New Technology to Scale-up Student Volunteering – National Launch of – 7th Dec 2016

Celebrating the launch of are; Front row l-r: Breffni Gorman (Special Olympics Ireland), Dan Kiernan (UCD), Ciara Gaffney (Trinity College Dublin), Jenessa Scott (IT Tallaght), Lilly O’Mahony (Habitat for Humanity). Middle row l-r: Roisin O’Donovan (DIT), Darragh Moran (Maynooth University), Andrea Habenicht (UL), Suzanne Connolly (Barnardos). Back row l-r: Conor Doyle (TeenLine Ireland), Ann-Marie Bright (IT Tralee), Shane Gaughan (NUI Galway), Vito Moloney (DCU), Callum Petford (UCC)

Celebrating the launch of are; Front row l-r: Breffni Gorman (Special Olympics Ireland), Dan Kiernan (UCD), Ciara Gaffney (Trinity College Dublin), Jenessa Scott (IT Tallaght), Lilly O’Mahony (Habitat for Humanity). Middle row l-r: Roisin O’Donovan (DIT), Darragh Moran (Maynooth University), Andrea Habenicht (UL), Suzanne Connolly (Barnardos). Back row l-r: Conor Doyle (TeenLine Ireland), Ann-Marie Bright (IT Tralee), Shane Gaughan (NUI Galway), Vito Moloney (DCU), Callum Petford (UCC)


Every year in Ireland thousands of students from our universities and institutes of technology carry out over 100,000 hours of volunteering. Ten third level colleges have now joined forces to develop – a brand new online resource which matches students’ interests with volunteering opportunities. The portal is the first of its kind globally and aims to enhance students’ awareness of their role and responsibility in solving challenges such as homelessness, social exclusion and our ageing population.

“In our work for the Saint Vincent De Paul Society here at UCD, we know that we’ll never be able to solve the housing crisis or eliminate poverty in Ireland. What we can do, is make somebody’s day a little bit better. Volunteering is a great opportunity to make friends, it broadens your perspective on the world, and makes you appreciate what you have. It’s an opportunity to put a smile on someone’s face.”  Dan Kieran, student, University College Dublin

Potential users include up to 100,847 (HEA 2015) students across all higher education institutions and up to 8,000 registered Civil Society Organisations. For charities such as Barnardos, Habitat for Humanity, TeenLine and Special Olympics Ireland, student volunteering is a vital component of their ongoing work:

students at the launch of

 “With over 3,000 registered volunteers under 25 years old, Special Olympics Ireland depend on the student volunteers among our younger supporters to assist with our fundraising activities and sustain our programmes through working in our clubs, helping at events and participating in committees at local and regional level”. Claire O’Connor, Volunteer Services Manager, Special Olympics Ireland

Shortlisted for the 2016 THINKTECH awards, has been developed under the umbrella of the Campus Engage Network based at the Irish Universities Association. There are currently 10 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) invested in the portal: UCD, NUI Galway, IT Tralee, UL, MU, Trinity, IT Tallaght, DCU, UCC and DIT. The online system is open to ALL Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), private colleges, VECs, etc.

Students can browse and apply for volunteering opportunities nationally or internationally; manage their profile and volunteering activity online; track volunteering hours; and in some colleges gain recognition and apply for volunteering awards.

The civic role and responsibility of colleges and their graduates is becoming a central issue in the global education discussion, with increasing pressure on institutions to demonstrate how higher education is adding value to society.

“By effectively using technology to make volunteering easier, Campus Engage is helping universities and institutes of technology to scale up this socially impactful enterprise.Kate Morris, National Coordinator, Campus Engage, Irish Universities Association.

The value of volunteering is recognised by the United Nations who have designated December 5th as International Volunteer Day (IVD).

Volunteering has numerous benefits for students and for society. Ireland’s new National Skills Strategy 2025 focuses on graduate attributes such as high level cognitive, leadership, entrepreneurial, analytical and interpersonal skills. Volunteering is an excellent outlet for students to test, refine and put these skills into action. These skills are very much valued by employers:

“In an increasingly competitive employment market, when I review CV’s the selflessness of a volunteer can stand out like a beacon in a sea of self-interest. The functional expertise that a volunteer can learn in an organisation, offers a head start compared to others who start at the beginning when entering permanent employment for the first time.”  Billy Norman, Customer Account Manager in Unilever

“Now that I’m working, the skills learnt as a volunteer are even more applicable to my work. My ability to listen to the needs of my clients and advise on solutions is what determines our success. On any given day, I meet people on sites, offices, even socially where they take my degree qualification as read but my ability to listen to what they want while less obvious, is just as important.” Andrew Halpin, Alumni, Institute of Technology Tallaght

Evidence shows that getting out and volunteering can improve individual mental health and well-being. Volunteering is also an excellent pathway for international students in Ireland to integrate into their communities and make new friends.  Higher education institutions across the country are battling student retention. Getting involved in extracurricular activity on and off campus is proven to keep students in college. International volunteering cultivates core graduate attributes such as cultural awareness, languages and increased understanding of global social responsibility.

“Supporting students to engage with local community groups through volunteering is crucial to our aim of being embedded and relevant to the region and our local community.  This platform allows students to maximise their involvement in volunteering, find roles that will serve their goals and be acknowledged and rewarded for their contribution.”  Brian Norton, President, DIT

Higher education institutions are now acknowledging students’ volunteering achievements on their academic transcripts or diploma supplements. Participating colleges are beginning to use to track their students’ volunteer hours so they can recognise their efforts at the end of the college year in Awards ceremonies such as the President’s Civic Spirit Awards in IT Tralee or the President’s Volunteer Awards in UL:

“The President’s Volunteer Award ceremony is a very special occasion as it offers us a wonderful opportunity to recognise the voluntary contributions our students are making to the broader community. During this past academic year UL students contributed over 17,000 hours to volunteering work.” Professor Don Barry, President, University of Limerick


For more Information contact:

Kate Morris, National Coordinator, Campus Engage, Irish Universities Association,, 086 8166490

Lia O’Sullivan, Communications Manager, Irish Universities Association,, 01 7996022


Additional Notes:

As featured in the Irish Independent Education Section 7th Dec


More information can be found on

Campus Engage: Based at the Irish Universities Association, Campus Engage members, including universities and Dublin Institute of Technology, work at a national level to support all colleges to implement local and national policy on civic and community engagement, to address grand societal challenges. Engagement is considered the third pillar of higher education, alongside teaching and research.

Dec 5th UN International Volunteer Day: The International Volunteer Day (IVD), on December 5th, was designated by the United Nations in 1985 as an international observance day to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism.  United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to coordinate IVD. IVD is viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organisations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work amongst their communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies, government authorities, and the private sector. IVD 2016’s theme #GlobalApplause – give volunteers a hand, recognizes volunteers worldwide and all they do in making peace and sustainable development a reality.

The logo for was designed by DIT student Conor Grogan following a nationwide competition.

THINKTECH awards:  Finalists compete for access to an award fund of up to €750,000 in grants as well as support and mentoring to further develop their social innovation. THINKTECH initiative is run by Social Innovation Fund Ireland and funded by Google and Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government.

29th Nov 2016 – Celebrating 20 years of Marie Curie Actions


Celebrating 20 years of Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions are Minister of State John Halligan with  Jennifer Brennan and Suzanne Miller-Delaney from the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office. Minister Halligan joins Marie Curie and colleagues to mark 20 years of EU funding for business, academic and community-engaged research. Named after the Polish-born Nobel Prize winning scientist the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions is the top performer in Ireland’s bid for Horizon 2020 funding.  Under the scheme Irish researchers have won close to €60 million euro of funding to support projects across the full breadth of research areas from science and technology to humanities, social science, business and law. The Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office, which supports researchers with their funding proposals, is based at the Irish Universities Association and is supported by the Irish Research Council.

IUA Statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills on Investing in National Ambition: a strategy for Funding Higher Education Report of the Expert Group on the Future Funding of Higher Education – 10th November 2016

Opening Statement by Professor Don Barry, Chair, Irish Universities Association

1. Introduction

On behalf of my colleague members of Council, I am grateful to the Committee for the opportunity to discuss the funding of Higher Education. We welcome the report of the Expert Group on the Future Funding of Higher Education and endorse its findings. We would also like to record our thanks to Peter Cassells, the members of the group and its secretariat, both for the report itself and also the extensive process of research, evidence gathering and consultation which has been distilled into the final text.

2. The Case for Investment

The run up to the Budget and the recent private members motion debate in Dail Eireann demonstrate a broad acknowledgement of the difficulties caused by almost a decade of cutbacks in higher education funding. In our submission to the committee we set out the scale of those cutbacks and identify their impact on the core grant, the unit of resource per student and on student-staff ratios. Our findings mirror those of the Cassells’ report.

Falling resources do not by themselves justify increased investment. Any such investment must have a purpose and a benefit. The Cassells report clearly articulates the benefits of such investment across the headings of Economic Growth and Prosperity, Social Development, Culture and Civic Engagement. The group reflects a deep understanding of the complex world which our graduates face now and into the future and the importance of educational quality to the social and economic progress of our nation.

3. The Purpose of Investment

Against this backdrop, we have three main challenges:

Firstly, the more complex and changing world for which we are educating students, requires more sophisticated educational approaches. The group captures this well in identifying the need to invest in improved student staff ratios, smaller tutorial groups, more one-to-one contact with students, more project work, enhanced feedback and more time to engage in diverse learning styles and to support at-risk students. The group also highlights the need for investment in support services such as library and information services, student guidance and counselling – and the necessary capital funding to support all of this.

We strongly endorse this view of a quality education which enhances student outcomes and life chances.

The second challenge relates to demographics and access. Since the 1960’s, Ireland has made significant progress in the democratisation and widening of our education system. This is reflected in the growth in participation levels, expanded post graduate education and continuing professional development, and the internationalisation of our student and staff populations. We detail these in our submission. Catering for an almost thirty percent increase in new entrants by 2030 and making further inroads into tackling disadvantage in its various forms requires significant investment.

The Cassells group quantifies this.

To address demographics and move to a student to staff ratio of 14:1, the report estimates a need for an additional six hundred million euro per annum (€600m) by 2021 and one billion euro per annum by 2030. A further spend of an additional one hundred million euro per annum (€100m) is recommended for access measures.

Lastly we have a capital investment challenge, scaled at five and a half billion euro (€5.5bn) over fifteen years.

4. The Solutions

In terms of solutions, the Cassells group identifies three main contributors to higher education: one, the state, two, students, and three, employers. This is based on the view that all three groups derive benefit from higher education.

  • The state benefits because there are wide ranging returns to society from a well-educated population.
  • Students benefit because, in the aggregate, substantial earnings premiums accrue to those with higher levels of education.
  • Finally, employers benefit since advanced human capital is a key driver of innovation and productivity.

In putting forward its funding options, the report concludes that each of the beneficiaries should also contribute. We agree with this conclusion and see a mixed funding system involving the exchequer, students and employers as the best way to deliver a high quality, sustainable higher education system.

In looking at the options put forward by the group, it is worth saying that we already have a mixed funding system in place. The state currently pays through the combined core grant and grant in lieu of fees mechanism, and students pay via the student contribution. Employers pay via the National Training Fund levy, albeit that only a tiny proportion of this finds its way into higher education.

The difficulty Ireland faces is that the quantum of funding delivered through these mechanisms is not proving sufficient to deliver a system that meets the quality standards which students deserve and which society needs for its long-run wellbeing and competitiveness. This, in essence, is the conclusion of the Expert Group.

There are important choices to be made in how the investment which the Cassells report calls for is delivered. These are political and societal choices. However, Chair, we would like to offer some observations which bear on those choices.

5. Public Funding

Firstly, public funding must continue to be a foundation for higher education. This is especially the case in a society that values high participation rates.

But historically, exchequer funding has not followed student growth. Between 2008 and 2015 student numbers rose by twenty percent. However, the unit of resource per student fell by twenty one percent. This combination of rising student numbers and falling resources per student is particularly toxic, and Ireland is at the bottom of the league in the OECD in this regard.

To begin to make meaningful inroads to the problem, our budget 2017 submission called for an immediate injection of seventy five million euro (€75m) in recurrent funding for universities and thirty million euro (€30m) in capital. The eventual outcome was a total package of thirty six point five million euro (€36.5m) recurrent funding for higher education overall. However, only a small proportion of this is to address growth in student numbers and it will make no inroads into improving student-staff ratios or rebuilding quality.

It appears that no allocation whatsoever has been made for an injection of capital.

Unfortunately, this seems to reinforce historical experience in regard to the very real difficulty in moving towards a sustainable funding model based solely on public investment.

Nevertheless, it does represent an improvement over years of actual cutbacks and the promised three year package of one hundred and sixty million euro (€160m) is a step in the right direction. However, it is very far from the six hundred million euro (€600m) investment called for in the Cassells report.

6. Employer Contribution

On the matter of employer contributions, the National Training Fund was instigated in 2000 to support training in and for employment. It must be said that higher education is demonstrably a very successful form of preparation in and for employment. Three issues arise in the context of the use of this fund  for higher education. The first is that there is a need for greater transparency as to where the money in the fund is currently expended, particularly in regard to the “for employment” component.

Secondly, this is a fund which is heavily in surplus, and that surplus is growing. The 2017 Abridged Book of Estimates projects a surplus of two hundred and seventy two million euro (€272m) at the end of 2017. At a time when wages and employment in the economy are growing and adding to this surplus, we must seriously question why this surplus is not being applied to the crisis in higher education funding.

This matter should be addressed immediately, particularly in light of the outcome of the Estimates. Finally, while we can understand that employers may balk against an increase in the rate of the levy, it needs to be seen in the context of our overall corporate taxation regime and other reliefs and incentives available to business. The fifty million euro (€50m) which a 0.1 percent increase in the levy is projected by the Cassells group to yield is not insignificant in the context of the difficulties facing the sector.

7. Student Contribution

I will turn now Chair, to the student contribution. Firstly, we should acknowledge that the current student charge at three thousand euro (€3,000) per annum is substantial. However, if these funds did not exist, not just quality, but the actual viability of the system would be put at risk.

One important aspect of having a student contribution is that it ensures a level of financial stability when student numbers are rising, since each additional student brings additional resources into the system. Given the Cassells group’s projections for increased student numbers, this factor is critical.

In terms of the mix of funding, precisely who should pay what, across the spectrum of state, students and employers is essentially a societal and political choice.

However, we want to state upfront that we endorse the Cassells groups’ view that a system where very high levels of fees (such as those applying in the UK or the US) are charged is not acceptable, whether paid up front or under an income contingent loans system. It runs counter to the principles articulated in Chapter four of the report, particularly that of Fairness and Balance.

We also want to suggest that, regardless of the level of the charge, there are arguments in favour of deferred payment. It avoids pressures on families to pay up front at a time when family incomes are under a variety of pressures in the wake of the economic crisis. In some cases, this involves borrowing at commercial rates with the requirement for immediate repayment – conditions which are more onerous than those envisaged for an income contingent loans scheme.

In terms of the scale of resourcing challenge facing the sector, the burden spreading which a loans system allows, does, at a practical level, make some increase in the student contribution component more feasible.

Any such increase needs to be seen in the context of the returns from investing in higher education. The OECD calculates that the private returns to an individual from higher education in Ireland are the highest among the member countries surveyed – by a substantial margin.

The group’s assessment of likely repayment scenarios involving loans of sixteen and twenty thousand euros, respectively, suggest to us that an affordable system can be constructed and that progressivity can be built into such a system.

We would also like to mention that the current system whereby the state pays the student charge for a large cohort of students is not without opportunity cost since this absorbs resources which could otherwise be channelled into the system to improve both maintenance grants and pastoral and other supports for access students.

8. Conclusion

Finally, Chair, we agree with the Cassells report that increased contributions to higher education should be accounted for transparently in terms of where the resources are going and what the spending is achieving. There have been significant improvements in this regard under the national strategy for Higher Education.

The HEA system performance report and strategic dialogue process and employer and student feedback surveys are a very solid platform to build on in this regard.

In conclusion Chair, we reiterate our endorsement of the Cassells report and we support the committee in its important work of debating and making recommendations on measures needed to build a higher education system which supports our shared ambitions for an educated, prosperous and progressive society.



IUA Signs Cooperation Agreement with China Education Association for International Exchange – 20th Oct 2016

This morning in Beijing Professor Philip Nolan, President of Maynooth University and incoming Chair of IUA, signed a cooperation agreement with the China Education Association for International Exchange. The agreement will develop a joint working group involving the following areas; Information sharing, staff and student exchange, staff development, researcher exchange program, University management  and a Chinese universities exhibition in Ireland. The cooperation agreement also allows for mutual recognition of qualifications.

img-20161020-wa0000  img-20161020-wa0003  img-20161020-wa0001





Enterprise Ireland education mission to China

  •  30 Memorandums of Understanding signed between Irish and Chinese Higher Education Institutes
  • Ireland holds role of “Country of Honour” 2016 at China Education Expo

Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Education in Ireland’ mission to China continues today (26th October 2016).

Senior representatives of 19 Irish Higher Education Institutions are participating in a week-long mission which was led by Richard Bruton T.D. Minister for Education and Skills, during the opening days in Beijing. The mission continues across a further three cities in China; Wuhan, Guangzhou and Shanghai and concludes on Sunday 30th Oct.

Addressing the China Education Association for International Exchange at the China National Convention Centre where Ireland was recognised as this year’s “Country of Honour” Minister Bruton said; “This education mission is part of the Department of Education and Skills plans to add €500million to the annual value of the international education system by 2020, and to double the numbers of Chinese students studying in Ireland in the next five years”.

While in China the Minister took part in a series of meetings and events, including a meeting with the Chinese Vice Minister for Education.

The number of Chinese students coming to Ireland has grown by an average of 17% in the last two years, and there are now over 3,300 Chinese students in Irish higher education institutes with a further 2,400 studying on Irish programmes in institutions in China.

Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Education in Ireland’ team hosted the second annual Ireland-China Higher Education Forum in Beijing and 30 Memorandums of Understanding were signed between Irish and Chinese higher education institutes.

Giles O’Neill, Head of Education in Ireland said, “progress over the last two years has been immense, with our teams in Ireland and China, the Embassy and our higher education institutes working together to deliver on an agreed plan. We have more Chinese students studying in Ireland than ever before, and more successful joint programmes. We are well positioned to increase student and staff mobility, and importantly, we have committed teams within our universities and colleges to make this happen.

The Education Mission also included a number of events to showcase Irish culture including a performance by Irish dancing group Meitheal, supported by Culture Ireland, at the opening ceremony for the 17th China Annual Conference for International Education, and at the opening of the Ireland pavilion on Saturday 3rd October 2016 in Beijing.

For more information contact: Grace Labanyi, Enterprise Ireland 00353(0)17272820


Further information:

  • CEAIE: The China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) is a not-for-profit organisation which focuses on international educational exchanges and cooperation. Many universities, colleges, research institutions and middle schools in China are members of the CEAIE, and the CEAIE assists them in finding opportunities for international cooperation projects.
  • The China Education Expo has become the most prominent education fair in China, attracting a substantial number of top education providers, as well as a significant volume of student visitors. The fair is run in four cities; Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. In 2015 over 27,000 visitors attended the Beijing fair, over two days and over 20,000 visited the Shanghai fair.
  • This year Enterprise Ireland, under the ‘Education in Ireland’ brand is taking a national stand to strengthen Ireland’s presence in the market and to support the 19 HEIs exhibiting, who will exhibit both in Beijing and Shanghai. Education in Ireland will also have a presence in Guangzhou.

Media Release: Budget 2017 – IUA Welcomes Proposed New Multi Annual Funding Model for Higher Education 11.10.16


Budget 2017 announced that work is to commence on a new multi-annual funding model for higher education. For 2017, the published estimates show a 4% increase in the allocation for higher education. IUA Chair, Professor Don Barry said: “for the first time in almost a decade, we are seeing a turn in the tide of higher education funding. After years of cutbacks, this is a significant step forward.” The increase of €36.5 million across all of higher education is part of a three year plan to invest an additional €160 million in the sector. IUA CEO Ned Costello said, “this additional injection of funding is welcome, as is the further commitment to develop a more comprehensive long term funding model”. Prof Barry said: “we welcome the fact that the sustainability of higher education is now firmly on the agenda. The Cassells report clearly sets out the scale of the challenge and the potential solutions. We look forward to working with Minister Bruton and the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills in creating the conditions that will deliver the quality education system which we all aspire to”.


IUA Statement – Times Higher Education (THE) Rankings 22.09.16

The latest THE rankings simply confirm the decline already evidenced in the QS league table. The position is well summed up by THE’s Phil Baty: “Ireland is one of the lowest investors in higher education among all OECD countries and you simply cannot sustain world-class universities on the cheap.”

While rankings are only one perspective on the standing of universities, a more comprehensive picture is presented by the OECD whose data is drawn from national governments themselves. The latest OECD Education review[1] shows that Ireland has the dubious distinction of being unique in the degree to which it has matched rising student numbers with falling funding during the period since 2008.

In light of this, the universities have called for an urgent injection of €75 million in current and €30 million in capital funding in the upcoming Budget.

IUA Chair, Professor Don Barry said: “as university leaders, we have a clear vision. We want to deliver the best possible educational experience for our students. To achieve this, we need to reverse the austerity era cutbacks in staffing and allow us to provide smaller class sizes, more practical and project work, and better pastoral care of our students.

This vision is consistent with the very ambitious plan for Education recently launched by the government. Aspiration must now be matched by investment and the upcoming budget represents the opportunity to do this.”



[1] See OECD Education at a Glance 2016

IUA Statement on QS Rankings – 06.09.2016

The continued slide of the Irish Universities in the QS World University Rankings should be greeted with alarm.

Strenuous efforts on the part of the universities has resulted in strong performance on some measures in the rankings such as those relating to research citations and internationalisation of the staff and student cohort. Unfortunately, this good work is being undermined by the negative impact of underfunding on key indicators such as the student:faculty ratio. The latter is highly influential in scoring in the QS rankings.

It would also appear likely that almost a decade of austerity is spilling over into the reputational component of the rankings, with consequent negative repercussions. IUA Chief Executive, Ned Costello said: “we can no longer hide from the corrosive effect which years of cutbacks are having on our higher education system. At a time when we are more dependent than ever on the talent of our people for our economic future, we simply must invest in our universities. An immediate injection of funding is required in the upcoming Budget and Estimates to fund more lecturers, deliver smaller group teaching and restore quality in our system.”


Media Release: Ireland wins EU Funding of €57 million to support talent development and create 400 high-value research jobs and studentships – 15 July 2016

IRISH MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE OFFICE: Ireland has secured over €57 million in funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation projects which support the development of research talent across all sectors of the economy. Around 400 high-value research jobs and studentships will be created in these projects. They are funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) This initiative ensures talent development and focuses on research mobility, between countries and sectors, backed up by professional development and training.

The €57 million won since the start of 2014 makes MSCA the top-performing area for Ireland in Horizon 2020.

A large portion of the funding is going to projects with strong interactions between academia and industry across the indigenous and MNC sectors. The funding is also supporting links between academia and the community and voluntary sector.

Dr. Jennifer Brennan, Ireland’s National Contact Point for the MSCA, said “I am very pleased with the outcomes so far. It’s clear that the strong links that academic researchers are developing with industry and civil society are an essential part of this success. I am particularly pleased to see newcomers such as Concern Worldwide and the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre partnering with academia to work on solutions to societal problems. My colleagues and I are looking forward to continuing to support the wider research community in Ireland to continue to improve on our performance in the programme”.

The Director of the Irish Research Council, Dr. Eucharia Meehan, speaking about the importance of the outcome said “Ireland’s new strategy for research and development, science and technology – ‘Innovation 2020’ – highlights the importance of research talent development to the economy and to the grand societal challenges that we face now and in the future. The MSCA plays a key role in developing that talent, supporting researchers in all areas from Arts to Zoology to work across and break down the boundaries between academic, industry and civil society. The Council is pleased to jointly operate the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office which has assisted researchers to achieve this successful outcome for Ireland.”

The MSCA will celebrate its 20th birthday later this year, and has consistently been a high-performing area of EU funding for Ireland. The funding has benefitted researchers in all disciplines, including the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law.


For more information contact: Lia O’Sullivan, Communications and Projects Manager       Tel: 01 6764948
Note to the Editor:

The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions are a European Union Funding Programme which supports researchers at all stages of their careers, across all research disciplines from live-saving healthcare to “blue sky” research and in all employment sectors. It is named after the famous Polish-born Nobel Prize winning researcher. The opportunities in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions range from individual fellowships for talented researchers to large-scale pan-European research training networks.

Sample funded projects:

  • Alcatel Lucent Ireland Limited is participating in a pan-European consortium led by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and also involving the University of Limerick. The funding will support six new research staff members (with most working towards a PhD during the project) to work full-time at Alcatel contributing to a project to develop new technologies for enhanced and efficient heat recovery in automotive, aeronautics and energy generation.
  • Ballyhoura Development Ltd., a community-led local development company based in Limerick has been funded in an MSCA training network project in the area of social entrepreneurship. University College Cork is also a partner in the consortium, and both will receive funding to support a PhD student working in their organisation for 3 years.
  • E. Laboratories Ltd., a chemicals and environmental analysis company based in Carlow have been funded twice in the Horizon 2020 MSCA. Both projects involve collaboration with local organisations: Dublin City University in a project on contaminated land site remediation and Teagasc in a project about soil and groundwater contamination.
  • Envirotech Innovative Products Ltd., a spin-in to NovaUCD, has received funding for a project in the agrifood area. The consortium is led by University College Dublin and includes partners from Trinity College Dublin, Teagasc and organisations from across Europe.

The Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office is jointly operated by the Irish Universities Association and the Irish Research Council, with support from Science Foundation Ireland. The office provides advice and support on preparing applications for Marie Skłodowska-Curie funding and the management of Marie Skłodowska-Curie awards.

IUA Press Statement – Report of the Expert Group on Future Funding of Higher Education (Cassells Group) – 11th July 2016

11th July 2016: The Irish Universities Association welcomes the publication of the report of the Expert Group chaired by Mr Peter Cassells. IUA Chair, Professor Don Barry commented “I wish to commend the work undertaken by Peter Cassells and his colleagues on this issue of vital national importance. The report is an excellent example of evidence based policy making and clearly illustrates the crisis in higher education funding – and the pathway towards a solution.”

The report comprehensively covers the options for achieving funding sustainability and makes it clear that a “do nothing” approach is simply not tenable. How we fund higher education requires choices to be made and it is appropriate that these matters be considered by the Oireachtas. It is equally important that the issue is confronted immediately. The Cassells group has spent a considerable amount of time and effort doing the necessary groundwork. It is essential that the work of the group is not duplicated and that the process now moves on to reaching a speedy conclusion on the group’s findings” Professor Barry commented.

IUA Chief Executive Ned Costello said: “Long term sustainability is essential but it is equally important that measures are taken in the upcoming budget/estimates to address the immediate crisis. Many institutions are at or close to deficit conditions while student demand is continuing to grow. An immediate infusion of funds is needed: firstly just to ensure viability and secondly to begin to return our exceptionally high student staff ratios to normal levels.”



Additional Notes (the data in these notes refers to the university sector specifically): 

Staff:Student Ratios

While new entrants into higher education have increased, core staff numbers have fallen in consequence of the Employment Control framework. The net effect has been a deterioration in staff:student ratios. Pre-crisis, the ratios in Irish universities were already poor by international standards at circa 1:16 or 1:17 on average. Following the crisis, ratios now stand at 1:21 in the universities. This is significantly worse than the OECD average which stood at 1:14 in 2012.

 Recurrent Funding:

Despite an increase in the student contribution of €2,175 or 263 per cent—from €825 in 2007/08 to €3,000 in 2015/16, total income per student decreased by 24 per cent for the higher education system overall.

Increases in student contributions along with general reductions in overall state funding have resulted in a steady reduction in the proportion of total recurrent funding for core activities of higher education institutions funded by the State – from 78 per cent in 2008 to an estimated 64 per cent in 2016.

For the universities specifically, the core recurrent grant declined by €273m between 2008 and 2016, a decline of over 55 percent. When we look at the fall in the unit of resource which includes not only core grant but also fee income, the unit of funding went from €8,734 in 07/08 to €6,896 in 15/16. The cumulative decrease in the unit of resource in this period has been in excess of 21 percent.

Immediate Unavoidable Cost Increases:

By 2020 the cost base of the university sector will have increased by €99.16m arising from unavoidable cost increases. Many of these relate to public sector pay policy including the cost of pay restoration arising from the Public Service Stability Agreement and the cost of redundancy arising from LCR 207304. These increases are heavily front-loaded in 2017 and 2018. In addition to these costs, additional funding is needed immediately to allow for capacity increases without further eroding the unit of resource per student.


HEA Report on Gender Equality in HE launched today – 27 June 2016

IUA welcomes the report of an Expert Group commissioned by the HEA to undertake a national review of gender equality in higher education institutions was launched today.  The Expert Group was chaired by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. IUA looks forward to examining the report and its recommendations in detail.

The report can be downloaded below:


The official HEA press release can be viewed here:


Statement from the Irish Universities regarding UK Students and fees – 27 June 2016

In the period of uncertainty following the recent UK referendum to leave the European Union, the Irish universities collectively wish to reassure all UK students currently enrolled in an Irish university that they will continue to enjoy the same conditions as other EU students regarding fees and contributions, for the duration of their degree.

The Irish universities also confirm that UK applicants planning to enter an Irish university in 2016 will likewise enjoy these same conditions as other EU students for the duration of their degree.

As previously announced, UK applicants to Irish universities in 2016 and following years will benefit from a revised model for converting A-Level grades to Leaving Certificate points.

In the context of Brexit, the Irish universities wish to reaffirm their desire to encourage student mobility between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and particularly with Northern Ireland.

For further information students should contact the university they attend or are applying to.



HEA Working Group Promotes Student Engagement in Higher Education – Launch of Report 14th April 2016

Students must be centrally involved in decision-making processes in higher education institutions.  That’s according to the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which today (14.04.16) published the report of the Working Group on Student Engagement in Irish Higher Education.

The Working Group was established by the HEA in 2014 to develop a set of principles to assist higher education institutions in enhancing student engagement.  It was chaired by Professor Tom Collins.

Launching its report today at a conference on student engagement in the Department of Education and Skills, Professor Collins said: “Student engagement essentially means student involvement in governance and management, quality assurance, and teaching and learning.

“While students are ultimately responsible for their own learning and level of engagement, effective student engagement also depends on institutional conditions, policies and culture that enable and encourage students to get involved.  The benefits of effective student engagement can include better retention rates, higher levels of satisfaction with educational outcomes, and better student / staff relationships on college campuses.”

Students as Partners, not Consumers

Professor Collins said that the Working Group favoured the “developmental model” for Irish higher education institutions, over the “market model” common in many jurisdictions.  The market model is based on a view of the student as a consumer while, in contrast, the developmental model sees students as partners in a learning community, with both the rights and responsibilities of citizens.


The report of the Working Group recommends that all higher education institutions complete a co-led (staff and student) evaluation of formal and informal student engagement practices and opportunities at every level.  Once the self-evaluations are complete, institutions and students should co-author a student engagement policy that places the principles included in the Working Group’s report at the heart of each institution.  The principles include: democracy, transparency, inclusivity and diversity, feedback, professionalism and collegiality.

Commenting today, Tom Boland, Chief Executive Officer of the HEA, said: “Achieving successful student engagement is not about enforcement and compliance; it’s about building up a meaningful culture and two-way communications.

“Student participation in higher education governance in Ireland is a legal requirement, but representation on various governance bodies is not sufficient on its own.  Both formal and informal mechanisms, as well as parity of esteem between students and staff, are extremely important. The culture of engagement must incorporate all staff and students, and reflect the diversity of the student body, incorporating mature, part-time, distance learning and international students.”

Speakers at today’s conference included Professor Stuart Brand, Director of Learning Experience at Birmingham City University, and Marese Bermingham, Head of Strategic Student Engagement and Retention at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).  Both institutions were consulted by the Working Group on Student Engagement due to the high quality of their existing student engagement practices.

The full report of the Working Group on Student Engagement, including the principles developed by the Group, is available here: HEA IRC-Student-Engagement Report-Apr2016

Report Flyer: HEAIRC-Engagement-Insert


Media Contact: Martina Quinn / Niamh Breathnach, Alice PR & Events, Tel: 087-6522033 / 085-1461231 



Pictured at the launch of the report of the Higher Education Authority working group on Student engagement in Irish Higher Education were students Sean Walsh and Lisa Dolan both students from IT Tralee Pic: Marc O'Sullivan

Pictured at the launch of the report of the Higher Education Authority working group on Student engagement in Irish Higher Education were students Sean Walsh and Lisa Dolan both students from IT Tralee Pic: Marc O’Sullivan

Additional Notes:

The HEA is the statutory planning and policy development body for higher education and research in Ireland.  It was established to allocate public funding to Irish higher education institutions; to oversee performance of the higher education and research sector generally; and to advise the Minister for Education on the development of the sector.  Further information is available at: or on Twitter, @hea_irl.

Student Engagement Case Study: Cork Institute of Technology

At CIT, a Strategic Student Engagement and Retention Initiative was established in September 2012.  It works with academic faculty, school and departmental staff, and student services to develop proactive and collaborative strategies aimed at improving student engagement, progression and graduation.  The institution made a strategic decision to increase its focus on student engagement because of a range of factors, including greater student numbers, the increasing diversity of the student population, and an awareness that better student engagement could lead to increased retention rates.

A number of student engagement programmes are run each year at CIT, including the ‘Good Start’ induction programme for new students; ‘Just Ask!’ information and support campaigns; ‘Get Connected’ events involving students and academic staff; and a peer-assisted learning and support scheme, which fosters cross-year support between students on the same course.  In addition, the institution has established an Academic Learning Centre to give students free learning support in areas that are traditionally found challenging.  An early alert and intervention scheme is also underway – to help new students transition successfully to third level and to ensure they are supported to successfully complete their studies.

“The student engagement initiatives at CIT have had a tangible impact,” says Tom Boland.  “On any visit to the campus, you can see evidence of how students are meaningfully engaged in decisions affecting their learning.  A number of the student retention and support initiatives that are now in place came about directly because of suggestions made by students themselves.  This is the type of meaningful student engagement that we would like to see on campuses across Ireland.”


Dare, Hear, mature applications: some alternative routes to college

For students with a disability or from a disadvantaged background, applying for college isn’t as straightforward as just listing course preferences, but there are excellent supports

Irish Times: Dare, Hear, mature applications: some alternative routes to college

Those who live in a disadvantaged socio-economic area, who have a disability or who are applying to third level as a mature student need to be aware that their CAO application differs slightly and will require some extra time to complete. Knowing deadlines and what’s involved is key toa stress-free application.

Taking the Dare route

Dare (Disability Access Route to Education) offers places on reduced points to school-leavers (aged under 23 on January 1st, 2016) with disabilities. On average, the points reduction is 10 per cent lower than the published CAO points, but students still need to meet the matriculation and specific entry requirements for their preferred course.

The scheme is not available in all third-level institutions, but 18 offer it, including the seven universities, some ITs, the RCSI and some teacher-training colleges.

Being aware of CAO deadlines and getting your paperwork in order are two of the most important elements of applying to the scheme, says Lorraine Gallagher of the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD).

“With Dare, there’s a lot of dates for paperwork and people really need to stick to those dates. If the paperwork is late, their application is null and void so it won’t be processed. People also need to be aware that even though there is change-of-mind option available, you have to select the part of the form to say you have a disability before that, otherwise you won’t be considered.”

There are a large number of disabilities eligible for Dare including ADD/ADHD, autism, blind/visually impaired, a mental health condition and dyslexia/dyscalculia. A full list is available on

To apply for the scheme, students need to apply to the CAO by February 1st. By March 1st they need to have disclosed their disability/learning difficulty, said Yes to applying to the Dare scheme and have filled out a supplementary information form.

By April 1st, they must submit their educational impact statement, along with reports from the relevant medical professional that details the student’s disability. All of this takes time, so it’s important you know exactly what information you need and that it’s up to date.

For example, depending on the disability, some of the medical reports, such as those required for dyslexia, have age limits, so the report submitted to the CAO can’t be more than three years old.

Dare applicants will find out by the end of June whether they have been successful or not. One of the limitations with Dare, however, is that there is a huge lack of transparency around how each college operate it. There is no published information on how they allocate points and each has different quotas for Dare students. It means not everyone who has been accepted for Dare will get a points reduction, even if they are within the 10 per cent range.

While some candidates will secure their preferred course through Dare, every year Gallagher speaks to students who think that because they qualified for it, they will automatically get their course.

“If your course was 400 points, and you got 280, you’re still outside the points range. There’s only a 10 per cent margin between the actual points and what you can get with the reduction. If you’re too low they’ll say you don’t fit the criteria for the course, regardless of being a Dare candidate.”

For details on how the Dare scheme works, visit;; or contact Lorraine Gallagher from AHEAD on (01) 716 4396.

Applying through Hear

Hear (Higher Education Access Route) offers places on reduced points and also gives extra college support to school-leavers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Students who apply for Dare may also be eligible for Hear, and can apply to both.

Some 15 institutes participate in the Hear scheme, including the seven universities, some teacher training colleges, the RCSI and just one IT (DIT). As with Dare, you apply through the CAO and must confirm you are applying to Hear by March 1st and submit all of your supporting documentation to the CAO by April 1st.

The documentation you need to supply will be listed after you complete Section 7 ofthe online Hear application form. Examples include a P21 form or a Department of Social Protection form or statement. Late submissions won’t be accepted, so it’s best to start gathering the requested information as soon as possible.

There are six indicators to determine if you are eligible for Hear, three financial and three social, says University of Limerick’s Access Office.

“Financial indicators would be level of income [the Hear income limit depends on the number of dependent children in the family]; having a medical card; and the applicant’s parent or guardian being in receipt of a means-tested social welfare payment.

“Social and cultural factors include the occupation and employment status of the parent; attendance at a Deis school, or living in an urban or rural disadvantaged area.

But students need to meet a combination of all six, not just the financial indicators. Everyone needs to meet the low-income indicator. After that, they need to tick two other indicators to be considered eligible. An easy-to-follow breakdown of these indicators and combinations is on

Applicants find out by the end of June whether they have been successful. Like Dare, each institution operates its own Hear scheme and the number of Hear students accepted and the points reduction varies from college to college.

‘It’s brilliant’

Gaining access to the Hear programme was a dream come true for Ben Clarkefrom Gorey, Co Wexford, a first-year computer applications student in DCU.

“I wouldn’t have got my course without Hear. I applied because my father is on social welfare. The whole process was really simple, you knew exactly what documents to get. I found out I was accepted four weeks before the results came out and it was a big relief. I got 50 points off my course, I needed 400 but only got 350.

“When I arrived in DCU I got so much help. I get financial assistance which takes the pressure off a bit as well and if you ever need help with anything you just contact the Access office.

“For the past few weeks they organised a PhD student to come in and do maths grinds with small groups of us. They will also help with your course, for example with programming. I asked for a personal tutor to be assigned to me, which will be organised by the Access office. It’s brilliant.”

Mature students

Mature students (aged 23 on January 1st, 2016) can’t avail of either the Dare or Hear scheme, but supports are available to mature students with disabilities.

One advantage of returning to third level as a mature student is that you don’t have to compete in the points race. Your application is largely based on how well-prepared you are to take the programme based on your work experience, certified or non-certified courses you have taken, and your reasons for wanting to return to education. However, some courses, for example engineering, usually have specific subject requirements, such as grade C or higher in honours maths.

Emer Sheerin, the mature student officer at Maynooth University, says it’s very important to contact the college you are interested in applying to, to find out their exact application criteria.

“Generally, all mature students have to fill out the CAO form and meet the February 1st deadline, the same as school leavers. But some higher education institutes, such as Trinity, might ask them to fill out a supplementary form as well. It varies in each college, so it’s very important to check what their specific application procedure is.”

Starting on the CAO form as early as possible is also key to a successful application. “You can’t just sit down the night before and do it. You need to give yourself time to get any certs or documents needed. When filling out the application, the first few pages are the same as any school leaver but when they tick the mature student section of the form, 11 other sections open up.

“It’s really looking for details on their education history, their highest qualification to date, how far they went in formal school, any current studies they are pursuing, cert or non-cert courses completed since leaving school formally and anything else they have done. There are also sections on their employment or voluntary work.”

The personal statement is a very important part of the application and there is guidance in the CAO handbook. You only get 200 words to give your motivation for applying but some institutes accept a longer statement supplied in additional documents to the CAO.

Once the college has received your application from the CAO, they start the selection process. Again, this can vary from college to college. You could be called for an interview or have to complete a written assessment, or both.

Applicants for arts, law, science or agricultural science in UCD, arts in UCC and NUIG or selected education, and health sciences in UL, have to sit the Mature Students Admissions Pathway (MSAP) test on March 5th. Those applying to medicine have to register with HPat Ireland, along with completing their CAO application.

The number of places reserved for mature students varies from college to college with most allocating 10-15 per cent on all courses.

Along with making sure you’ve done extensive research on your intended programme, be aware of any funding available to you.

“There are fewer and fewer financial incentives for adults going back into education,” says Sheerin. “There are cutbacks all the time and there are particularly disappointing developments in the back-to-education allowance, with not as many people getting it. They should check, their local citizens information centre or to find out what they are entitled to.”

For more information, visit or contact the Mature Student Officer in your intended college.

Excellence, Talent, Impact – IUA Welcomes New Innovation 2020 Strategy

The Irish Universities Association expresses its support for the Government’s new research and innovation strategy. IUA Research Vice Presidents Group Chair, Professor Orla Feely[1] said: I welcome the publication of the strategy today.  It sets out a strong ambition for Ireland as a leader in innovation, underpinned by the excellence, talent and impact of Irish research. The commitment to increasing public and private investment in research is particularly welcome.”

The new strategy aims to reach a target of 2.5% of GDP spent on research by 2020, across the public and private sectors. The majority of public sector research is carried out by universities. IUA Chief Executive, Ned Costello[2] said: “the plans to increase postgraduate enrolments by 30% and to develop an effective careers plan for researchers puts the spotlight on talent. This will benefit both research and education and ensure a flow of critical skills in to the wider economy and society.”

The strategy also includes plans for a successor to the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions to include investment in the creation of new, and the maintenance and upgrading of existing, facilities and equipment. A new Programme of Funding for Frontier Research will be also introduced. “These initiatives will support a wider spectrum of research and better equip Ireland to find solutions to the complex challenges facing us”, Ned Costello said.

The strategy emphasises the importance of collaboration. Professor Feely said: the success of the strategy will rely on higher education and enterprise mobilising around it in an agile and co-ordinated manner, in tandem with government and its agencies. The universities look forward to working with all of those involved as we seek to build on our success to date and deliver excellent research and innovation, with impact nationally and globally”.



8 December 2015


Notes for Editors:

[1] Professor Orla Feely is Chair of the IUA Vice Presidents and Deans of Research Committee and Vice President for Research, Innovation and Impact at University College Dublin.

[2] Ned Costello is Chief Executive of the IUA and Director of Research and Innovation.