This page sets out how the strategy and performance dialogue 2018-2021 process works.

Institutions set out the individual contribution they will make to delivery of the six national system-level objectives, with reference to their mission, strengths and strategic plans and in ways that reflect the diversity of the institutional mission or profile.

Mission-based Performance Compact

Each institution’s Mission-based Performance compact consists of two parts:

  • Qualitative and strategic submission
  • Quantatitive data submission

Qualitative and strategic submission

As part of their ‘Qualitative’ submission, institutions are required to set out a description of their proposed approach to deliver on each of the six key system framework objectives:

  1. Institutions detail a maximum of two institutional strategic priorities under each of the six key system objectives. Institutions set their strategic priorities in the context of the overall system objective, having regard to their own strategic plan;
  2. Each strategic priority should be accompanied by a description of the strategic initiatives, currently being implemented, or to be implemented, over the three-year timespan of the compact (academic years 2018–2021);
  3. The strategic initiatives should be described with reference to the high-level targets as set out in the framework. The strategic initiatives provide a summary of the mechanisms to deliver on the outcome and would include key performance indicators and measurable outputs. The HEA will work with institutions in the framing of priorities and initiatives such that the compact demonstrates the institutions priorities, is sufficiently outcomes-focussed and lends itself to annual evaluation exercises.

Quantitative data submission

The System Performance Framework 2018-2020 sets out a range of metrics and indicators to which the system is required to respond.

  1. Institutions will work with the HEA to set out individual and national baselines for these indicators with reference to September 2018 or most recent available data;
  2. Where existing national or sectoral expert groups are in place, we will leverage their work in relation to nationally agreed approaches and shared data definitions;
  3. The HEA will pre-populate these templates to the maximum extent using existing sources.
  4. The HEA will work with institutions to progress these quantitative data sets over the coming months. Institutions will be required to validate and finalise these institutional baselines by September 2018.

Annual performance review process

Institutions agreed performance compacts with the HEA in early 2019. These are available under each of the institutional profiles.

The first round of an annual process of strategy and performance review will commence from September 2019. The HEA expects to hold review meetings with institutions in Q1 2020.

It is proposed that the process for engagement and performance assessment will be broadly similar to that employed in earlier cycles including (a) measuring individual HEI performance against an agreed compact and (b) providing a system level verification of the contribution by HEIs to meeting the national priorities and key objectives of Government for higher education.

The HEA will seek the following from HEIs in 2019:

Impact Assessment Case Studies: HEIs will be required to identify and submit exemplars that demonstrate their progress in implementing performance compacts/key system objectives and other evolving national policy objectives, in the form of Impact Assessment Case Studies by 12pm, Friday, 20th September, 2019.

Self-evaluation reports: HEIs will be required to submit self-evaluation reports of their progress towards goals set out in the institutional compacts for the period 1st September 2018 – 31st August 2019. This report should include an update on metrics/indicators and should be submitted by 12pm, Monday, 14th October, 2019.

The inputs above, alongside a strategic dialogue meeting where required[1] will be used to determine HEI progress across the mission-based performance compact, as well as to assess national progress on meeting the framework targets.

Where an institution fails to make sufficient progress, or makes an inadequate contribution to meeting national objectives, with reference to the framework derived compact, the HEA may, based on material assessed and underpinning metrics/indicators withhold up to 3-5% of funding.

An additional feature under this round, is that where governance or compliance issues arise, an institution may be deemed not to have met the minimum requirements of strategy and performance dialogue.

The process will be conducted by the HEA with the assistance of international reviewers.

In deciding review outcomes in respect of each institution, the HEA will implement a three level / traffic light system to signal progress:

  1. Green light – the HEA following a process of review is satisfied with HEI progress in terms of compact, quality and financial/governance requirements;
  2. Amber light – the HEA following a process of review is not satisfied with HEI with progress in terms of compact, quality or financial/governance requirements and may reduce HEI funding. The HEA will require the HEI to enter an additional dialogue process which will seek to agree a strategy to address HEI issues and rectify performance. If new strategies are successful a subsequent HEA review could allow for a revised HEI status;
  3. Red light – if, after an additional dialogue process, or attempted implementation of new strategies, the HEA remains unsatisfied with HEI performance, the HEA may seek to implement performance funding measures, or alternative approaches, such as investigators, inspections, etc. This red light will only be issued after amber warning has issued and a review and improvement process has been exhausted.

The process will also offer an opportunity for financial recognition for a number of good practice strategic initiatives, identified on an annual basis. These initiatives will be identified by the review panel based on the impact assessment case studies provided by HEIs in response to meeting national objective areas.

Annual system performance report

As per the approach taken under the previous rounds of strategic dialogue, an annual report will be prepared by the HEA. This report will review the performance and progress of the Irish higher education system with reference to the System Performance Framework 2018–2020.



[1] Strategic dialogue meetings by exception and/or where required by the HEA or requested by an institution.

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