so high that it may not be able to make offers to everyone who wants to study there.
It comes as the college last month unveiled plans to expand GMIT’s footprint on Dublin Road – with the college confirming it has bought the land from Galwegians for £9million. It is, however, a longer-term plan.
GMIT board members have expressed concern that prefabs – or “modular buildings” – will negatively impact the experience of students attending GMIT and its “brand”.
Board member Michael Geoghegan told colleagues that modular buildings were “not the way to go”.
“It’s not the solution to the infrastructure problems,” he said, according to the minutes of the board meetings.
Jim Fennell, vice president of finance and corporate services, said GMIT “can’t have new buildings without capital funding” and said it normally takes “four to five years to complete building projects.” ‘fixed assets’.
“The only options open to GMIT to support the current growth in student numbers are modular buildings and off-campus building rentals,” Mr. Fennell told the Board of Trustees.
Board Chairman Cormac MacDonncha said it was a “risk to go down the road of buying modular buildings”.
He said he understood the constraints and lack of capital funding and said this “should be flagged as a risk going forward”.
According to the minutes, Geoghegan said GMIT spends a lot of time on brand and image, and he asked if modular buildings would have “a negative impact”. He also noted that GMIT admitted 1,600 first years in 2020 and 2,000 in 2021.
Mr Fennell said GMIT was “trying to support growth as best we can”.
Galway County Councilor Colm Keaveney (FF) said the prefabs are temporary solutions and can be phased out. He noted the dilemma between the negative aspects of modular buildings and “continued student numbers and growth.”
But Mr Geoghegan said: ‘Modular buildings are becoming permanent’ and GMIT needed to explore other alternatives, including the possibility of renting buildings around the city to support student expansion.
Another board member, Siobhan Kennedy, said there was a balance to be struck between “supporting continued growth. . . and keep students on campus while ensuring that the location of modular buildings is consistent with the capital projects plan”.
Galway Councilor Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) said it was “very good news” on student numbers and a “positive reflection” on GMIT. But she said “modular buildings are expensive to operate, including heating and maintenance.”
Mr Fennell confirmed to Cllr O’Flaherty that “the first set of modular buildings is being purchased”, and he will consider renting or buying more.
According to the minutes of the meeting, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Registrar Dr. Michael Hannon noted the strong growth in student numbers and demand for places at GMIT.
He expressed concern that GMIT “now finds itself in a position where it is unable to make offers to all students who wish to study at GMIT”, including some students for whom GMIT is their first choice college.