The broad tenets of higher education policy in Ireland were set out in the National Strategy for Higher Education published in January 2011. I am implementing a wide ranging reform programme in higher education to include increased flexible learning opportunities, part-time provision, work based learning and short intensive skills programmes. I have published my instructions for higher education reform. A new System Performance Framework for 2014-16 is now in place and Government system objectives have been conveyed to HEIs by the HEA. The first performance compacts are being finalised. The first Annual System Performance Report from HEA which will be published shortly will include information on flexible provision.
Springboard is a specific initiative that strategically targets funding of free flexible part-time higher education courses to enable unemployed people to upskill or reskill in areas where there are identified labour market skills shortages or employment opportunities. To date more than 15,000 places have been provided under the three rounds of the programme in our higher education institutions. Springboard 2014 which will be launched later this month, will provide for a further 5,000 flexible part-time places.