The landscape of higher education is changing. New types of institutions are being formed, and other institutions are engaging in strong alliances, including consolidation and mergers.
Clusters of institutions have been formed and are contributing to regional capacity and development. This page sets out the background to the new structures in higher education in Ireland.
Following on from the recommendations of the National Strategy for Higher Education, the HEA published a series of papers that set out a roadmap for implementing significant reform in Irish higher education. A key objective of the measures is the creation of a more coherent system of higher education institutions, coordinated by the HEA, to deliver the complementary range of institutions and academic programmes needed by individuals, society and the labour market. High levels of inter-institutional collaboration will be required so that specialisation at institutional level does not lead to diminished opportunities and choices for students at regional and national levels.
The papers published include Towards a Future Higher Education Landscape which provides a basis for institutions to review their mission and how the institution would fit into the coherent system now being developed. This document also sets out the process and criteria for designation as a Technological University; and Guidelines on Regional Clusters, which sets out how clusters of institutions are to be formed to serve regional needs.
Following the publication of Towards a Future Higher Education Landscape in February 2012, higher education institutions were invited to engage with the HEA in respect of their future position in the higher education landscape. Institutional responses to the Landscape consultation were received in Summer 2012 and subject to review. “Institutional Responses to the Landscape Document and Achieving the Objectives of the National Strategy for Higher Education” subsequently issued to all higher education institutions in November 2012, along with a report by the International Panel “A Proposed Reconfiguration of the Irish System of Higher Education” and a report by the ESRI “A Study of Future Demand for Higher Education in Ireland”.
Further consultations were then held with the higher education institutions in February 2013, informed by the publication of a further document, “Completing the Landscape Process for Irish Higher Education”. This document brought together the various inputs, expert analyses and submissions, as well as providing an outline structure and potential reconfiguration options for a future higher education system.
In May 2013, the HEA’s Report to the Minister for Education and Skills on System Reconfiguration, Inter-Institutional Collaboration and System Governance in Irish Higher Education was published. This sets out the autonomous, diverse institutions that will comprise the Irish higher education system into the future, together with their key relationships in alliances, and in regional and thematic clusters. The Minister responded to the HEA’s report in a letter, setting out his response to a number of key areas relating to system governance and configuration.