A bronze statue of an open hand outside the Department of Education

Government Launch New €5m Higher Education Innovation and Transformation Fund

By Diarmuid Slattery

Posted: 30 July, 2018

Ministers also Announce Ring-fenced Funding for Multi Campus Institutions

The Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, T.D., and the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D., today launched the new Higher Education and Innovation Fund for which up to €5m is available for investment in 2018. The innovation fund is part of the additional €100m which the government are investing in higher education since 2016.

Funding will be allocated on a competitive basis with the best proposals being awarded funding. Applications are sought in four areas which have been prioritised in 2018:

  • The support of innovation, transformation and quality improvement in teaching and student learning outcomes
  • The support of student retention and progression in individual institutions and through institutional collaboration
  • Innovation and transformation in flexible, distance and e-learning opportunities and programmes
  • Measures to support Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

In launching the Innovation and Transformation Fund Minister Bruton highlighted the importance of innovation for the education system:

“We are aiming to have the best education and training system in Europe by 2026. Key to this ambition is the need to support innovation throughout the education system. On being appointed Minister for Education and Skills, I said I would introduce new innovation and performance-based funding mechanisms. In 2018 through the new Innovation Fund we are prioritising four key areas for funding which include improving student learning outcomes, flexible learning opportunities, student progression, and the recognition of prior learning”.

The proposals will be independently assessed by an international expert panel and funding will be allocated to the successful projects later this year. The application process is now open and details of submission deadlines are available here.

The Ministers also opened the process by which higher education institutions can apply for additional funding for operating on a multi-campus basis. Minister Mitchell O’Connor indicated:

“Today we are inviting higher education institutions that have more than one campus and that meet a set of specific criteria to apply for additional funding of €250,000 per annum per institution. This funding is intended to recognise the challenges faced by operating in more than one campus, over a wide geographical area, and the funding implications that this presents. This is in accordance with a recommendation in the review of the higher education funding allocation model that I published in January of this year”.

The criteria that institutions must satisfy in order to receive the €250,000 additional funding are available here.


Notes for Editor:

Review of the Allocation Model for Funding Higher Education

Both of the measures announced today are recommendations in the review of funding allocation model for higher education. This review was published in January 2018.

An independent Expert Panel was appointed by Minister Bruton in 2016 to review the current allocation model for funding higher education and to make recommendations on the most appropriate funding model for the future. The expert panel comprised:

  • Bríd Horan, Chair, currently Chair of Trustees of Bank of Ireland Pension Fund, member of DCU Governing Authority.
  • Professor Philip Gummett, retired Head of the HE Funding Council for Wales.
  • Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen.
  • Mary Kerr, former Deputy CEO of the HEA.


The terms of reference for the panel were as follows:

  • To review the existing approach to funding higher education institutions by the HEA in terms of its effectiveness in delivering on national objectives; reinforcing mission diversity; ensuring sustainability and quality; and driving performance;
  • Identify and consider options regarding how that approach is developed in order to reflect the principles which must underpin future funding of higher education, including the appropriate balance between the three different components of the current funding model;
  • Make recommendations on an appropriate future approach and on an implementation timeframe to protect short-term financial stability.

The review process began in December 2016 and involved research and analysis and extensive consultation with stakeholders, including bilateral meetings. The review is informed by 11 Working Papers which examined inter alia, the key issues and questions, the cost drivers and the costing system underpinning higher education and international funding allocation approaches.

The implementation group has been established and comprises of members form the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Public Expenditure and reform, Higher Education Authority, Technological Higher Education Authority (THEA) and the Irish Universities Association (IUA).

Please find link to the full report here.

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