Ireland's Universities competes well globally

Ireland's Universities competes well globally

Posted on 05 Aug 2014 Views ( 814 )

A major review of the Ireland’s Higher Education sector published today shows that the nation competes well globally as far as higher education system is concerned and graduate employment has bounced back to pre-crisis levels.

The first ever Higher Education System Performance Report says institutions are flexibly to financial, staffing, and demographic pressures while practicing adaptability to meet Government objectives for the system as a whole.

Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn has published a report this morning which is an end result of a chain of consultations between the State’s Universities, institutes of technology, Higher Education Authority (HEA) and other third level colleges.

Every institute has had to agree for a package with the authority outlining its plans for the future, and how it varies from the rest of the higher education institutions domestically.

In the initial stages, institutes will be held responsible to the targets, which they are agreed upon in areas such as access for disadvantaged groups, drop-out rates, the quality of teaching and learning, and research and internationalization.

Also the Higher Education Authority (HEA) will have the right to apply financial penalties if institutes fall down on their goals. Some claim that this move may affect the academic independence of the institutes.

The headline figures in the report show that Ireland is performing well against international benchmarks:

  • 75% of Irish employers are satisfied with graduate skills.
  • Ireland possesses fourth highest percentage of computing, science, and mathematics graduates in the European Union.
  • Half of the students who are from 30-34 years of age are now having their third level qualifications, the highest level in Europe;
  • Irish universities are in the top 1 per cent of research institutions in the world across 18 academic disciplines;
  • Ireland is first in the world for the availability of skilled labor;

Mr. Quinn quips that in current trends, Higher Education is a success story across Ireland. Though we cannot label it as a foolproof, in midst of numerous strains the system has displayed its austerity and contributed significant portion to financial and communal development. Challenges have been there and will rise even further.

In 2011 International students numbered 196,397. This number is estimated to increase by a ten percent or further twenty thousand by 2016 to 216,732.

As per the Higher Education Authority, this rise could be even higher, however, as long-term projections from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and training agency Solas point to a recovering labor market, with most new jobs going to graduates.

 The report has spotted that there is much strain on the system and it also emphasizes the need to plan strategically for a sustainable and high quality system in order to meet the ever growing needs of students and Irish society.

Other major issue that was discussed in the report is the relatively high completion rates for degree courses in Ireland.

The report voiced even the number of students and its proportions from under-represented socio-economic groups are also gradually increasing.

The Minister quoted that his main concerns are the completion rate for Levels 6 and 7 and the access targets, however he is confident that both issues were being properly addressed. Sooner Consultations would assist in preparing a new plan intended to boost the percentages of students who are pursuing higher studies from non-traditional backgrounds, and this plan would be published before the end of the year.

Mr. Quinn has all praises for the employees who had responded exceptionally to the economic crisis.

The system has undergone strenuous phases and yet the fall down in the quality of our graduates till date is hardly evident. I am happy about that, he said. Along with Dublin University of Technology (DIT), all our universities are placed well in the top 500 in the world and many of our institutes of technology performed exceptionally well in the recently published U-Multirank published by the EU, he completed. 

Irish graduates are doing well in job fair. In fact, employability rate booms back to the peak levels as it was in the yesteryears. As per the report, a third level qualification helps you in the long run and reduces the likelihood of unemployment.

The Minister said that his reform agenda is being implemented steadily for the sector. As a first step, the total number of institutions is going to be reduced by 25. Now this count is 39. The Minister believes that this reduction will help improve quality in ways of teacher training, release capacity, and cut back on unnecessary duplication of courses.

On an overall basis, changes seem to be occurring in multiple ways. While setting up of regional clusters of higher education institutes will lead to significant developments in the delivery of the programmes and to better up the relations with industry, uniting Institutes of Technology will allow for the emergence of Technological Universities.