Higher Education in Ireland is provided mainly by 7 Universities, 14 Institutes of Technology, including the Dublin Institute of Technology and 7 Colleges of Education. In addition, a number of other third level institutions provide specialist education in such fields as art and design, medicine, business studies, rural development, theology, music and law. Click here for a full list of these institutions.
Applications for entry to undergraduate courses in universities, colleges of education, institutes of technology and some other institutes of higher education, are processed by the Central Applications Office (CAO). The aim of the system is to process applications centrally and to deal with them in an efficient and fair manner. The participating institutions retain the function of making decisions on admissions.
The Higher Education Authority (HEA) is the statutory planning and development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The HEA has wide advisory powers throughout the whole of the third-level education sector. In addition it is the funding authority for the universities, institutes of technology and other designated higher education institutions.
The Universities Act, 1997 sets out the objects and functions of a university, the structure and role of governing bodies, staffing arrangements, composition and role of academic councils and sections relating to property, finance and reporting. The governing authorities are required to see that strategic development plans are in place, and that procedures for evaluating teaching and research are in place. The HEA has an overseeing role on such plans and quality assurance procedures. The legislative framework preserves the academic freedom of the universities and respects the diverse traditions and institutional autonomy of each university.
The Institutes of Technology Act, 2006, creates a similar relationship between the institutes and the HEA as that between the HEA and the universities. It provides for greater institutional autonomy, improved governance and a statutory guarantee of academic freedom for the Institutes of Technology.
The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, which was launched in 2011, will see the transformation of Ireland’s higher education sector over the next two decades. Endorsed by Government as the future blueprint for the sector, the Strategy sets out changes for the sector that are aimed at providing for:
- a more flexible system, with a greater choice of provision and modes of learning for an increasingly diverse cohort of students;
- improvements in the quality of the student experience, the quality of teaching and learning and the relevance of learning outcomes; and
- ensuring that higher education connects more effectively with wider social, economic and enterprise needs through its staff, the quality of its graduates, the relevance of its programmes, the quality of its research and its ability to translate that into high value jobs and real benefits for society.
In order to ensure effective oversight of implementation of the strategy the Department of Education and Skills has established an Implementation Oversight Group.
The Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) advises the Government on current and future skills needs and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland's enterprise and employment growth. The Group brings together industry, academia and State agencies in identifying the overall skills requirements in the economy. Copies of EGFSN reports are issued to individual education and training providers and they provide a valuable input to the development and amendment of course curricula. EGFSN reports are also published on their website at www.skillsireland.ie