The HEA engages in a process of strategic dialogue with the higher education institutions in order to improve system and institutional performance, enhance system accountability, and enable the HEA to manage system risks.

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 framework sets out a process for evaluation of institutional performance in each of seven domains having regard to particular institutional mission:

  1. Clusters;
  2. Participation, access and lifelong learning;
  3. Teaching and learning;
  4. Research and innovation;
  5. Engagement;
  6. Internationalisation;
  7. Institutional consolidation.

In 2014, HEIs were invited to prepare and submit Mission-Based Performance Compacts and Proposed Indicators of Success for the period 2014-2016. Performance against those compacts has been assessed through the strategic dialogue process across a number of Cycles over the period 2014-2016 (cycles 1, 2 and 3 are complete).