Atlantic TU launches project to bring Higher Education and research to the islands

Thursday, April 14, 2022 Press Office
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Atlantic Technological University (ATU) launched its Islands Project initiative this week with a roundtable discussion at its Connemara campus, Letterfrack, Co Galway.  Working in collaboration with islanders and regional agencies, the project aims to address educational, societal, economic and environmental needs of the islands.  

 Through this project, Atlantic TU aims to build a network for sustainable rural living to ensure people from the region can learn, work and live in their communities. Representatives from county councils, tourism, renewable energy and community & enterprise development agencies across the west and north-west attended the event to discuss the needs of the nine inhabited islands off the west coast from Galway to Donegal. 

 Speaking at the launch, President of Atlantic TU, Dr Orla Flynn, said: “Atlantic Technological University is uniquely located along the western and northwestern coast of Ireland, a region that includes nine inhabited islands. Sustainability, inclusion and access to higher education are key themes for ATU and we have a strong interest in ensuring that small rural communities on the periphery of the region can be supported.  This proposal is a first step for ATU to develop a greater understanding of the needs of the island communities and how ATU can support their sustainable economic, social and cultural growth and development through education and research.”

Head of College ATU Sligo, Dr Brendan McCormack, added: “ATU is located in a region with a geographically dispersed population and with many small, rural, communities.  To make a real difference to this region, ATU should build a research base of knowledge in order to develop a deep level of understanding of rural communities and to work on effective models to support them to grow economically, socially, culturally, educationally, through research and enterprise engagement.”

The inaugural initiative of the ATU islands project is a research project on Sustainable Destination Management for Island Tourism.  The data for which will be gathered this summer utilising the European Tourism Indicator System.  The ETIS model allows researchers from Atlantic TU to collaborate with island communities, tourism stakeholders, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Fáilte Ireland, destination managers, and local authorities, to better inform the sustainable management of island tourism destination.

Gathering baseline data on the 43 sustainable tourism indicators contained within the European Tourism Indication System (ETIS), ranging from tourist spending patterns, gender equality, inclusion and accessibility, transport impact, climate change, energy consumption, waste generation and sewage treatment, the report will provide beneficial data for planning and management considerations. 

Co-supervisor of the research project and Head of Department of Heritage and Tourism, Languages and Humanities at ATU Galway City Diarmuid Ó Conghaile said; “Sustainable tourism in Ireland has now evolved to a stage where the measuring and monitoring of sustainable tourism indicators to facilitate evidence informed planning is essential.   This evidence-informed approach to tourism planning is essential, given the impact the industry can have on the local communities, economy and environment.”