Written answers

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Department of Education and Skills

Higher Education Institutions

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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155. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which he expects NUI Maynooth and the other universities to develop over the next five years with specific reference to catering for increased demand and the broadening of the syllabus thereby enhancing their competitiveness internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45274/17]

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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The higher education system continues to respond strongly to the challenge of meeting Ireland’s human capital needs and has continued to increase enrolments in recent years to meet the demand for higher education places.

The performance of the system in meeting human capital needs is also strong by comparison with other European countries: Ireland has one of the highest rates of 30–34-year-olds with higher education attainment, and Ireland performs particularly strongly in terms of graduates with STEM qualifications when considered against fellow EU member countries. Further information on the performance of the system against the key objectives set in the System Performance Framework for Higher Education are available in the two System Performance Reports available on my Department's website.

I understand that Maynooth University (MU) has undertaken a rigorous assessment of their undergraduate curriculum and have introduced a new flexible curriculum with reduced entry routes; this is in line with the national ‘transitions’ agenda. Also, the university is embedding greater emphasis on skills of critical thinking, analysis and communication across its curricula.

A number of other universities have also completed university-wide initiatives explicitly addressing graduate outcomes in terms of skills and other attributes. This is part of each university’s ongoing efforts to ensure quality and relevance of all student learning.

MU has also grown its student numbers significantly in recent years with overall enrolments increasing by over 20% since 2011/12 to 11,922 in 2016/17. MU has also increased its international activities and offers all its students the opportunity to study abroad. The university is now enrolling students from 90 countries.

In line with the Transition Reform Agenda which aims to provide a broader experience for undergraduate students with specialisation later, the number of level 8 offerings has been reduced to 964 through the CAO in 2017, down from 1036 in 2014.

An additional €60m is being provided in 2018 for the higher education sector which will allow for targeted initiatives in priority areas. This additional funding will also allow for the provision of 2,100 additional student places in higher education so that the system can continue to respond to the increasing demographics. In the period 2017 – 2018, some €133m in additional funding will be invested in higher education.

In addition to the recently announced PPP projects, which focused on the needs for the IoT sector, €367 million in funding has been allocated by the exchequer for investment in higher education over the period 2018-2021 following the mid-term review of the Capital Plan. This represents a significant increase from the €110 million planned previously.

This increased funding is being provided within the context of a changing funding model and a new System Performance Framework. A funding reform package will incentivise institutions to respond to national strategic priorities as well as strengthening the transparency and consistency of the method by which our higher education institutions are funded. I am creating a new Performance and Innovation fund to further drive reform in the sector which will encourage capacity building in key areas across the sector and reward exceptional performances by our higher education institutions.


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