IUA welcomes publication of Gender Taskforce Equality Action Plan 2018 – 12 Nov 2018

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) today welcomed the Report of the Gender Equality Taskforce Action Plan 2018-2020. The IUA is fully committed to working with the Minister and Department of Education and Skills to implement the recommendations arising from the Report in order to bring about meaningful and sustainable change in gender equality in universities.

The seven member universities of the IUA have already committed to implementing in full the Taskforce recommendations in the recently published Charter for Universities as part of their active programme on equality, diversity and inclusion. This builds on the progress already achieved in recent years including the achievement of Athena Swan Bronze Award status by all seven universities and rapid progress on gender balancing in the executive management teams and Governing Authorities.

Welcoming the Taskforce Report recommendations, Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said: “The IUA and its member universities are wholly supportive of the Taskforce recommendations and commit to working with the Department of Education to accelerate progress in gender balancing. This is an opportunity for delivering a step-change in gender equality across higher education. It will require concerted effort from all stakeholders to deliver the required change including the Department, funding agencies and the higher education institutions. We want to particularly acknowledge the leadership role of the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor in establishing this Taskforce and driving change on gender equality.”

Universities have made progress in this area including:

  • All seven universities have received Athena Swan Bronze institutional awards. Securing Athena SWAN accreditation, the internationally recognised quality mark for gender equality, is an important enabling process for universities to progress the equality agenda. Currently only 9 institutions in Ireland hold this award.
  • 5 out of 7 university governing authorities are comprised of at least 40% of each gender.
  • 5 out of 7 university executive management teams are comprised of at least 40 % of each
  • All seven universities have appointed, or are in the process of appointing, Vice-Presidents for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. This means the equality agenda will be represented at the senior management level in each university.

The IUA looks forward to participating in the soon to be established Working Group to implement the recommendations of the Gender Taskforce.




For more information contact:

Lia O’Sullivan | Head of Communications
Irish Universities Association | lia.osullivan@iua.ie | www.iua.ie  

Tel: +353 (0)1 6764948 | Direct: +353 (0)1 7996022 

Consultation on Strategy for National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning – deadline 30 Nov

the National Forum has begun a consultation on its 2019-2021 Strategy.

The deadline for submissions is 30 November 2018.

The National Forum is currently developing its strategy to the end of 2021. This strategy will inform teaching and learning policy and practice in the years
to come. This means, if you are reading this, it is likely to impact directly upon your work or studies.

The strategy will focus on four key areas:
— The professional development of those who teach
— Teaching and learning within disciplines
— Teaching and learning in a digital world
— Enabling Student success

It is crucial that their strategy is informed by those who learn, teach, lead, develop policy or shape practice in Irish higher education.
We invite you to help us decide how best to focus our resources and attention within these key areas.

To respond, go to 


or email your thoughts to consultation@teachingandlearning.ie



ITN 2019 Application Supports

The Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office has prepared a series of supports to assist in writing a successful application for the ITN 2019 call. These should be used in conjunction with the Guide for Applicants.

ITN 2019 Handbook

An application handbook, incorporating details of common weaknesses in unfunded applications and relevant EU policies to include in your proposal is available for download here:
ITN 2018 Handbook (142 downloads)


ITN 2019 Webinars

A four part webinar comprising an overview of the programme as well as webinars devoted to the Excellence, Impact and Implementation sections of the proposal, are available for download below. The slides are also available for download.


ITN 2019 Overview and Evaluation Video 

ITN 2019 Overview and Evaluation (slides only) (70 downloads)



ITN 2019 Excellence Section Video 

ITN 2019 Excellence Section (slides only) (49 downloads)


ITN 2019 Impact Video 

ITN 2019 Impact Section (slides only) (43 downloads)  


ITN 2019 Implementation and Part B2 Video 

ITN 2019 Implementation and Part B2 (slides only) (49 downloads)  


An exhaustive analysis of ESR from the 2018 call compiled by the Net4Mobility+ NCP network is also available for download here:
ESR 2018 Analysis (61 downloads)


Seven universities launch ‘Save Our Spark’ campaign, urging public to sign petition to protect Ireland’s third level education system – 15th Oct

IUA warns inaction could lead to a serious drop in quality or a shortfall in places for students in the future

Ireland’s seven universities have today (October 15th, 2018) launched a major campaign aimed at encouraging the public to demand that the Government tackles the funding crisis in third level education. State funding per third level student in Ireland at €5,000 is barely half of what it was a decade ago and a fraction of what it is in other similar-sized European countries.  Budget 2019 last week, while providing a small funding increase, did not address the underlying gap in funding.

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) developed the Save Our Spark campaign following more than two years of inaction after the publication of the Cassells Report in which meaningful funding reform for higher education was recommended by a Government-appointed expert group.

The Save Our Spark campaign seeks to raise awareness of the crisis and encourage members of the public to sign a petition urging their local TD or Senator to act now.

From today, a series of adverts will run on national and regional radio stations. The ad will also appear in trains and buses and the Dart across Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, as well as at all seven university campuses. A short video, which was specially created to highlight the crisis, will be promoted across YouTube and key social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Launching the Save Our Spark campaign, Jim Miley, Director General of the IUA said: “If the higher education crisis is not addressed by Government urgently, then we risk a serious drop in quality or a shortfall in places for students in the future.  For the first time ever, all seven Irish universities are coming together to demand urgent action on the funding crisis, as we need substantial investment to accommodate the extra students that are expected to enter the system over the next decade.  Our universities are where the Irish spark burns brightest and the key to protecting that spark is securing better state funding. The Government simply can’t continue to ignore this crisis. It’s time to take action now and we’re encouraging students, their parents and everyone with an interest in the future of the country to visit the Save Our Spark website,  sign our petition and contact public representatives about the issue.”

For more information, please visit the Save Our Spark website 


For media queries, please contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, Irish Universities Association
lia.osullivan@iua.ie    01 676 4948 / 085 714 1414

IUA Response to Budget 2019 – State funding per student in third level not addressed by Budget – Oct 9th

No real progress on closing the core funding gap

The government has done very little to address the growing crisis in third level funding in Budget 2019. The allocation of €57m million in ‘extra’ funding on top of existing commitments on national pay increases, while welcome, only allows the system to tread water. The bulk of the money is ring-fenced for specific purposes and does not deal with the core funding gap. The promise of a Human Capital Initiative Fund in two years’ time does nothing to address the current funding shortfall.

State funding per student remains virtually unchanged as the small allocation of extra funds is mopped up by increasing student numbers. State funding per third level student in Ireland at €5,000 is a fraction of that in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland, countries with whom we are in competition for investment.   

Jim Miley, Director General of the Irish Universities Association said: “It is a serious cause of concern that the government has not prioritised the education of the future workforce of the country. Third level funding is critical to generating the talent pool for the economy. Our future economic competitiveness will be eroded if the public funding deficit is not addressed.

It’s patent nonsense for the Minister to continue to talk about having the ‘best education system in Europe by 2026’ while presiding over a funding regime that only provides a fraction of the funding per student of those best countries in Europe.”

There’s nothing in the Budget to address the major facilities upgrade that’s required in Irish universities. A funding requirement of at least €104 million in 2019 was proposed by the Irish Universities Association as part of a 5-year University Capital Refurbishment Programme after a decade of neglect. Students cannot be expected to perform at their best in sub-standard facilities.

The idea of a skills and talent-focused initiative such as the Human Capital Fund announced in the Budget is welcomed by universities. However, this amounts to no more than a future promise and does nothing to address the needs of the quarter of a million strong student population in our third level system.

The Budget represents a missed opportunity to deal with the long-accepted crisis in third level funding and to act on the recommendations of the Cassells Report for meaningful funding reform.



For further information, contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications lia.osullivan@iua.ie; 085 7141414, 01 6764948


State Funding per Student European Comparators

Source: European University Association, Public Funding Observatory 2017

NOTE: The funding per student figure for Ireland in 2019 is unlikely to change significantly as any extra money will be absorbed by the extra students entering the system.

Seven universities launch joint Charter to underpin the future of Irish university education 17.09.18

Commitment to six-point plan to achieve a sustainable, competitive university system  for Ireland’s future talent.

Ireland’s seven universities have today (September 17th, 2018) committed to a Charter to grow and develop the university education system for this and future generations of students. Ireland’s Future Talent – A Charter for Irish Universities commits to transform capability and performance across a range of key criteria to deliver a sustainable, competitive university system for Ireland’s foreseeable needs.

Professor Patrick O’Shea, President of UCC and Chair of the Irish Universities Association said:

“Ireland has long extoled the virtue of our indigenous talent, nurtured by our education system. However, a decade of under-investment by the State, the demographic bulge and a dynamic, competitive international education environment forces us all to confront stark realities. It is incumbent on the State, on universities and on society to implement initiatives to develop and fully realise our national talent. The time for talking is over. The time for change has come.”             

“The importance of the Charter is that it underpins a commitment to substantial change. It calls out the challenges. It identifies solutions. It puts meat on the bones of the Government’s ambition. As a society, we must commit to and enable this change. This Charter captures our commitment and it is now incumbent on the Government to meet the challenge,” he concluded.   

IUA Charter 2018 CoverThe Charter identifies six central objectives and commits to delivering a fit for purpose university system for the evolving demands of society. Its target is to enable the Irish education system to become the best in Europe by 2026, thereby achieving the Government’s ambition for the national education sector.

The development of the Charter, the first of its kind in third level education history, has been engineered by the Irish Universities Association and was launched at an event in Dublin today.

Jim Miley, Director General of the Irish Universities Association said: “Universities worldwide are transforming and the Charter to which we have committed today is designed to move Irish universities to the forefront of that change by jointly committing to a range of measures that better support students, staff and research and that will deliver in the national interest. This is a mission-critical initiative for the combined universities. The political community now needs to step up to the challenge and match the ambition and commitment demonstrated by the universities.”

He added: “We require a transformation of how university education is controlled including freeing universities from the grinding levers of State to allow them innovate and grow. This requires more flexible structures combined with strong governance and accountability.”

“Every politician is aware of the major funding deficit for third level, yet no progress has been made on re-vamping the overall structure, despite clear options proposed by the Government-appointed expert group. Too many are hiding behind the fig leaf of the option they don’t like.  Meanwhile, the scale of funding deficit continues to grow as more and more students enter our universities. We share the government’s ambition for education but that ambition needs to be matched with a commitment to provide the structures and funding required to deliver it. It’s time to get real on this,” he concluded.              

The Charter sets out six core commitments by universities, which will work in partnership with government and other stakeholders, to fully deliver.

In summary they are:

  1. Build on the quality of the student experience in a digital age.

The student population in Irish universities will surge by 25,000 by 2030, coinciding with rapid advances in digital learning and a need to expand lifelong learning opportunities. To meet these challenges, universities commit to:

  • Developing a national programme in digital learning in partnership with government;
  • Increasing lifelong learning for people aged 25 to 64 from the current 6.5% to the EU average of 10.7% by 2030;
  • Increasing our international reach by increasing international student numbers to 15% of the overall student population and enabling 20% of students to undertake study or placement abroad by 2025.

This requires investment to refurbish decaying infrastructure, build capacity and provide the systems needed for an increasingly digital and flexible learning environment.

  1. Increase the scale, scope and impact of investment in research and innovation.

While sustained public investment in R&D continued through the recession, Ireland still lags behind the OECD average of 2.4% of GDP at just 1.2%. To build capacity for world-class research, universities commit to:

  • Expanding engagement between universities and industry on knowledge transfer and innovation;
  • Increasing the output of PhD graduates by at least 30% over the next 10 years.

Growing R&D investment to at least 2% of GPD will require an investment of €680 million per annum. Securing additional EU funds from the Horizon Europe EU Research Programme should be a core Government priority.

  1. Expand student access and increase engagement with communities and industry.

The Disability Access Route to Education programme has resulted in a 70% increase in new entrants with disabilities, while the Higher Education Access Route programme has grown the numbers from priority socio-economic target groups by 31%. Universities will further grow these numbers, address progression rates and build on the success of Campus Engage. Universities commit to:

  • Increasing access numbers by a further 30% by 2025;
  • Providing better opportunities for students to work with civoc society organisations through accredited learning, growth in engaged research and promotion of studentvolunteer.ie;
  • Strengthening and deepening industry links to align with workforce demands and build more partnerships.
  1. Support a programme of staff development and increased equality and diversity.

University staff numbers and pay scales are controlled by central government, which limits universities’ capacity to respond flexibly to rapidly changing needs. All seven Irish universities have now been awarded Athena Swan Bronze status, a key indicator of progress on equality and diversity. To build on this, universities commit to:

  • Implementing a professional development framework for university staff;
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Gender Equality Taskforce on Higher Education to advance diversity, inclusion and equality.
  • Securing agreement on a Researcher Career Development and Employment Framework to provide a secure basis for researchers to develop a career path.

To allow delivery of these commitments, the rigid and centralised control on university staffing should be changed to allow greater flexibility for each university to develop bespoke HR plans.

  1. Create more flexible and accountable structures.

International evidence points to the fact that the most successful universities are those with

the greatest levels of independence coupled with strong governance and accountability. Universities are committed to:

  • Working with government on legislative reform to deliver a more flexible operating structure, with a better capacity to respond to the needs of the economy and society in general.
  • Improving accountability through better governance structures, in accordance with best international practice.

To deliver a more effective and efficient university system we need the removal of restrictive measures in relation to employment, in line with the principles set out in the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030;

  1. Secure the investment and resources to achieve our ambitions.

While the Government has commenced reversing the funding decline, long-awaited policy decisions on revamping the overall structure of funding have been delayed. A definitive decision on a sustainable funding model for higher education is urgently required to prevent risks to our economic competitiveness. A more sustainable university system can be delivered by:

  • Increasing State investment in Higher Education in each of the next three budgets by €150m, €180m and €230m respectively.
  • A more detailed plan for the capital investment in higher education, referenced in Project Ireland 2040, is required and should include a dedicated refurbishment programme.


For media queries, please contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, Irish Universities Association
lia.osullivan@iua.ie    01 6764948 / 085 714 1414



Recruiting: Project Manager for the Irish Survey of Student Engagement – applications by Friday Sept 28th

The Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) operates as a shared service funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) for institutions under its remit and is co-sponsored by the Irish Universities Association (IUA), the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI).  The national partnership is seeking to appoint a Project Manager who will be employed by THEA on behalf of the project partners.

Reporting to the four ISSE co-sponsors, the Project Manager manages engagement with participating higher education institutions and other stakeholders; coordinates activities of project working groups; manages the contract with the external data processing contractor; and ensures project coherence and consistency.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Acting as primary liaison for project stakeholders – institutions, national bodies, technical contractor – as well as for other interested external parties
  • Acting as secretariat to the ISSE Steering Group and project working groups
  • Ensuring key deliverables are provided to institutions – promotional materials, data files, national reports
  • Ensuring analysis and reporting of national results from the ISSE and the new ISSE-PGR are undertaken in a timely manner
  • Ensuring effective management of all aspects of the project including: meetings for working groups, finance, data management, documentation, and regular reporting to the Steering Group and project co-sponsors
  • Maintaining effective communications for the project, including website, social media and regular email information updates

The person appointed will have:

  • An appropriate third-level qualification at NFQ Level 8 [or equivalent] or above
  • A proven track record in ability to conduct analysis on large data sets and present findings to stakeholders
  • Project management experience
  • Familiarity with the operation of the higher education sector in Ireland and / or abroad
  • Excellent communication skills, both oral and written
  • Good interpersonal skills and the ability to negotiate in a multi-stakeholder environment
  • An ability to interact in a confident way with people

Download the Job-Description-ISSE-Project-Mgr-2018-09.pdf (69 downloads)

A knowledge of statistical analysis software, such as SPSS, and a qualification in project management is also desirable.

This is a full-time, three year contract post which offers an excellent career opportunity for a positive, innovative and dynamic professional with an attractive remuneration package on offer for the right candidate. Further details of the project are available at www.studentsurvey.ie

Please forward, in confidence, no later than 5pm on Friday 28th September 2018, a curriculum vitae accompanied by a covering letter outlining your suitability for the post to: margaret.coen@thea.ie

THEA is an equal opportunities employer. Shortlisting of candidates may take place.

IUA Op-Ed 6.07.18 – Funding reform needed for quality and growth of third-level sector

State’s future tied to adequate investment to ensure educational opportunity for all

Jim Miley, Director General, Irish Universities Association
As featured in the Opinion section of the Irish Times 06.07.18

Benjamin Disraeli: photograph: John Jabez Edwin Mayall/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Upon the education of the people of this country, the fate of this country depends
History regards Benjamin Disraeli as a reforming political leader. His contention that education determines the fate of the country is as apt today as it was when he spoke in the House of Commons on June 15th, 1874. The leaders of main political parties in Ireland seek to position themselves as reformers. Their success in this regard will be ultimately determined by their actions and adjudicated by the electorate. History will be kind to genuine reformers, particularly when that reform benefits the country today and in the years ahead.

The Government has an ambition to have a “Best in Europe” higher education system by 2026. The seven universities in the State share that ambition. This is not some lofty broad-brush objective to be achieved for the sake of national pride. Higher education is a cornerstone of our national infrastructure. The development of higher education as a national enabler across so many aspects of society is crucial to the wellbeing of Ireland and its people in an increasingly competitive world.

Sadly, exchequer investment in Irish universities has diminished year on year over the past decade. The financial crisis demanded that exchequer funding was cut to so many important sectors in national life. However, the reduction in core funding to universities, combined with the steady increase in students seeking a third-level qualification, has fundamentally undermined the financial model. If this is not fixed, and soon, the country’s economic future may be jeopardised as warned by Ibec and others.

A modern democracy and developed economy should demand the initiative whereby the primary and secondary school children of today can be certain of a high-quality, third-level education.

The evidence of detrimental impact has been greatly mitigated by universities becoming more efficient and resourceful. Because of the funding reductions, the increased enrolment in recent years has been funded by internal efficiencies and other cost-cutting measures which are now largely exhausted. Universities continue to successfully use philanthropy, enterprise and debt to fund necessary capital and developmental projects. But the kernel is core funding; funds used for teaching, learning and research. Core funding per student has halved in the last decade.

Peak demand

The number of students completing second level will peak in 2029 and is projected to be 27 per cent higher than in 2015. These students are currently in second class in primary school. Many of today’s seven and eight year olds will be seeking access to third-level education at a point of peak demand. If the funding problem is not fixed, there may not be places available for some of them.

A modern democracy and developed economy should demand the initiative whereby the primary and secondary school children of today can be certain of a high-quality, third-level education if they wish to pursue their ambitions and potential. However, time is not on our side.

The political inaction on the report of the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education (the Cassells report) is of serious concern in this context. All political parties express a strong regard for the Cassells report but we’re no closer to a solution. The report was produced 26 months ago and Cassells said “there is a need and a desire for urgent reform of the funding landscape. The funding system is simply not fit for purpose.” Over two years have passed and “urgent” is now developing into a crisis.

Budget 2018 brought a welcome but modest initial increase in core funding for higher-level education. However, the gap in core funding to 2021 based on Cassells’s analysis remains in excess of €550 million. It is essential that this gap to 2021 is bridged if there is to be any meaningful progress towards achieving “Best in Europe”.

International rankings

This investment would allow universities to absorb the growth in student numbers while starting to address the underlying quality issues which have arisen from years of underfunding, which are now beginning to become evident in international rankings. This investment must also enable universities to enhance their efforts to improve access and to better respond to skills needs in the knowledge economy.

On behalf of the seven universities, the Irish Universities Association has made a budget submission to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe on the core funding required for higher education in 2019. We have also flagged the increments required for the subsequent years to bridge the gap identified by Cassells and associated capital expenditure necessities.

The Minister is assailed by budget requests from all the departments and from many vested interests. Many of these requests have a solid rationale. It must, however, be difficult, if not impossible, for the political community to avoid genuinely addressing a critical investment on which the fate of the country and its core talent depends.
The Government and indeed all political parties need to step up to the plate on third-level funding. Any further prevarication will negatively impact tens of thousands of primary and secondary pupils as well as the student generation attending third-level institutions across Ireland today.