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.

IUA Media Release 5th July – University sector needs major investment in Budget 2019

€130m increase in core current funding and €104m lift in capital investment.
Future economic competitiveness threatened by government inaction.

Budget 2019 must be used to inject essential resources into our universities according to Jim Miley Director General of the Irish Universities Association.

“This Budget must urgently address the underlying quality issues arising from a decade of underfunding as well as building capacity to absorb the significant growth in student numbers. We are seeking an increase of €130m in core current funding and €104m in essential capital upgrades in 2019. State funding per student now is just half what it was ten years ago.”

“It is now 725 days since the Cassells Report was published and the sector cannot continue to deliver without the politicians of Ireland grasping the funding challenge for the university sector. Already this year, we have seen a decline in our position in international ranking systems. Without significant additional investment, universities cannot enhance their efforts to improve access and better respond to skills needs across the economy.”

The Cassells report, Investing in National Ambition, set out a clear rationale and strategy for the future funding of higher education and a choice of options to achieve that. The funding requirements for the sector, as laid out by Cassells, includes the following key elements:

• An additional €600 million per annum in core funding by 2021 as compared with 2015
• A capital investment programme of €5.5 billion by 2030

Jim Miley continued: “Budget 2018 brought a welcome but modest initial increase in core funding for higher level. However, the gap in core funding to 2021, based on the Cassells analysis, remains in excess of €550 million. That is a massive gap! It is essential that this funding gap is bridged if there is to be any meaningful progress on achieving the Government’s ambition to have a ‘best in Europe’ higher education system. Or to put it more bluntly, failure to bridge the gap leaves Ireland trailing behind competing nations.”

The €130m increase for core current funding for universities for Budget 2019 is comprised of €90m investment in capacity and quality and €40m to meet known unavoidable cost increases in 2019 arising from national pay awards and other centrally imposed cost increases.

The additional capital investment of €104m is required to address critical upgrades of essential equipment and infrastructure in order to provide facilities appropriate to the 2019 needs of students. The legacy of a decade-long neglect of essential repair and maintenance due to lack of money has resulted in a catalogue of ‘red-letter’ health and safety-related issues to be dealt with in university facilities. Failure to address the extensive refurbishment requirements at this point will inevitably lead to far more extensive costs in the medium term as capital stock may deteriorate beyond repair and may require complete replacement.

“Universities have a crucial role in producing the talent pool for the growing knowledge economy. This not only includes satisfying the skills needs of the workforce, but also seeding the creativity and innovation of the economy through an expanding world class research system. The Cassells Report provided an expertly researched and presented roadmap. We are calling on politicians across the Oireachtas to stop kicking the can down the road and to address the problem now. Failure to do so will damage students’ prospects and threaten the future competitiveness of the economy” Jim Miley concluded.

Irish-Universities-Association_Budget2019Submission_July2018.pdf (105 downloads)

 

Radio: Newstalk & Morning Ireland

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More information:
Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, Irish Universities Association
Lia.osullivan@iua.ie 01 6764948 085 7141414

20th June 2018 – Irish Universities providing sanctuary through education to Refugees #WorldRefugeeDay

Today is World Refugee Day. Held every year on June 20th it commemorates the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees. This year, World Refugee Day also marks a key moment for the public to show support for families forced to flee. The latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, show that at least 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced within their own countries or across borders.

Many people have had to cut their education short due to fleeing their home countries or have never had a chance to have an education. However, it can be very hard for those who are seeking sanctuary to access higher education. Asylum seekers have no recourse to public funds and often have fled without any money. Additional barriers to higher education include English being a second language and Universities not having the facilities and staff trained to understand the needs to those who are seeking sanctuary, many of whom have been though traumatic experiences. 

Universities of Sanctuary is an initiative of the City of Sanctuary movement which began in October 2005 in Sheffield. It celebrates the good practice of universities welcoming sanctuary seekers into their communities and fostering a culture of welcome and inclusion for all. A University of Sanctuary should be a place where anyone can feel safe, welcome and able to pursue their right to education. 

“The Universities of Sanctuary initiative is a natural fit for Irish Universities as they seek to widen participation in Higher Education for students who face barriers to attending. Critically the key success factor in this initiative is the drive by university staff to enable education opportunities for students living in Direct Provision. Universities are using innovative options such as virtual learning environments in recognition of the challenges some of the students face in physically attending classes on campus. Our universities are committed to welcoming students from all over the world, especially those fleeing conflictSinead Lucey, Head of International Relations, Irish Universities Association

The Universities of Sanctuary initiative encourage Universities to:

  • Do everything possible to secure equal access to higher education for refugees
  • Reach out to and support refugees in their local communities who could benefit from University resources in a sustainable way.
  • Undertake activities to nurture a culture of welcome and an inclusive atmosphere within their institutions such as among staff and students.
Irish Universities of Sanctuary

Dublin City University was designated as Ireland’s first “University of Sanctuary”  in December 2016 in recognition of a range of initiatives demonstrating commitment to welcoming asylum seekers and refugees into the university community and to fostering a culture of inclusion for all. Read more 

University of Limerick was officially presented with the University of Sanctuary award on United Nations World Refugee Day June 20th 2017. The designation for UL was built on an existing history of engagement with refuges and asylum seekers in a number of programmes of education and research. Read more 

University College Cork joined DCU and UL as universities leading the way in Ireland by being awarded University of Sanctuary status by Places of Sanctuary Ireland in February 2018.  Read more 

University College Dublin  was awarded University of Sanctuary status in March 2018 in recognition of a range of initiatives welcoming refugees and asylum seekers into the university community. Read more

Seeking Designation

NUI Galway launched its University of Sanctuary Campaign in May 2018. The specific aim of the campaign at NUI Galway is to increase public awareness of the global refugee crisis and Traveller-specific issues across the University campus.  Read more

Trinity College Dublin is aiming  to join other Irish universities by becoming a University of Sanctuary. Such an achievement would be contingent on TCD identifying ways of supporting young asylum seekers and refugees, who have successfully come through Irish secondary schools, to access undergraduate education at Trinity. Read more

 

A university of sanctuary must follow three main principles across the board and at all levels:

Learn: Learning about what it means to be seeking sanctuary, in general and at a university. This encompasses any activity on training staff, teaching students or holding events to raise awareness on what it means to be seeking sanctuary.

Embed: taking positive action to embed concepts of welcome, safety and inclusion within the institution and the wider community. This involves ensuring that a sustainable culture of welcome is established within the institution to bring about far reaching, tangible and long-lasting changes.

Share: sharing the university’s vision, achievements, what they have learned and good practice, with other universities, the local community, the media and others.

20 June 2018 IUA Media Release – Ireland leads International PhD Programme to research trauma experienced by Refugees

(Biggest EU Funding drawdown to date of €12.9million for Innovative Training Network Call in Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions / Horizon 2020)

Today (Wednesday June 20th 2018) is World Refugee Day, held every year to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.  The latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, show that at least 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced within their own countries or across borders. Many have been exposed to highly traumatic experiences resulting in complex mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder.

EU Funding of €3.3m from Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions in Horizon 2020 has enabled the Centre for Global Health in Trinity College Dublin to lead an International PhD Programme for research into trauma-exposed populations. The project entitled ‘CONTEXT’ (COllaborative Network for Training and EXcellence in psychoTraumatology’) will see twelve doctoral researchers study the psychological effects of exposure to traumatic life events among unique traumatised groups including refugees, asylum seekers and forcibly displaced migrants entering Europe from conflict zones.

Dr. Frédérique Vallières is a lecturer in the School of Psychology and the Principal Investigator of the CONTEXT project based at the Centre for Global Health in Trinity College Dublin: “The emphasis of the CONTEXT project is on conducting research that is of priority to the organisations and to the clients which they serve so as to ensure that research findings are translated into better procedures, policies, practices, and ultimately outcomes for vulnerable persons.” 

During the project the researchers will spend half of their training with implementing partner organizations including the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, SPIRASI and the Danish and Columbian Red Cross, gaining front-line experience working with survivors of traumatic exposure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel Frost is a PhD student at Ulster University, and is currently based in Ireland, working with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Spirasi, an Irish organisation which provides a range of specialist services for asylum seekers and refugees with a concern for survivors of torture: “Despite similar experiences individuals vary considerably in their psychological reaction to trauma. My research will evaluate the role that environmental factors play in determining an individual’s psychological response to trauma as such factors may be more amenable to intervention compared to pre-migratory trauma”.This alliance of academic and non-academic partners will generate knowledge that enables us to assess if we are appropriately responding to the mental health needs of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and in addition, will contribute towards improved evidence-based interventions for traumatic stress”

Camila Perera is a PhD student at TCD and is currently on secondment with the Columbian Red Crescent: “Through my research with CONTEXT, I will be working with the Colombian Red Cross and the Psychosocial Reference Centre of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to study how Colombian Red Cross Volunteers who do not have a formal mental health qualification can be trained and supervised to provide a structured and simplified psychological intervention. A key deliverable of my research will be the development of an evidence-based protocol for Red Cross volunteers (in and outside Colombia) on how to implement simplified psychological interventions. I’ll be leaving on June 25th” for my first trip. During the project I’ll visit Colombia 3-4 times staying 2-3 weeks each time.”

Success for Ireland in Horizon 2020

CONTEXT is an Innovative Training Network (ITN). Figures release recently show that Ireland was successful in drawing down €12.9 million in EU funding via the MSCA Innovative Training Networks 2017 call. There were 9 coordinators from Irish institutions with a success rate of 14.6% compared to the EU 7.45% success rate.

Dr. Geraldine Canny, Head of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office based at the Irish Universities Association: “We are delighted with this excellent result for Ireland. These high quality doctoral training network programmes involve international collaborations between the academic, industry and CSO sectors in diverse research areas and will lead to increased numbers of entrepreneurial, highly employable graduates.”

Speaking about the benefits of being a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fellow Camila says: “The fellowship has given me the opportunity to carry out action research in a humanitarian setting and to answer a research question that applies to an organization’s day-to-day work. The experience I gain through my MSCA ITN Fellowship will allow me to further my career in research in global mental health in humanitarian settings”.

For Dr. Vallières there are tangible benefits in being part of an Innovative Training Network: “The collaboration between our partner groups will provide researchers with a unique opportunity to make discoveries that would not otherwise be possible where these sectors work in isolation.” 

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More Information:

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

http://www.psychotraumanetwork.com/

https://www.iua.ie/irish-marie-curie-office/funding-calls/innovative-training-networks-itn/

6 June 2018 Media Release: IUA Statement in response to fall of Irish Universities in QS World University Rankings 2019

There has been an alarming fall in global rankings of Irish universities, a measure of our international reputation. From having 2 universities in the top 100, Ireland now has none in contrast to similar sized countries in Europe. Despite the ambition of having the best education system in the EU by 2026, there has been a decade of under-investment. The public is now seeing the impact of the funding cuts over the years – our universities are losing out to our competitors in nearby countries. That means our students are losing out, as is the country as fewer international students will come and industry will invest elsewhere. This is all happening despite our universities growing student numbers by a third.

Responding to the QS World University Rankings 2019, Jim Miley, Director General of the Irish Universities Association said:

Irish universities are the engines of creativity and the producers of Ireland’s future top talent. The fall in rankings is a warning light to government that the quality talent pipeline will be jeopardised unless the funding deficit is addressed. It’s time to stop delaying a decision on a proper funding model for Irish third-level education. The government know what needs to be done and should now bite the bullet.”

There are serious concerns that a continued failure to address the third-level funding crisis will directly damage the Irish economy in future years. In its December 2017 report, the National Competitiveness Council which advises the Taoiseach and his government stated bluntly that: “It is time to stop long-fingering a decision to close the funding gap in the higher education sector which poses a significant threat to our competitiveness rankings and FDI.”

The latest QS rankings clearly highlight the dangers of continued inaction on our economic competitiveness.

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https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2019

Media Coverage of this statement:

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/irish-universities-tumble-down-latest-set-of-world-rankings-1.3521708

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/irish-universities-being-left-in-the-slipstream-of-our-competitors-1.3521616

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/cash-crisis-irish-universities-fall-further-down-the-world-rankings-list-36985445.html 

https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/irish-universities-fail-to-make-worlds-top-100-in-latest-rankings-847337.html 

http://www.thejournal.ie/irish-universities-world-rankings-4056883-Jun2018/

Media Release 30.05.18: Launch of Campus Engage Guide on Measuring the Social Impact of Higher Education Community and Civic Engagement

Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor today launched a new guide for the higher education sector to help institutions to measure the impact of their engagement with Government, civil society, community organisations and the public. This new guide will assist HEIs to map, measure, and report on an expanding variety of engagement activities across research, teaching and learning, student and staff volunteering and public engagement.

Informed by a national working group, driven by Dr Rhonda Wynne, UCD in the Community, the ‘Framework’ will provide guidance to HEIs in setting baseline figures and key performance indicators for engagement activity when reporting to the Higher Education Authority on the new System Performance Framework. The guide is part of a concerted effort by universities to respond to societal challenges, in partnership with civil society and community organisations.

Launching an IUA/Campus Engage Guide entitled Measuring Higher Education Civic and Community Engagement – A Support Framework are l-r Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, Dr Rhonda Wynne, UCD in the Community, Jim Miley, Director General, Irish Universities Association (IUA) and Kate Morris, Campus Engage National Co-ordinator. Launching the guide Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “Through the System Performance Framework we have asked institutions to create rich opportunities for national and international engagement to enhance a strong bridge to enterprise and the wider community. We see this new Guide as a positive response to that request and it offers practical support to institutions to measure their impact on society.”

The guide aims to complement the existing HEI activity and to support new activities, laying down benchmarks for civic and community engagement in line with best international practice.

Kate Morris, National Co-ordinator of the Campus Engage network said, “Our universities and IoTs are increasingly connecting with a broad range of communities and external partners, jointly addressing societal challenges. These collaborations enhance research and student learning and directly address issues of public interest. This work needs to be defined, captured, and celebrated and we hope this new guide helps do that.”

The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 endorses the civic mission of higher education and states that ‘engaging with wider society’ is ‘one of the three interconnected core roles of higher education’. In acknowledgement of this, the Presidents of the Irish universities and IoTs signed a ten-point Campus Engage Charter for Civic and Community Engagement in 2014, thereby committing their institutions to the enhancement and co-ordination of engaged research, teaching and learning, public engagement and student volunteering.

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More information:

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

Kate Morris, Campus Engage National Co-Ordinator, kate.morris@iua.ie 086 8166490

IUA Press Release 19th May 2018 – Universities are buzzing about bee research as we celebrate World Bee Day May 20th

May 20th 2018 is the first ever World Bee Day. An initiative of the United Nations, it aims to highlight the importance of preserving bees and other pollinators and to ask everyone to take concrete actions to preserve and protect them. Bee populations in Ireland and across the globe have significantly decreased, making them more and more endangered. Of the 100 species of bees in Ireland one third of them are threatened with extinction. Researchers in universities across Ireland are playing their part working together and with community partners to ensure that bees survive and thrive.

Campus Engage is a national initiative set up by Irish universities to encourage university staff to mobilize partnerships with community organisations and the public to help them in finding solutions to pressing societal challenges through research.

Based at the Irish Universities Association, Kate Morris manages the Campus Engage Network: “There is a growing population of environmental researchers in Ireland, and across Europe, that are working with the public and community-based organisations to help collect valuable data to track cause and negative impact on Bee populations.  There is power in numbers, and growing understanding of the public that we too can take simple actions to make a change, to positively contribute to protecting the environment”.

The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, is an initiative of Prof Jane Stout from Trinity College, and Una Fitzpatrick at the National Biodiversity Data Centre, set up nearly 10 years ago following a study that indicated half of Irish bee species were in decline, and one third of Irish species were threatened with extinction.

The Plan is built on community engagement and calls to action schools, community groups and businesses to address 5 objectives:

  1. Make Ireland pollinator friendly
  2. Raise awareness
  3. Support beekeepers and growers
  4. Create the evidence base for action
  5. Track changes over time – in terms of the actions taken for pollinators, and in terms of monitoring bees across the island of Ireland.

According to Prof Stout; “Everyone loves bees these days so it’s great to work with farmers, schools, local communities, businesses and others to conserve bees. Our work relies on the good will of many different people – farmers, schools and businesses allowing us to sample or set up experiments on their land, providing us with information on how the land is manged; beekeepers providing us with honey samples to analyse; and citizen scientists helping us to “Count Flowers for Bees” – this is an ongoing project in which volunteers can log in, assess images of flowers, and contribute valuable data to help make a floral resource map of Ireland, identifying hotspots for bees. And in return, we do a lot of outreach and information sessions – with schools and the general public – on World Bee Day, I am kicking off a bee stewardship workshop series with a talk on bees and how they contribute to human well-being”.

The Pollinator Plan identified 81 actions and 68 organisations including government departments, charities, local councils, community groups and universities signed up to address these. Two years in, and over 90% of these actions are completed or in progress, and many more organisations have come on board. Prof Stout: “We have published sector-specific guidelines to inform people about practical actions they can take, and these are all based on evidence from research conducted here in Ireland where possible, or from overseas, and are co-created with the relevant stakeholders. We do an enormous amount of outreach, support on-going and new initiatives, and help co-ordinate the massive enthusiasm there is for bee conservation across Ireland”. The Pollinator Plan is currently working with the Tidy Towns organisers in running a pollinator competition with entries due in by May 23rd.

Bee Research in the Universities:

Professor Jane Stout, Botany, Trinity College Dublin:

Prof Stout has been at the forefront of wild bee research in Ireland for more than 15 years – she is a pollination ecologist who studies communities of plants and pollinators, and her work focusses on researching the drivers and consequences of bee decline, and what we can do to reverse that decline. Her work spans individual interactions between bees and flowers, and how bees react to the food they consume, to landscape-scale studies on how the structure and composition of the landscape influences pollinator communities, pollination services, and honey production, both here in Ireland and overseas. She has contributed to local, national and international research, policies and initiatives to conserve bees, particularly the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan, and has many projects underway at the moment.

One of our current projects is investigating how very low (drinking water safe) levels of fertilizer and herbicide affect flowering plants, and the nectar and pollen they produce, and how this influences which bees and other flower visitors interact with them. This can help us to understand how agricultural run-off influences bees and other pollinators, and the ecological processes they contribute to.

 In other farm-land projects, we are currently investigating how hedgerow structure relates to the insects that are found visiting flowers in hedgerows and in adjacent crop. This is so that we can make recommendations on optimal hedgerow management for bees and other flower-visiting insects, to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem service provision on farmland. 

We are also looking at how bee communities vary across gradients of urbanisation, and at which flower species those bees are visiting.  We want to determine the patterns of urban land use that support diverse communities of bees. We are also looking at the urban to rural interface, and at how intensity of agriculture affects bees, and at how honey chemistry varies according to where hives are located.

 Bee decline is not just a problem in Ireland, it is of concern across the world. To investigate what is driving that decline, we are leading a multi-country investigation into managed and wild bee health across Europe as part of an EU-funded project. And in West Africa, we are looking at how management of habitat influences pollination of the socio-economically important shea crop, which is processed into shea butter for the food and cosmetics industries.”

Dr Jim Carolan, Department of Biology, Maynooth University:

Dr Carolan is a molecular biologist interested in understanding how bees work on the inside and how the stresses encountered in nature affect them on the cellular and molecular level. “We are particularly interested in how the chemicals that bees may encounter in the field, for example, affect their nervous and immune systems. Considerable research has now been conducted that highlights the dangers certain pesticides pose to bees and we wish to determine whether other commonly used chemicals pose similar risks. This research is not just about finding what is hazardous to bees but also what is safe. This is important to know if we are going to develop policies and practices that minimise the risk to our declining bee communities”.

 “We are also interested in assessing how Irish, some of our bees actually are.” This work involves conducting genetic analysis on the buff tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris from all across Ireland and comparing them to their European counterparts. Through this work Dr Carolan and his colleagues wish to confirm earlier research that indicates that Irish B. terrestris is quite distinct which will have major implications for bee conservation and the movement of bumblebees around Europe. “I think the most exciting aspect of this project is the coming together of researchers from many Irish institutions including Maynooth University, Trinity College Dublin, NUI Galway, University College Dublin, Carlow IT, The National Biodiversity Data Centre, The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine and many others.”

Ireland has a relatively small but highly active bee/pollinator research community and it is crucial that collaborations and the sharing of expertise are fostered. To achieve these aims, Professor Stout, Dr. Carolan and Dr. Stanley in addition to their colleague Dr. Blanaid White of DCU established the Irish Pollinator Research Network in 2016. Although they have different backgrounds and expertise these researchers are benefiting from this network and are actively collaborating on some very important projects. As Dr. Carolan states “We acknowledge the importance of taking a cross disciplinary approach to research and regardless of our differences we are united by the same goal- to save our bees”.

Dr Dara Stanley, School of Natural Sciences, NUI Galway:

Dr Stanley’s research focuses on the ecology and conservation of pollinators and their interactions with plants. There are a number of ongoing bee/pollinator projects in her lab:

We are currently interested in bees and pollinators in species rich grasslands. These habitats are one of the most important for bees and provide them with both flowers to forage on and places to nest. We’re working in the Burren to see whether agri-environmental management or landscape composition has the biggest effect on pollinator numbers in these grasslands. We’re also looking at one of Ireland’s rarest bumblebees, the shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum), and carrying out an in-depth study of its ecology in the Burren with the aim of informing a species-specific monitoring scheme for it in the future.

We are also interested in the contribution of both wild (wild bees, hoverflies etc) and managed (honeybees) pollinators to the production of Irish crops. We are investigating the importance of these pollinators to both apple and field bean crops in Ireland.

Finally, we are also interested in pesticide use and its implications for bees and other pollinators. Pesticides are an important component of modern agriculture, but at the same time their use can have implications for beneficial insects such as bees. We are interested in what these effects might be, but also how we can mitigate against them.”

Dr Mary Frances Coffey, Department of Life Sciences, University of Limerick:

The National Apiculture Programme (NAP) is an applied based research programme at University of Limerick which focusses on bee health or more specifically the control of Varroa destructor: an exotic pest which arrived into Ireland in the late 1990s and caused serious colony losses in managed honeybee colonies and caused many of the feral colonies to disappear. The main aim of the NAP is to develop an integrated pest management programme which is effective against the mite, whilst at the same time can be easily applied by beekeepers in the day to day management of their colonies but more importantly reduces beekeeper reliance on hard chemicals

Since an increase in colony losses is strongly correlated with insufficient control of Varroa, as part of NAP we have been monitoring winter losses using a standardised questionnaire completed by Bee Keepers across Ireland. This annual survey has allowed us to compile a reliable profile on the winter losses being experienced by beekeepers over the past 10 years and such information is necessary for the development of bee health strategies now and in the future.

As farming becomes more intensified, beekeepers were concerned with diversity and quantity of pollen available to honeybees. Pollen is an important protein source for bees, but the nutritional value of pollen differs between plants. To address beekeepers concerned we also got involved with another international study, CSI pollen which allow us to determine the diversity of pollens being collected by honeybee colonies in Ireland.

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Contact: Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, Irish Universities Association, lia.osullivan@iua.ie, 085 7141414

More Information:

All-Ireland Pollinator Plan   

World Bee Day website

 

IUA Press Release 18th May – HEA Report shows University Students progressing well from first to second year

The Irish Universities Association welcomes a new report by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on progression rates. The latest data continues to show very strong levels of progression of first year students to second year with 86% of the 2014/15 first year undergraduate new entrants in publicly funded higher education institutions progressing to second year. 

Irish progression data compares very favourably with other much better funded HE systems in Europe.  The high levels of progression reflects the strong focus in the university sector on student success, despite a decade of under-investment by the state in higher education which has had a detrimental effect on staff:student ratios and on student support services.

According to Lewis Purser, Director of Learning & Teaching and Academic Affairs at IUA “Improving progression rates is a key objective of the universities and in order to meet this commitment, they need to be able to expand capacity in a sustainable manner. To ensure a high-quality student experience for all students, they must provide the necessary academic, pastoral and social supports, particularly for disadvantaged students who need them most, so that they can benefit from their higher education opportunities.

Responding to data in the report which shows that students from less well-off backgrounds are more likely not to progress, Lewis Purser commented; “Evidence from the universities shows that where supports are in place, access students do just as well if not better than the average student in terms of graduation and employment. Building on the success of access programmes such as DARE and HEAR, the core objective should not just be about getting a defined percentage of the population into university education but also about ensuring that they progress through university and graduate successfully. Access initiatives need investment to ensure all students can reach their full potential”.

Ends.

For more information contact: Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications 01 6764948

27th April 2018: Universities take home 6 awards in the Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Awards

Universities take home 6 awards in the Knowledge Transfer Ireland Impact Awards

The Irish Universities Association congratulates the universities who took home 6 awards in the Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) Impact Awards at a ceremony in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The KTI Impact Awards recognise and showcase the success in knowledge transfer carried out in Irish Higher Education Institutions and publicly funded research organisations.

The awards acknowledge and celebrate the technology transfer offices, industry liaison offices and their staff on-the-ground who make knowledge transfer and commercialisation happen.

KTI is a joint collaboration between the Irish Universities Association and Enterprise Ireland. Since its inception, the culture of commercialisation of research outputs among researchers in Irish universities has been radically supported and enhanced.

Commenting on the awards Jim Miley, Director General of IUA said; “We are delighted that the success of our member universities in the knowledge transfer area has been recognised and rewarded.  KTI has become a key driver of change and innovation, enhancing knowledge transfer and ultimately creating value for businesses and the Irish economy.”

KTI’s management of the EI Technology Transfer Strengthening Initiative which co-funds the university Technology Transfer Offices, has resulted in Ireland now having the infrastructure on which to build further success in innovation and knowledge transfer.

The awards were presented on the night by John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development.

The university winners are:

University College Dublin was awarded the ‘Collaborative Research Impact Award’ for its research with ENBIO that helped the company to develop a novel thermo-optical coating to reflect radiation and protect spacecrafts.

University of Limerick was awarded the ‘Consultancy Impact Award’ where the engagement resulted in the development of a software application for Xtract 360 Ltd that can re-create a car crash in real time to alleviate issues with undetected fraudulent insurance claims.

Dublin City University was awarded the ‘Licence2Market Impact Award’ for a licence that has helped Iconic Translation Machines Ltd, a leading language technology software company, to launch the world’s first patent specific translator.

Dr Emily Vereker, Senior Patents & Licensing Manager, Trinity College Dublin was given the Knowledge Transfer Achiever Impact Award for the development of new patent management initiatives alongside her active case management role, coupled with sharing the TCD approach to patent portfolio management more widely within the sector.

DCU and NUI Galway also received Special Recognition Awards.

Ends.

 

For more information contact:

Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, Irish Universities Association
Lia.osullivan@iua.ie    01 6764948

Alison Campbell, Director, Knowledge Transfer Ireland
alison.campbell@knowledgetransferireland.com      T:  +353 (0)1 727 2738

 

Notes to editors:

 The other 2 winners were:

Royal College of Surgeons Ireland was awarded the ‘Spin-out Company Impact Award’ for SurgaColl™, a venture-funded medical device company built on RCSI technology that supplies novel tissue regeneration products for surgical treatment.

DIT Hothouse was awarded the ‘Knowledge Transfer Initiative Award’ for devising a strategic inbound marketing strategy aimed at increasing industry awareness of its knowledge transfer offering.