Tuesday, 9 November 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Third Level Education
506. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the steps that are being taken to prepare the third level education system to meet the demands that will be placed on it by the enactment of the Official Language (Amendment) Bill 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54204/21]
The Department for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is committed to the implementation of the Official Languages Act and provision of Irish-language services, and the Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019 is of high importance to Ireland and the life of the language in this country. It will ensure that Irish speakers can interact with the Government and access public services through a high standard of Irish. Further information on this bill can be found in the following link www.gov.ie/en/press-release/a8eef-official-languages-bill-amendment-2019-before-the-dail/.
There is already a broad range of courses available in Irish in higher education institutions that will meet future demand.
The objective of the Advanced Irish Language Skills Initiative, funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, is to ensure the availability of qualified persons with Irish language skills to meet recruitment needs in Ireland and the EU. Under this scheme the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht provides funding for a range of specialised third level Irish language courses in areas such as translation, interpretation and law. Further information on this Initiative can be found in the following link: www.gov.ie/en/publication/7c05c-third-level-education/.
Under the Advanced Irish Language Strategic Initiative there are 8 courses available in 5 different institutions. There were 73 students enrolled in these courses in 2019/2020 and 84 students enrolled in 2020/2021.
As of 2020/21, there were 67 courses in Higher Education delivering Irish language tuition or delivered through the medium of Irish, a total of 1,674 students (6,283 since 2016/17). This includes courses in Teacher Training colleges, but excludes courses in Irish Studies, Irish history, folklore, music/dance and the likes. A further 1,021 students are recorded as taking Irish language as a subject as part of a further 37 courses (5,618 students since 2016/17).
The Department distributes recurrent funding to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for disbursement directly to the HEA's designated higher education institutions. The HEA distributes this funding as a block grant to the institutions. As autonomous bodies, payment of this funding, including any expenditure on Irish-language education initiatives, falls to the individual institution.
In addition, specific support is provided for the development of Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge in NUIG. The Department has agreed to provide an allocation of €900,000 for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 academic years.
The Acadamh is a research and educational institution which is intended to promote and develop Irish-medium education. It is headquartered in NUIG’s main Galway City campus, but also has campuses in the Ceathrú Rua and Carna in Connemara, and in the Doirí Beaga in Gaoth Dobhair, Donegal.
Ultimately, however, Higher Education Institutions (HEI) are autonomous, and determine themselves which Irish-language courses will be offered. While my Department will continue to be committed to the implementation of the Official Languages Act, it is not within my remit to direct a HEI as to the courses they offer.