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Higher Education in Ireland
Ireland was one of the first European countries to grasp the economic importance of education. But higher education in Ireland is now at a crossroads, with significant challenges to overcome. How can Ireland meet its stated objective of “placing its higher education system in the top ranks of OECD member countries in terms of both quality and levels of participation”? How can it create “a world class research, development and innovation capacity”?
High levels of investment are needed for a major expansion of postgraduate studies and capacity for research, development and innovation. Mechanisms should be established to achieve the right balance between different components of the tertiary education system, which includes universities, institutes of technology and colleges that provide post-secondary level instruction. Further, there is a need to meet the demands of specialisation, competition and complementarities within the system.
This report addresses the full range of higher education issues and offers recommendations for action within the framework of the government’s ambitions for the sector. The examiners propose a new National Council for Tertiary Education and recommend significant modernisation and adaptation in the governance and management practices of tertiary education institutions. Finally, the examiners conclude that the government’s ambitions for the higher education sector -- especially its role in sustaining a highly innovative economy for Ireland -- will require considerable further investment, and they suggest policy approaches to developing these additional sources of funding.
The Irish tertiary education system has increased its student body by about 2% per annum since the mid-1960s and has reached an age participation rate of 57%. The system, however, is at a crossroads at it strives to meet the government’s strategic objectives of “placing its higher education system in the top ranks of OECD in terms of both quality and levels of participation” and “creating a world class research, development and innovation capacity”. These two objectives served to frame the terms of reference for the Education Committee’s review of Ireland’s higher education system (see Annex A).
The Examiners’ Report (Part I of this volume) provides analysis of the main challenges and recommends a series of actions, structured around the following five central themes:
Part I. Examiners' Report
Part II. Country Background Report
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