Cycle 2 Strategic Dialogue
Higher education has a critical role in supporting both Ireland’s recovery, and securing future sustainable development. Higher education offers opportunities for individuals to realise their own potential, and to enhance their role as active citizens in Irish society. It also contributes hugely to economic development – indeed the availability of skilled people in our work force is one of the most significant enablers of our economy.
It is vital therefore that systems are in place to assess the performance of the sector, to ensure that it is delivering to its potential and meeting the needs of Irish students and Irish society more generally. Accordingly, a System Performance Framework, stating national priorities and key objectives of Government for higher education was set out by the Minister for Education and Skills for 2014-2016. Through a process of strategic dialogue between the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the higher education institutions (HEIs), a well-coordinated system of mission-diverse institutions is held accountable for its performance against the set of clearly defined national priorities and key system objectives in the framework, with public funding aligned to facilitate delivery of agreed outcomes. These outcomes include improved access, provision of skilled graduates to meet economic needs, better research, development & innovation, greater internationalisation and an enhanced quality of teaching and learning.
The second cycle of strategic dialogue saw HEIs submit a self-evaluation of their performance against the metrics they put forward in the compact agreed with the HEA in 2014. These performance reports were reviewed by the HEA Executive with reference to the first set of targets to be achieved by year end 2014.
In summary, the purpose of the Cycle 2 review was to –
- Review institutional compacts and performance at end 2014;
- Inform detailed feedback to HEIs prior to a formal strategic dialogue meeting;
- Inform meetings with senior HEI management to discuss HEI performance and issues arising;
- Issue preliminary outcomes to HEIs setting out views on institutional performance and performance funding implications. A response was invited on same;
- Issue formal outcomes to HEIs alongside 2016 performance funding implications.
In undertaking the review, and to ensure that it was robust and fair, the HEA included external advisors, with experience in higher education institutional and system performance, to provide an additional layer of scrutiny of performance. The process was also overseen by an independent process auditor.
By early 2016 the HEA Executive had completed each step of the above process. The review found that the majority of HEIs are engaging positively and performing well against their compact objectives. In many cases, where clear evidence is available, the institutions demonstrated that they were high performers in international terms.
The review provides a platform for the future development of the institutions and the sector. The HEA has encouraged institutions to continue to critically review their objectives and performance, so as to further enhance their performance nationally and internationally. In a small number of cases, the HEA has requested institutions to review their current compact and resubmit in light of specific concerns of HEA, by end March 2016. Those concerns include a need for a sharper identification of priorities, demonstrating a greater level of self-reflection and preparing a more realistic set of actions and associated timeframes to deliver on those priorities. In those cases, an element of HEA funding (2%) has been withheld pending that return and HEA assessment. The HEA notes that all institutions have responded positively to the feedback and have committed to deliver such returns to meet the HEA requirements.
As part of the final assessment of institutional progress, each institution was placed in one of three categories of performance. Drawing on a performance funding consultation paper as circulated in autumn 2014 and with further input from external advisors recruited under cycle 2, the HEA classified individual performance as follows:
- Category 1 comprises HEIs which, overall, have performed well against their objectives and have demonstrated excellence in some mission-critical domains.
- Category 2 comprises HEIs whose performance against their objectives is satisfactory overall, with some areas of strong performance. The institution's attention, however, is drawn to issue(s) that need to be addressed to ensure release of performance funding in future cycles.
- Category 3 comprises HEIs whose performance is inadequate to justify drawing down of conditional funding and who must submit a revised plan if they are to "win back" the withheld funding.
The full suite of documentation can be found below:
Posted 01:01am Jan 1