Written answers

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Department of Education and Skills

Third Level Education

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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48. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps he will take in offering additional supports to the higher education sector, in view of the recent university rankings which saw Ireland achieve just one university in the top 200 while Scotland, with a similar population, achieved five of its colleges in the top rankings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49613/17]

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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While there has been a decline in the position of some Irish Institutions in some international rankings systems, Ireland performs ahead of most European countries relative to our population size and has the highest level of tertiary attainment rate for 30-34 year olds in Europe.

My Department has consistently outlined that we have to be cautious about how we interpret the results of these commercial global rankings. The rankings are influenced by the staff/student ratio, the reduction in which has impacted on the placing of the Irish higher education institutions.  Performance in rankings are often highly reliant on surveys of opinion and of citations in journals which do not adequately capture the full range of activities taking place in our third level institutions. They don't measure the quality of the teaching or learning environment.  They also do not show how institutes respond to skills gaps and how they support participation by students with special educational needs or who are from a disadvantaged background.  Nonetheless I do acknowledge that they are widely read and can be informative, when taken in context. 

As Minister, my focus is on delivering a high quality Higher Education system that contributes to the overall goal of delivering the best Education and Training system in Europe by 2026. 

It is important that we choose goals and objectives that are relevant to an Irish context and that support our level of ambition, and then benchmark ourselves against best international practice. 

Under the System Performance Framework 2014-2016, the HEA has produced two System Performance Reports, the most recent report published in December 2016.    These reports have shown a continued growth in the Irish higher education system of 13% since 2011 and an increased supply of graduates to the labour market.

The Systems Performance Framework 2018-2020 is currently being developed by my Department, in conjunction with the HEA. This Framework will set out the objectives which Government is setting for our Higher Education Institutions for the period 2018 – 2020, together with the high level targets to be achieved in this period. This very ambitious programme of work will require a close alignment between the various elements which together form the higher education system in Ireland.


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