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Written answers

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Department of Education and Skills

Higher Education Institutions

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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222. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he has requested an analysis of the status of research infrastructure within higher education institutes, HEIs; his plans for reviewing and funding strategic development plans in the HEIs; if he has carried out an analysis of the impact on HEIs of the potential withdrawal of UK HEIs from EU funding programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39207/17]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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Subject to the availability of funding, capital investment priorities for this Department in the higher education sector will include the upgrade and expansion of higher education facilities, taking account of demographic pressures, skills needs in the economy, regional development and opportunities for life-long learning. Capital funding for research is managed by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

In addition, my Department allocates recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for direct disbursement to the HEA designated higher education institutions. The HEA allocates this funding to the institutions and it is a matter for each higher education institution to allocate the recurrent exchequer funding it receives in order to meet the needs of the institution.

In relation to Brexit, the potential impact of that development is being assessed within my Department and across Government. The potential impact of Brexit on UK/Ireland research collaboration and partnerships between education institutions and enterprise, as well as the implications for EU funding for research have been identified by the Education and Research Subgroup of the Economy and Trade Working Group, and raised at my Department’s higher education consultation forum in December 2016. My Department’s consideration of the most appropriate response to potential developments is ongoing.

Research collaboration between Irish and UK research teams on EU funded projects has been extensive and mutually beneficial. In terms of collaborative links the UK is our largest collaborator under Horizon 2020. In the period 2012-16 there were almost 13,000 co-authored papers between Irish and UK researchers, significantly ahead of collaborations with other states. Under the EU’s Research Framework Programme 7, 72% of the total Irish drawdown was for projects involving a UK partner.

The Government will seek to maintain to the greatest extent possible existing East-West and North-South research collaboration. There may also be new research opportunities for Ireland as a remaining member of the EU and participant in Horizon 2020 and its successor programme, to build new collaborations with industry. These opportunities will be maximised.

The Government will work constructively to maintain the greatest possible links and co-operation between the EU and the UK in access to EU programmes and will continue to engage with our education and research sector in this regard. To that end a joint stakeholder dialogue on research with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation is planned to take place in the Autumn.

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