The Presidents of the seven universities today expressed their strong collective support for Ireland’s positive engagement at the heart of the European Union, in the context of the coming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. “It is now more vital than ever to secure the effective functioning of the Union and Ireland’s place within it”, they said.
The Presidents pointed to the key role the EU has played in the development of Higher Education in Ireland.
“EU policy has been instrumental in driving and supporting the expansion and modernization of the Higher education system and in enhancing its impact on the economy and society. The EU structural funds and the resources of the European Investment Bank were very important in supporting additional student intake and necessary infrastructure, at a time when Ireland could not have made those investments on its own”, they noted. Irish universities have also benefited from the experience of other countries through the pan-European Bologna Process, in areas such as the modernization of academic structures, the introduction of modularization and the development of a National Framework of Qualifications.
These supports were part of a package which amounted to over €70 billion in total direct transfers to Ireland since accession in 1973. Schemes such as the Erasmus initiative continue to play a vital role in broadening student experience in the European context. Over 35,000 Irish students have benefited from the Erasmus mobility scheme so far, and an additional 18,500 places are reserved for Irish students in the coming years. Over 50,000 students from other EU countries have come to study in Ireland and enrich our campuses and communities over the years, returning home afterwards to boost Ireland’s reputation across Europe.
The Presidents placed particular emphasis on the impact of EU policies on research, development and innovation. “EU research programmes were the springboard for many of our top researchers at a time when national policy was lagging behind in this area. Now national strategy is closely aligned with the Union’s drive to make Europe a leader in research and innovation.” Ireland secured more than €200 million Euro under the last research Framework Programme, and is on its way to achieving its target of €600 million Euro in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
“The EU programmes support cooperation between universities and firms throughout Europe. They provide opportunities for Irish researchers in both higher education and industry to work with partners throughout Europe, putting down roots that extend well beyond the confines of the programmes themselves”, the Presidents said.
“EU policies have also been instrumental in supporting the mobility of researchers into and within the EU. Initiatives such as these give Ireland access to the global talent pool. In a country critically dependent on international trade, this is an issue of vital national importance” they said.Through the Marie Curie programme Ireland has been the most successful country in Europe in winning EU funds to support international researcher mobility and knowledge transfer between industry and academia.
The development of modern Ireland has been hugely influenced by our membership of the European Union and we can be proud of the contribution that Ireland itself has made to Europe also. “Now more than ever we need to work with our European partners to overcome the challenges that we all face,” the Presidents said.
For more information contact: Ned Costello, CEO, Irish Universities Association, 01 6764948