The system performance framework sets out the priorities of government under a number of headings which include economic renewal; social and cultural development and equity; public sector reform; and the restoration of Ireland’s national reputation.

A System Performance Framework, stating national priorities and key objectives of Government for higher education was first set out by the Minister for Education and Skills for 2014–2016. A new System Performance Framework was published in January 2018 and will cover the period 2018–2020. The 2018–20 framework reiterates the purposes of the earlier 2014–16 framework confirming them as valid for future use:

• To hold the system accountable for performance for the delivery of national priorities and monitor performance of the system as a whole;
• To articulate all the expectations of the system from different areas of government/agencies across the various dimensions of higher education activity;
• To increase the visibility of performance of the system to Government and the wider public;
• To contribute to system and policy development by highlighting structural and other deficits including data capacity;
• To allow HEIs to identify their strategic niche and mission and agree a performance compact aligned with funding with the Higher Education Authority.

The 2018–2020 Higher Education Performance Framework also sets out national objectives and priorities. It references the Action Plan for Education 2016 – 2019 and the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030. As well as noting significant progress to date, the new 2018–2020 framework references a long list of significant policy developments and documents which further articulate priorities and strategies for the higher education sector in order to support the achievement of wider national policy objectives related to economic and social development at regional and national level (e.g. skills development, research and innovation, access and internationalisation). Leveraging these sources, the framework then sets out what are proposed as Key System Objectives for the Higher Education System 2018–2020, as follows:

Key System Objectives for the Higher Education System 2018–2020

1. Providing a strong talent pipeline combining knowledge, skills & employability which responds effectively to the needs of our enterprise, public service and community sectors, both nationally and regionally, and maintains Irish leadership in Europe for skill availability;
2. Creating rich opportunities for national and international engagement which enhances the learning environment and delivers a strong bridge to enterprise and the wider community;
3. Excellent research, development and innovation that has relevance, growing engagement with external partners and impact for the economy and society and strengthens our standing to become an Innovation Leader in Europe;
4. Significantly improves the equality of opportunity through Education and Training and recruits a student body that reflects the diversity and social mix of Ireland’s population;
5. Demonstrates consistent improvement in the quality of the learning environment with a close eye to international best practice through a strong focus on quality & academic excellence;
6. Demonstrates consistent improvement in governance, leadership and operational excellence.

The HEA to date has published three higher education system performance reports reviewing the performance and progress of the system for the years 2014 – 2017.