Budget 2009 – Universities Aim to Protect Frontline Services in Face of Challenging Budget

University Presidents met today to consider the implications of the Budget/Estimates 2009. Speaking after a meeting of the IUA Council, President Dr Hugh Brady said: “while the budgetary decisions will challenge us all, we appreciate the Minister’s efforts to sustain investment in higher education in challenging circumstances”. We look forward to working with the Minister to develop the Higher Education strategy and develop innovative approaches to investment to strengthen our universities in the face of strong international competition”.

The Presidents considered the advice from the Minister to increase the student services charge from €900 to €1,500. IUA Chief Executive Ned Costello said: “having examined the figures, it is evident that the Minister framed his budgetary calculations to take account of the revenue which would flow from this. Even with the increased charge, the 2009 budget represents a cut in core funding in real terms, so without it universities would be faced with an impossible situation.”

The Presidents said that, while the shortfall in provision would require tough choices and clear prioritisation, the focus would be on protecting frontline services and supporting the student experience.  “We will be pushing for cost saving, efficiencies and value for money across the board”, they said. “Our aim is to ensure that students get the best education possible during these difficult times”.

The Presidents noted that the Strategic Innovation Fund has received a substantial cut of 30 percent. However, they recognised that the money being provided would at least allow a number of key priority projects to go forward. “We will discuss with the HEA how we can collectively ensure that this critical change and modernisation programme delivers maximum impact”, they said.

In the research area, the Presidents welcomed the increase announced in capital funding. “We now look forward to the immediate launch of the long overdue next round of PRTLI” said Dr Brady. Outside the immediate education area, the Presidents also welcomed the increase in SFI funding and the decision to increase the R&D Tax Credit to 25%. “We will continue to work very closely with colleagues in these areas to ensure joined up thinking and action across the entire Science and Innovation strategy” they said. “With improvements in research funding it is essential that we now secure a realistic rate for research overheads” they said.

In summing up the meeting Ned Costello said: “the funding situation for universities will continue to be very tight. We need to continue to build our universities to support the higher skills and jobs that will see us emerge strongly from this recession. The universities are committed to this and we will need to see similar commitment and innovative thinking in future budgets to achieve this”.

Ends

For more information contact

Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, IUA, 01 676 4948, lia.osullivan@iua.ie

Universities Meet with Joint Committee on Education and Science

Universities welcome increased focus by Joint Committee on the future of higher education

The Irish Universities today had an extensive exchange of views with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science. Speaking after the meeting IUA Chief Executive Ned Costello said: “we were glad to have the opportunity to meet with the committee. It was an intensive, informed and productive session which reflected the clear interest of the committee members in the vital question of the future of higher education”.

Among the issues covered were: the state of university funding, the pros and cons of fees and loans, the challenge of expanding participation in and access to university, the quality of teaching, the implications of any expenditure cutbacks for quality, and the role of higher education in developing the knowledge society.

In response to the committee’s questions, the Universities outlined the need to expand participation, improve the student experience and build the higher skills base which will deliver sustainable growth based on innovation throughout the economy. “We discussed with the Committee the need for an overall plan for higher education investment” said Costello. “While there are clearly different views about how the plan should be funded and the role that fees and loans might play, we were encouraged by the Committee’s interest in our case” he said.

He noted that the committee said that their engagement with the Universities was the first of a number of meetings on higher education, and further sessions would follow with the Department of Education and Science, and with the Minister for Education, Mr Batt O’Keeffe TD.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

A copy of the IUA’s opening statement to the Committee is can be found here.

For more information contact

Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, IUA, 01 676 4948, lia.osullivan@iua.ie

Dr. Jimmy Devins, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation visits IUA

Dr. Jimmy Devins, Minister for Science Technology and Innovation (centre) with IUA CEO Ned Costello, Director of Research Dr. Conor O'Carroll (seated). Also Dr. Magda Wislocka, Researcher Mobility Office, Dr. Dagmar Meyer, Irish Marie Curie Office, Dr. Westley Forsythe, 4th Level Network Co-ordinator, Jennifer Cleary, Researcher Mobility Office and Dr. Celia Gallagher, National Research Platform Project Manager.

Dr Jimmy Devins, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation and Mr Pat Nolan of the Dept of Enterprise Trade and Employment listen to an overview of IUA Research activities.

University Presidents seek commitment from Minister to work with them on a new funding plan: alternative is long term damage to students and the economy

The Presidents of the Seven Universities today called on the Minister for Education and Science, Mr. Batt O’Keeffe to commit to a new “bold and imaginative” approach to the funding of Irish Higher Education. The Presidents noted the success of the Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, as shown by recent high tech jobs announcements by IDA and Enterprise Ireland. They stressed that investment in our universities to support higher skills and more innovation is the best way to defeat the economic problems facing the country.

Meeting Minister O’Keeffe the Presidents expressed their grave concern at the emerging financial situation. They said that the latest round of cutbacks created a “tipping point” which made it impossible to shield students and frontline services from their impact. The Presidents outlined to the Minister a range of inevitable impacts. These include:

  • Suppression of teaching posts across a range of disciplines in both the sciences and humanities;
  • Emigration of leading teachers and researchers, denying students access to the best minds;

 

  • Increased class sizes and reduced tutorials;

 

  • Specific skills initiatives in areas such as medicine and IT jeopardised;

 

  • Curtailed capacity for postgraduate supervision and reduced PhD output – with serious consequences for national targets;

 

  • Shortened library opening hours and restricted weekend opening of key facilities;

 

  • Cutbacks in student services such as access, medical and counselling or the introduction of charges to generate the revenue needed to maintain services;

 

  • Non-replacement of obsolete equipment such as computers with consequent damage to the quality of the courses affected;
  • Elimination of all but the most essential maintenance works on buildings and systems.

The Presidents confirmed their intention to continue to pursue efficiency and cost saving measures. However, they stressed that the scale of the cuts proposed went far beyond what could be offset in this way.

The Presidents discussed the future of research funding and stressed its “importance for competitiveness and confidence in the economy”. They stressed the need for enhanced research overhead funding and the importance of continuing investment in the PRTLI initiative as a foundation for growing innovation and collaboration with industry.

The Presidents discussed the Minister’s plans for a national strategy for higher education. IUA President, Dr. Hugh Brady, said: “This must be a bold plan of action, not another report to be quietly shelved. The plain fact is that Irish Higher Education is in decline in comparative terms as revealed by the latest OECD indicators. The Presidents expressed encouragement at the Minister’s commitment to the strategy process and to driving it forward in an open collaborative way.

The Presidents also discussed with the Minister their framework proposal for a system of income dependent deferred loans and top up fees. They stressed that the proposal must be developed as part of an overall funding commitment to Higher Education. “We need a major leap forward in funding terms both to do right by our students and to underpin future jobs and growth. This is urgent”, said IUA President Hugh Brady.

In the immediate term, the Presidents reiterated their grave concerns at the prospect of significant cutbacks in University funding. “It is also essential that we protect Third Level education and the future of our students” they said. The Presidents asked the Minister to act as a strong voice at the cabinet table in support of this. They called on the Minister to step up his efforts in the context of the Estimates/Budget 2009 to properly resource the sector. “We need to send a signal both at home and abroad that we remain committed to investing in students, knowledge and innovation-led growth”, they said.

The Presidents welcomed the Minister’s assurances that he and his officials would continue to have dialogue with the sector on the issues raised at the meeting.

Ends.

For more information contact Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, Irish Universities Association. lia.osullivan@iua.ie 01 676 4948

A Window to Irish Research: the Creation of a National Research Website

Research Information Systems Conference: a look at EU Best Practice

Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Jimmy Devins will today open a Research Information Systems Conference at the Science Gallery in Trinity College Dublin. The conference is an integral part of the Irish Universities Association (IUA) project to develop a national research website. The goal of IUA’s National Research Platform Project is to provide a web based platform where all publicly funded research projects and information can be found at one location and will be ordered in a user-friendly way. This means that users don’t have to browse individual websites to find out what R&D is being undertaken in Ireland.The platform can be used to highlight the extent and quality of the Irish research effort to National and International audiences.

Today’s conference will look at EU best practice in research information systems to gauge the standards that Ireland intends to exceed. Commenting on the value of the project Minister Devins said: Effective implementation of the Strategy for Science Technology & Innovation (SSTI) will require enhanced visibility and accessibility of the national research effort. We need more effective identification and classification of the research being conducted in the Irish higher education sector and research establishments and more effective dissemination of the results of that research to potential users, in Ireland and globally”.

Under the project, recipients of R&D publicly funded monies have come together for the first time with Industry representatives and the state/government agencies to assess what information, resources and capabilities will help drive economic competitiveness. The group will look at what can be done on a National level to highlight the extent of the knowledge and R&D in Ireland. The National Research Platform feasibility study will run for one year and is funded equally by the HEA Strategic Innovation Fund [SIF] and the higher education sector.

With the current National Development Plan providing for a very significant increase in the investment in technology, innovation and scientific research, amounting to a commitment of €8.2 billion over the period 2007 to 2013, it is vital that Ireland showcases the excellence of its research to National and International audiences. International collaboration brings benefits to Irish researchers in both the academic arena and companies. Quality standards are driven upwards and engagement with best practice ensures that industries compete at the cutting edge of technology, ensuring optimisation of returns to investment.

Commenting on the relevance of the National Research Platform, IUA Project Manager Dr. Celia Gallagher, said that the “opportunity now exists to bring focus and order to the current situation and to create a single web based locus through which the national research effort can be accessed and quantified in a structured and intelligible manner”.

Data from expertiseireland.com will provide the cornerstone for the new National Research Platform. Under the banner of the expertiseireland.com website considerable progress has been made in mining the research information systems of the higher education institutions and creating, in a single web-based location, more than 5700 profiles of knowledge experts and access to the opportunities available for licensing from this sector. Other administrations are now considering similar approaches, including the Australian government.

The expertiseireland.com portal also represents an important national resource of data capable of feeding into initiatives such as benchmarking exercises, or bibliometric analysis. The value of expertiseireland.com has been affirmed by an international peer review process which resulted in the IUA securing funding from SIF for a project to provide open access to research papers of university researchers which would use expertiseireland.com as a national access point. For the first time, Irish research will be freely available worldwide. This access will ensure Irish research has a greater impact by significantly increasing the visibility of Irish research and the concomitant increased citations and awareness. It will also ensure that universities can preserve research in digital format to international standards. In addition the SIF Cycle II funded National Research Data project will provide information on citations and international peer review ranking of the R&D Investment to date.

While these efforts are underway, information on much of the national research effort remains largely inaccessible and inconsistent; either being subsumed into the strata of individual university websites, or spread across disparate and uncoordinated sites devoted to individual research projects. The National Research Platform will provide a window to Irish Research by gathering the information from these projects and presenting it in a user friendly format.

Ends

For further information please contact Dr Celia Gallagher celia.gallagher@iua.ie. Tel: 01 676 4948.

 

Additional Notes

Further information on the National Research Platform can be found at www.researchplatform.ie

Conference programme can be accessed on http://www.iua.ie/media-and-events/events-conferences/events/2007/ResearchInfoSystemsEventSept08.html

To access profiles of knowledge experts log on to www.expertiseireland.com

IUA statement in response to comments made by Minister O’Keefe on the possible return of fees

The IUA welcomes the statement by the Minister for Education, Mr. Batt O’Keefe TD, as reported in today’s Irish Times that he is concerned about the need to maintain a high standard of higher education. The universities share this view and are very concerned at the prospect of substantial cutbacks in Exchequer support for higher education and its implications for quality and equity of access. The IUA welcomes any indication on the Minister’s part that he is willing to examine how the sector is funded. It is important, however, that any such examination look at both government and private funding together and the appropriate balance between these elements. We look forward to exploring the Minister’s reported views with him in the near future.

Ends

Launch of the Irish Universities Study

The President of UCD and IUA, Dr. Hugh Brady, today launched the Irish Universities Study.    Using advanced internet survey techniques the longitudinal study will capture key information from undergraduate and postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers in our universities. Areas covered include the education experience, economic expectations, personal development and health. The sector-wide survey is a major innovation providing the universities with the ability to formulate policy for students and researchers based on sound evidence. Ultimately the results will play an important role in improving the standard of living for students in Irish universities and contributing to the development of university education in Ireland.

The project will run for three years and is funded equally by the HEA Strategic Innovation Fund [SIF] and the seven universities. Speaking about the study Dr. Hugh Brady says:  “This pioneering research programme will enable the universities to make strategic policy decisions and will inform the development of key resources including teaching and learning, quality assurance and students services, informed by student feedback”.

The study is being carried out by the Geary Institute in UCD on behalf of the Irish Universities Association [IUA].  Speaking today at the launch the Director of the UCD Geary Institute, Professor Colm Harmon said “The study is a particularly important and timely one.   It will produce a fine set of academic publications, will be the foundation for creating a new higher education research capacity at UCD, but will also be firmly embedded into the planning process for the Irish higher education system”.

The keynote address was given by Professor Ronald Ehrenberg of Cornell University, one of the most prolific and well regarded labour economists of the last 30 years.  Professor Ehrenberg stressed the economic and social value of education, the need to nurture this belief in secondary school, and the critical need to avoid underinvestment in fourth level areas. He emphasized the importance of carrying out research to gather information of the type the Irish Universities Study (IUS) will capture. This study will play a central role for the future development of higher education policy in Ireland.

ends.

For more information contact Dr Conor O’Carroll, Head of Research Office, IUA. Tel: 087 3822451        Email: conor.ocarroll@iua.ie www.iua.ie

or Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, IUA  Email: lia.osullivan@iua.ie

NOTES

The official website of the survey is http://geary.ucd.ie/flip/

Europe Launches Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education

4th March 2008. The European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) will be officially launched in Brussels today in a move designed to improve the quality of European higher education and to promote greater student mobility. The new register is a landmark for European cooperation in quality assurance of higher education in the context of the Bologna Process reforms.

Under the mandate of Education Ministers from the 46 countries taking part in the Bologna Process, the new register has been established by the “E4 Group” comprising the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the European Students Union (ESU), the European University Association (EUA) and the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE).

The new register (EQAR) aims to provide clear and objective information about trustworthy quality assurance agencies that are working in Europe. It also aims to help improve the quality of European higher education and to promote greater student mobility by increasing trust between higher education institutions. The register will provide a means for HE institutions (where national regulations permit) to choose between different agencies on the register.

The founding of EQAR is a milestone in the Bologna Process reforms, which has an underlying goal of improving the quality culture of European higher education. In the past decade, there has been a rapid development across Europe of national quality assurance systems, and as a result, common reference points have been defined at European level to improve the consistency of quality assurance schemes.

Inclusion on the EQAR, which is voluntary, will be based on compliance with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance adopted by European Education Ministers in 2005. A Committee – composed of independent experts nominated by the E4 Group, BusinessEurope, Education International, together with five government observers – will be responsible for admissions to the register. The register will be accepting applications from the summer of 2008 and information will be publicly accessible through a web-based tool.

The EQAR will be officially launched by the heads of the E4 Group at a special ceremony to be held this morning (4th March) at the Royal Academy for Science and Arts in Brussels. Ján Figel’, European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth will also make a special presentation at the event to mark the launch of the register.

– Ends –

For more information, please contact:

  • EQAR Project Manager: Colin Tück, tel: +32 2 2335 413, mobile: +32 495 162293, email: colin.tueck@eqar.eu
  • European University Association: Andrew Miller, Press officer, tel : +32 2 788 53 19, or Mobile/GSM: +32 473 748 785. email: andrew.miller@eua.be
  • European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA): Emmi Helle, Secretary General, tel: +358 400 896 609, email: emmi.helle@enqa.eu
  • European Students’ Union (ESU): Bea Uhart, Press officer, tel +32 473 669 894, email: bea@esu-online.org
  • European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE): Stefan Delplace, Secretary General, tel: +32 2 211 4197, email: stefan.delplace@eurashe.eu

 

 

 

RELATED ARTICLE:

HEA Media Release, 27th February, 2008

High Level Review Group to Review University Quality Procedures

HEA Commissions Independent Assessment of Irish Universities Quality Board

An experienced high level review group has been appointed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to carry out an independent review of the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB). The IUQB works with Irish universities in the development and promotion of quality assurance. The HEA has commissioned this review at the request of the IUQB.

The purpose of the review is to ensure that Irish quality assurance procedures meet the best European standards and to assess the effectiveness of IUQB activities undertaken and funded by the HEA such as the series of National Guidelines of Good Practice in quality assurance.

The membership of the Expert Group is as follows:

Dr Don Thornhill, (Chair of the Expert Panel), Chair, National Competitiveness Council

– Marion Coy, President, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology

– Fiona Crozier, Assistant Director, Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, United Kingdom

– John Dunne, Chief Executive, Chambers Ireland

– Des Geraghty, Chair, Affordable Homes Partnership (and former President of the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union)

– Daithí MacSíthigh, Postgraduate student, Trinity College Dublin & former Education Officer, USI (Nominee of the Union of Students in Ireland)

– Jean Morse, Executive Director, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, USA

– Gerard Wrixon, Former President, University College Cork

– Tim Conlon, Secretary to the Expert Panel, Higher Education Authority

According to Tom Boland, Chief Executive of the HEA –

“Our universities are committed to attaining the highest standards in teaching, learning and research. The Irish Universities Quality Board has been instrumental in raising standards and through this review, we want to ensure that those standards remain well recognised throughout Europe.”

The Higher Education Authority is the independent statutory body charged with advising Government on higher education policy and for funding our universities and third level colleges.

ENDS

For further details, contact Caitríona Ryan, Head of Policy and Planning – (01) 2317180

Malcolm Byrne, Head of Communications, Higher Education Authority – (01) 2317162

NUI Galway Governing Authority announces the appointment of Professor Jim Browne as University President

The Governing Authority (Údarás na hOllscoile) of National University of Ireland, Galway has today (15 February 2008) announced the appointment of Professor Jim Browne (55) as the incoming President of the University. Currently Registrar and Deputy-President at NUI Galway, Professor Browne’s appointment will come into effect on 6 March 2008. Professor Browne will be the twelfth President of the University and his term will be for ten years.

Commenting, the Chairman of the Selection Board appointed by the Governing Authority, Dr Noel Dorr, said; “Professor Browne is a distinguished academic with very wide international contacts and experience of other Universities in Europe, the US, Asia and Latin America. He has a personal record of research and an understanding of the importance of promoting it in the University. He combines this with a strong commitment to upholding the traditional values of the University across all of the sciences and the humanities and to developing and enhancing its primary role as an educational institution. In his present post as Registrar and Deputy-President he has been deeply involved in necessary and important changes to the structure and functioning of the University which have been achieved on a basis of participation, to the benefit of both staff and students. It is widely recognised that, in this and other ways, he has made a major contribution to the progress and the success of NUI Galway over the past seven years”.

Concluding, he said: “The post of University President in Ireland today is one of very particular responsibility. It calls for leadership of a high order in shaping the development of the University over the decade ahead. In particular it calls for a capacity to respond creatively and sensitively to regional and national needs while respecting and upholding the traditional educational function of the University as such. It is for these reasons that the Selection Board tasked by the Governing Authority to select a new President, unanimously recommended the appointment of Professor Jim Browne. We wish him the very best in what will be a challenging and rewarding role.”

Dr Dorr also paid tribute to Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh for his tremendous achievements during his successful tenure as President of NUI Galway since 2000.
Professor Browne, a native of Athlone, Co Westmeath, and an engineer graduate of NUI Galway, is a former Dean of Engineering (1996 – 2001) and, for the past seven years, Registrar and Deputy-President of the University. He has a record of achievement in academic leadership, strategic planning and change management within NUI Galway. Professor Browne has published over 200 academic papers and 15 books. He was awarded the degree DSc by the University of Manchester for published work in 1990, is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the Irish Academy of Engineers.

Professor Browne’s leadership roles include: member of the editorial board of a number of international research journals; member of Irish Universities Quality Board since 2004; senior Vice-President of Engineers Ireland; Member of the Senate of the National University of Ireland since 2001; member of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council; member of the Board of CAO; Member of the EPSRC Review Group on Engineering Research Centres in the UK; member of the Board of the Galway University Foundation since 2001; and Member of the Board of Music for Galway. Professor Browne also has considerable experience of working with overseas Universities, public and private bodies. Professor Browne is married to Maeve; they have four children.

 

The Appointment Process

The appointment was made following an extensive national and international search, with professional assistance through a Search Committee. The selection process was conducted by a distinguished Selection Board. Both bodies were chaired in a non-voting capacity by Dr Noel Dorr, Cathaoirleach of Údarás na hOllscoile. The examination in Irish was conducted by a Bord Gaeilge. All three bodies had significant external as well as internal membership.
NUI Galway

Established in 1845 as Queen’s College Galway, National University of Ireland, Galway is one of Ireland’s foremost centres of academic excellence. With almost 16,000 students, it has a long-established reputation of teaching and research excellence in each of its six Colleges: Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies; Science; Law; Commerce; Engineering and Informatics; and Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences. It has an annual budget of €205m and an annual research income of over €48m.