Regional Clusters

Dublin Cluster I

Dublin Cluster II

Mid-West Cluster

North West Cluster

South Cluster

TU4D Alliance Cluster

Each higher education institution entered into a “performance compact” with the HEA in 2014, undertaking how it would contribute to national objectives from the position of its particular mission and strengths. The compacts provide for how performance is to be measured and a proportion of funding is contingent on performance.

The initial focus in cycle 1 of strategic dialogue was more on planning and establishing baselines, than on performance and outcomes. The HEA tested the plans submitted by the higher education institutions against previous institutional performance, national targets and policy. In cycle 1 of strategic dialogue, the HEA withheld €5 million in funding for the institutions, contingent on satisfactory engagement with the dialogue process. Following a review of engagement, all institutions were judged to have met the required standard and the funding was released. Progressively, over further iterations of strategic dialogue, there was a move to a stronger focus on performance against agreed targets, with funding implications.


The outcomes of cycle 1 of strategic dialogue were set out in detail in the First System Performance Report :

  • Irish higher education is competitive internationally and performs well against international benchmarks in tertiary attainment, STEM graduates, and student engagement and employer satisfaction.
  • Against a background of economic crisis, a resilient system has provided significant extra capacity to meet increased demand for higher education and to address areas of specific skills needs as well as providing capacity for labour market activation programmes.
  • Ireland needs higher education capacity to grow both to support demographic growth and also to meet increased demand for graduates, as demand for Irish graduates bounces back and economic recovery continues.
  • The Irish higher education system is engaged in and committed to reform. Public service reforms and the restructuring and strategic refocusing of Irish higher education institutions are providing opportunities to improve and monitor quality and performance.
  • Success in implementing the reform programme, in maintaining and enhancing the quality of outcomes and in meeting other national objectives is dependent on a number of enablers:
    • The leadership capacity of the institutions themselves, empowered by an appropriate toolkit for managing human resources
    • The capacity in the HEA, working with the institutions, to develop further the capacity for setting performance metrics and performance evaluation
    • The implementation of a comprehensive funding policy.
  • Failure to meet national objectives will have a direct, and negative, impact on economic recovery and development.


The compacts, institutional profiles (2010-11 and projected 2016) and minutes of the strategic dialogue meetings can all be found here.

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