An agile education system is vital to maintaining and enhancing Ireland’s competitiveness into the future, particularly in the context of the rapid rate of change evident at the current time which is driven by rapid technological development. Increased levels of lifelong learning will ensure that those in the workforce, and outside the workforce, are supported to take advantage of these developments.
The National Strategy for Higher Education (2010) and the National Skills Strategy (2016) were published to ensure that the education system is appropriately structured to meet the challenges of this rapid rate of change and facilitate ongoing upskilling and reskilling of the workforce.
The higher education system is delivering programmes in a more flexible manner than before. There were 7,967 remote enrolments and 40,101 part-time enrolments in the higher education system in the 2017/2018 academic year. An increase of 70% in remote enrolments and 12% in part time enrolments over four years.
The private higher education ranking systems, of which there are many, each monitor different aspects of international higher education institutions. The systems award different weightings to various components of the area under review.
The outcome of the rankings in any particular year therefore not only depend on how an individual institution has performed, but also on how it has performed in relation to all other institutions under review.
In the context of overall system performance progression and excellence, the fulfilment of specific broader Government policies may also impact on rankings. For example, national policy on Initial Teacher Education (ITE) saw the incorporation of a number of smaller teacher training colleges in Mater Dei, St. Patrick’s Drumcondra and CICE into Dublin City University in accordance with recommendations by the Report of the International Review Panel on the Structure of ITE Provision in Ireland (2012 Sahlberg Report).
This beneficial policy objective increased the proportions of undergraduate students in the university, which, in turn, impacted negatively on the Universty’s ranking in some systems. This reflects the narrow and distorting views which can be encapsulated in university ranking methodologies.
The European Commission fund a ranking system (U-multirank) which focuses on the needs of students and end users, producing summaries of specific areas of interest (where measures are rated from ‘very good’ to ‘weak’) rather than a blunt ranking number, this provides a more accurate view of how institutions are improving/changing year on year.