Written answers

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Department of Education and Skills

Third Level Quality Assurance Compliance

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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276. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the extent to which third level education requires ongoing assessment and updating in line with best practice internationally in order to ensure the ability of graduates to compete internationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42508/18]

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal, Fine Gael)
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Third level education is constantly evolving in accordance with emerging best practices and national priorities to ensure that graduates, and the institutions themselves, are best placed to meet the needs and demands of the global marketplace. The Higher Education System Performance Framework articulates the expectations from the system across all areas of activity and from across Government. The HEA engages with HEIs on their performance against these domains through a process of strategic dialogue and through the use of performance funding. The new Framework covers the period 2018 - 2020. The promotion of ‘excellence in teaching and learning to underpin a high-quality student experience’ is one of the 7 ‘key system objectives’ in the System Performance Framework, and the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning supports the implementation of best international practice ensuring that opportunities for better practice are identified, mainstreamed and shared under the guidance of the Higher Education Authority and sectoral representative bodies.

Quality assurance procedures are in place within HEIs in accordance with Guidelines as set out by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). An Annual Institutional Quality Assurance Report is submitted to QQI which outlines the institutions cycle of internal reviews along with links to published review reports. These internal reviews comprise of any or all of regular periodic reviews of study programmes; quality reviews of academic, administrative and service departments; unit-based reviews of schools, faculties and colleges and thematic reviews of institution-wide issues. QQI has also established a Policy for the Cyclical Review of Higher Education Institutions, which takes place on a periodic scheduled basis.

Ireland is in the top 5 positions in Europe in terms of participation and in the top 10 positions in terms of educational attainment. The participation rate of 18-20 year olds in higher education has grown from 20% in 1980 to a current level of 58%. Ireland has one of the highest rates of 30-34 year olds with higher education attainment in the OECD with over half of 25-34 year olds having completed higher education.

Budget 2019 continues the Government’s process of reinvestment in Higher Education, building on the progress made in Budgets 2017 & 2018. Budgets 2018 & 2019 have made provision for 5,600 additional Higher education student places. The Government has secured a total package which provides for €57.4 million of additional expenditure in Higher Education in 2019.As part of Budget 2019, the Government committed to increasing the National Training Fund levy by a further 0.1% in 2019 to 0.9%, and by a further 0.1% in 2020. Additionally a new Human Capital Initiative has been announced as part of budget 2019. This will involve investment of €300m over the 5 year period 2020-2024, with €60m being made available in each of those years. This investment will be funded by the NTF surplus. There is also a significant ramping up of Government investment on the capital side of the higher education sector and over a 10 year period, investment of some €2.2 billion is envisaged. To complement and underpin the additional investment in Higher Education a number of strategic reforms measures are also being undertaken by my Department.

Technological universities will provide an opportunity to drive regional development and provide more opportunities for students, staff, enterprise and local and regional communities. They will have a significant reach, impact and influence regionally, nationally and internationally. Ireland has a strong track record, too, in research and innovation, and Irish researchers have been very successful under Horizon 2020’s highly competitive international funding stream.

Ireland is 11th in global scientific ranking for overall quality of scientific research. This is an impressive trajectory from a position of 48th just 13 years ago. Our global rankings for individual subject areas further demonstrate that we continue to play an important role in global R&D. Ireland is now 1st in Animal and Dairy, 1st in Immunology, 2nd in Nanotechnology and Agricultural Sciences. Ireland remains 1st in the world for knowledge diffusion and 10th in the Global Innovation Index.


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