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New Landscape for Higher Education

The Higher Education Authority has welcomed the historic policy statement on higher education by the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn, setting out a new configuration for the higher education system. This provides for a major programme of structural reform including institutional mergers and much greater levels of institutional collaboration, with the creation of a series of regional clusters of institutions. The Minster has also announced his approval for three groups of institutes of technology to proceed towards detailed planning for a formal application for designation as technological universities.


The changes announced in this reform have been driven by the interests of students, employers and the wider group of stakeholders. The reforms are aimed at -

·  Meeting the expectations of students and of employers by better enabling all institutions to provide the high quality teaching, learning and research experiences so vital to their future success and Ireland’s future. In particular institutions will collaborate to reorganise their programme offerings so as to create higher quality programmes that are based on critical mass and economies of scale, rather than low volume programmes that lack the necessary depth to provide a high quality experience.

· Positioning the system to better address the projected strong growth in demand for higher education into the coming 2 decades. This also reinforces the commitment and ambition to further improve equity of access to higher education. This changes announced by the Minister will assist individual institutions in planning for and responding to such growth.

· Improving student choice by enabling them to transfer more easily between higher education institutions, and to progress from further education to higher education

· Supporting academic staff though more opportunities for inter-institutional collaborations, in research projects and under-graduate courses.

The process underlying this reconfiguration of higher education has been undertaken by the HEA. In doing so the HEA has drawn on external policy advice, commissioned a major review of the future need for higher education, and engaged intensely with the institutions themselves, who have been active contributors to the process.


Speaking today, the HEA chairman, John Hennessy said,

“I very much welcome the Minister’s decision.  This re-structuring of the system is not an end in itself but is a key enabler of the wider national strategy for higher education. The challenge now for the HEA, the higher education institutions and all stakeholders is to build on this position to continue to drive the performance of both individual institutions and the system as a whole, to ensure the best quality outcomes for students, the economy and society”.


Notes for Editors

The policy statement by the Minister provides for major changes in the Higher Education system to make it more effective and responsive in meeting national needs  and to accommodate growth in the sector - the recently published HEA commissioned report, which was undertaken by the ESRI, sets out the need for growth of at least 25% in our system just to keep pace with economic growth and technological change in the economy. The changes are as follows –


Regional Clusters

All 7 universities and 14 institutes of technology will now be grouped in regional clusters, as below.

Region Member institutions
South/SouthEast University College Cork, Cork IT, IT Tralee, Waterford IT and IT Carlow
West/MidWest University of Limerick, Limerick IT, Mary Immaculate College, Galway-Mayo IT, IT Sligo, Letterkenny IT and NUI Galway (St Angela’s / Shannon College incorporated into NUI Galway)
Dublin / Leinster
Pillar I
University College Dublin / Trinity College Dublin / National College of Art and Design / Marino Institute of Education / Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
Dublin / Leinster
Pillar II
Dublin Institute of Technology / IT Tallaght / IT Blanchardstown / Dublin City University (and incorporating linked colleges) National College of Ireland / Dundalk IT / NUI Maynooth / Athlone IT / Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland


The primary purpose of these clusters is to improve quality of teaching learning and research through more effective collaborations between the institutions. Two priority goals have been set for each cluster - better student pathways between the institutions, and co-ordinated academic planning to reduce duplication and improve quality of programmes.


Technological Universities

The Minister has in this statement approved the submissions of three groups of TUs for phase 1 of the process for designation as a technological university. The institutions in question are set out below along with an indication of their aggregate scale.

Dublin Institute of Technology

IT Tallaght

IT Blanchardstown

<   23,738 students

<   2,433 staff

<   Income of €250 million

<   Research income of €20 million

Cork Institute of Technology

IT Tralee

<   11,900 students

<   1,283 staff

<   Income of €135 million

<   Research income of €16 million

Waterford Institute of Technology

IT Carlow

<   12,943 students

<   1,249 staff

<   Income of €122 million

<   Research income of €19 million


It is important to note that these were the only three applications that were made.


Teacher Education/Creative Arts

The policy statement affirms the previously stated position in respect of reform in initial teacher education, providing for a range of mergers across the institutions.

The statement also provides for the further development of the NCAD UCD linkages up to an including merger and requires the institutions to respond to HEA by end October. IADT will continue in its role as a distinct provider in relation to creative arts and media but is examine opportunities for further collaboration with UCD/NCAD.


Other HEIs currently funded by the Department for Education and Skills

The policy statement provides for a reformed approach to other higher education institutions funded by the Department for Education and Skills. These are generally small and specialist institutions who mainly receive funding in respect of student tuition fees only. Ultimately HEA should take responsibility for all public funding to HEIs. In the interim there will be no further expansion to include funding for new institutions; further more future funding will be considered in terms of the extent to which they meet needs not already met by public providers or that they do so in a more cost-effective way. Funding will also be timelimited and outcomes led, and will be dependent on compliance with necessary quality assurance systems.




For further information, contact Malcolm Byrne, Head of Communications, HEA (086) 2237102




Malcolm Byrne

Head of Communications
Higher Education Authority
Brooklawn House
Shelbourne Road
Dublin 4

Tel: +353 (0)1 2317 162

Fax: +353 (0)1 2317 172



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