As the Deputy is aware, in early February I announced the process to develop a new national strategy for higher education, which will examine how well Ireland's higher education system is performing, how it ranks internationally, how well existing resources are being used and how the system can be re-configured to best meet the many challenges it faces over the next decade having regard to the key role it has to play in contributing to Ireland's economic recovery. The process will have regard to existing policies and strategies already developed by Government which affect the sector, such as the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation and the National Skills Strategy.
The process is being led by a high level steering group comprising national and international expertise. The membership of the Steering Group which held its first meeting on 4 March 2009 is as follows:
Dr Colin Hunt, Economist,
Dr John Hegarty, Provost Trinity College Dublin
Marion Coy, President, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
Professor John Casteen, President of the University of Virginia
Professor Jussi Valimaa, University of Jyvaskyla
Dick Lehane, former Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Manufacturing at the EMC Corporation
Paul Rellis, Managing Director, Microsoft Ireland
Peter Cassells, Chair of the National Centre for Partnership Performance
Shane Kelly, President of USI
Michael Kelly, Chairman of Higher Education Authority
Dr Mary Canning, Former World Bank Education Specialist and member of the Higher Education Authority
Brigid McManus, Secretary General, Department of Education and Science
Martin Shanagher, Assistant Secretary, Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment
Mary Doyle, Assistant Secretary, Department of An Taoiseach
Robert Watt, Assistant Secretary, Department of Finance
The Secretary to the Steering group is an official of the Higher Education Authority. Two staff members from the Department of Education and Science, as well as a staff member from Forfás have also been seconded to the Secretariat. It is expected that the Steering group will complete its work before the end of the year.
The terms of reference for the strategy are as follows:
1. To consider the role of Irish higher education in the context of higher education's role in modern societies and, in particular, in the modern knowledge society.
2. Describe and analyse the current environment of Irish higher education including: the current system in terms of its student numbers, funding, funding models, organisational arrangements and the roles of the different public and private entities involved in the higher education and research domain; the existing policy objectives; identification and assessment of external factors likely to influence change in the sector (e.g. demographics, student mobility) and; the international environment in which the Irish higher education system operates including the benchmarking of the system against relevant international comparators and higher education systems, processes and outcomes in other countries.
3. Having regard to the issues arising from 1 and 2 above, and from the process of consultation on those issues, to develop a vision and related set of national policy objectives for Irish higher education for the next 20 years with more focused targets for the sector for the next five years.
4. Having regard to the outcomes of 3 above, and taking into account best international practice, identify the operational framework of the higher education system including the number and roles of institutions within it which will enable it to deliver on these policy objectives; recommend any changes required in the system of oversight and accountability that will support achievement of objectives; determine the level of resources required to achieve the stated objectives, look at the effectiveness of use of current resources, identify any potential for rationalisation or change to maximise the use of those resources and identify how any additional resource requirements can be met having particular regard to the difficult budgetary and economic climate that is in prospect in the medium term.