Consultation on the National Strategy for Higher Education
Name: Tim Creedon
Position (if applicable): President
Organisation (if applicable): Institute of Technology, Tallaght
Is this response a personal view or is it made on behalf of your organisation?
Personal [ ] On behalf of organisation [ Institute of
Technology, Tallaght ]
Information in relation to this submission may be made available to any person who makes a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 as amended in 2003.
Submission by Institute of Technology, Tallaght to the Higher Education Strategy Review
The Institute has identified three core areas which it believes should be included in the
strategy for higher education
1. Equality of Access to Higher Education for all citizens.
This Institute believes that all citizens irrespective of race, creed or social / economic
circumstances should have equal opportunity to partake of higher education.
Statistical data clearly demonstrates that success at higher education is directly
linked to quality of life in society. This should be achieved by a policy of widening
participation in full-time and life-long education. All citizens should be entitled to be
supported both financially and through other initiatives to enable each person to
take a certain level / quantum of higher education through a process of a bank of
higher education credits.
We recognise that in these difficult economic times resources are limited. They
should therefore be utilised carefully to ensure that a socio – economic policy of
equal opportunity is fostered.
Any policies on equality of access must be matched by the implementation of
supports to ensure equality of capacity by students to partake and succeed in their
In order to incentivise colleges to widen participation and to engage in flexible
approaches to provision each Institute should receive recognition in funding, in
comparators and in rating models for the level of access to higher education in both
full and part-time mode which it provides. It is very discouraging to see agencies
including the HEA utilise full-time undergraduate numbers as a crude measure of
institutional performance and effectiveness.
2. The development of a coherent structure for higher education institutions
throughout the country.
The current high number of autonomous higher education institutions in the country
is too high for effective and economic delivery of higher education in the country. A
process of rationalisation and meaningful long term collaboration should be
established. The current tendency for each college to exist in and defend their silo
and to form short term collaborations of convenience is not providing sufficient long
term strategic coherence to higher education.
In the case of institutes of technology it is the position of this institute that this process of rationalisation and development of coherence should include the creation of a single national technologically focused higher education entity. This entity should be a single technological university with multiple campuses and with a mandate for programmes from level 6 to 10 on the national qualifications framework. It can be achieved by combining all of the institutes as constituent colleges of one national technological university.
The role of such a technological university is crucial if Ireland is to maintain itself as an attractive location for high tech industries. Each technologically advanced country and a number who are aspiring to be such have recognised the requirement for a technology university sector within higher education. The institutes of technology fulfil this role and indeed in recent years they are seen by many countries, as evidenced by a number of high level study groups visiting the country, as being a leading exponent in the delivery of technological education linked to the needs of industry and business.
The failure to designate the institutes of technology as a national technological university is having a detrimental effect on the uptake of technology subjects and careers by students. It impacts significantly on the international and national perception of technological education in Ireland. It impedes the capacity of graduates to compete in the international jobs market.
3. The role of Institutes of Technology in the socio-economic development of the regions and nationally should be recognised and strengthened.
The institutes are highly distributed systems which have played a pivotal role in providing graduates and expertise for industry at a local and regional level. They have achieved this through the excellence and responsiveness of programmes and the willingness of the institutes to work closely with industry. Equally the institutes have worked closely with Enterprise Ireland to foster new enterprise development. An expanded mandate with matching state investment would enable each institute to provide a significant impetus to the economic development of the regions.
The current national strategy of massive investment in fundamental research with the expectation that this will lead to significant spin out companies is a high risk strategy which has seen little success elsewhere. Irish economic investment strategy has been seriously deficient in providing incentives and supports for the development of an indigenous SME sector and we are now reaping the downside of sustained weakness of policy. The Smart Economy strategy from Government recognises this.
The country clearly requires the development of an infrastructure of innovation and enterprise development which is focused on supporting regional SMEs. The institutions in the country best placed to achieve this are the Institutes of Technology. They have a long history of partnering with industry in education and they have consistently developed the appropriate expertise within the colleges by pursuing recruitment policies which place high value of industrial experience.
One of the important successes in the development of the Irish economy is the partnership between the institutes and Enterprise Ireland in the development of incubation centres and more recently the investment in equipment and resources necessary to engage in technology development with industry. An expansion of this type of initiative at a fraction of the investment in fundamental research would enable the institutes to provide significant support for local industry and would deliver immediately on jobs in the economy. This institute can demonstrate clear and direct connectivity between this type of investment and the establishment and expansion of SMEs. Greater investment will definitely lead to more High Potential Start Ups achieving their full potential.
Irelands SSTI strategy has been overly focused on the creation of large centres of excellence with the hope of either creating spin outs from fundamental research or to attracting inward multinational investment. These are all laudable, but in the meantime indigenous SMEs are starved of investment and support. The capacity of smaller more locally engaged applied research to engage with SMEs is being ignored.