Written Answers. - Third Level Education.

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

49 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Education and Science his views on the NUI Galway development plan for third level education in Gaeltacht areas. [19251/02]

In 1999, the National University of Ireland, Galway, NUIG, entered into discussions with universities, which it considered had Gaeltacht areas in their hinterland. Subsequently, an inter-varsity working group was set up, comprising the NUI Galway, National University of Ireland, University College Cork, UCC, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, NUIM, and Queen's University Belfast. The working group produced a strategy for the development of third level education in the Gaeltacht. This was submitted to both my Department and the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, now the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Given the importance of the issue it is clear that the implications of the strategy need to be considered prior to making a decision on the matter. An inter-agency working group comprising representatives from my Department, the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Higher Education Authority has been established to oversee an assessment of the strategy. A consultant has been employed by the Higher Education Authority to carry out this assessment.

The inter-agency working group has met on two occasions. At its first meeting the group decided that the original strategy document should be posted on the Higher Education Authority website, together with a call for public submissions. On foot of this decision, my Department wrote to all third level institutions, chief executive officers of the vocational education committees, all-Irish schools and Údarás na Gaeltachta requesting their views on the development strategy. A number of submissions have been received, which are currently being considered by the consultant to the group. It is expected that the consultant will submit a draft report outlining his findings following this assessment.