30 May, 2013- Minister Quinn sanctions major re-organisation of higher education

The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D., has today announced a major re-organisation of the country’s higher education sector that includes provision for the creation of new Technological Universities.

This announcement follows recommendations made by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to Minister Quinn. The HEA's report called for consolidation of the Institute of Technology (IT) sector; the creation of a small number  of technological universities; the formation of regional clusters between universities and stronger ITs; implementation of recommendations to rationalise teacher education; as well as increased sustainability and capacity in the higher education system.

Minister Quinn said; "A new relationship between the state and the 39 publicly funded higher education institutes will be implemented. This will allow the system to respond in a more coherent way to national priorities set down by the government and provide graduates with the skills and qualifications that are essential for Ireland’s social and economic well-being. 

“A new performance framework will be put in place to increase the transparency and accountability of institutions for delivery of agreed performance outcomes. Integral to this will be a process of strategic dialogue between the HEA and each higher education institution".

The Minister continued: "Following discussion with Government colleagues this week, my response to the HEA report formally sets out the Government's national priorities and its key objectives for the higher education system. I will be asking the HEA to report to me on an annual basis on the collective performance of the higher education system against these national priorities and objectives and a set of high level system indicators which will be finalised in the coming weeks. A legislative framework will be brought forward to enable the implementation of these very important processes."

Minister Quinn said this new focus on system and institutional performance will bring the funding and governance of Irish higher education into line with best practice internationally. “It marks a new era for students and other stakeholders of the system". 

The Minister is also instructing the HEA to begin to implement the report's recommendations that will result in the consolidation of three groups of institutes of technology to progress towards attaining Technological University status. The three are:

  • The Dublin Institute of Technology, the Institute of Technology Tallaght and the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown 
  • The Cork Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology, Tralee
  • The Waterford Institute of Technology and Carlow Institute of Technology.  

The next stage for each of the applications will be the preparation of a plan to meet the criteria for Technological University status. The plan must be based on a legally binding memorandum of understanding between each consortium of institutions describing their consolidation into a new single institution.  

The plans will be evaluated by an independent expert international panel that will decide if the applicant can meet the agreed criteria in the proposed timetable and can proceed to the final stage.

Minister Quinn added that: “It is clear some institutes are not seeking to amalgamate with others and become Technological Universities. However, all institutions must concentrate on the core mission of developing close links with the local and regional business community and giving the best possible quality of education to their students, both from home and abroad.“  

In addition, the Minister is asking the HEA to establish regional clusters of institutions in three identified regions, Dublin/Leinster, the South/South East and West/Mid/West. All seven universities and 14 ITs will be grouped as follows: 

  • South/South East - University College Cork, Cork IT, IT Tralee, Waterford IT and IT Carlow;
  • West/Mid/North West - University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick IT, Galway-Mayo IT, IT Sligo, Letterkenny IT and NUI Galway (St Angela’s and Shannon College incorporated into NUI Galway);
  • Dublin/Leinster Pillar I – University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, National College of Art and Design, Marino Institute of Education, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology;
  • Dublin/Leinster Pillar II – Dublin Institute of Technology, IT Tallaght, IT Blanchardstown, Dublin City University (and incorporating linked colleges, National College of Ireland, Dundalk IT, NUI Maynooth, Athlone IT and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Heads of institutions in these clusters will now develop regional plans, eliminating unnecessary duplication of provision and establishing clear pathways of transfer and progression for students in the region. Emerging alliances between universities and institutes of technology will be strengthened and promoted - developing critical mass and centres of excellence in undergraduate, postgraduate and research provision.  

The re-configuration of higher education follows on from the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (the Hunt report) that set out a series of objectives for a reformed system. The re-configuration also incorporates the rationalisation of initial teacher education recommended in a report published last year by the HEA and the recommendations of the review of creative arts provision in the Dublin area also published in 2012.

Click here to view the HEAs report

Click here to view the Letter from the Minister to the HEA