Minister Mitchell O’Connor calls on Higher Education and Enterprise sectors to lead the way in delivering on key actions in the Foreign Languages Strategy

Wednesday 23rd May 2018 – Residence of the German Ambassador in Dublin

The Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., last night opened the “Education for a changing world – Languages for Employability in a Post-Brexit Ireland” Conference in the residence of the German Ambassador in Dublin.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor, said, “This Conference is bringing together key stakeholders including Higher Education and Enterprise sectors and representatives from Cultural Institutes and Embassies, who must all show leadership in delivering on key actions in the Foreign Languages Strategy.”

The central aim of the Action Plan for Education is to provide the best education and training system in Europe over the next decade. A central part of this is our ability to support our students with the skills to be global citizens, to understand other cultures and societies, as well as the skills to function and thrive in the modern economy.

Last December, “Languages Connect – Ireland’s Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2022 ” was launched with the vision to promote a society where the ability to learn and use at least one foreign language is taken for granted, because of its inherent value for individuals, society and the economy.

Both National and International research recognise the importance of foreign language skills, not only for personal enrichment and active citizenship but to increase employability and career opportunities. Ireland needs a workforce which has the necessary skills to attract new enterprise and to expand into new markets, particularly in a post-Brexit environment.

Some of the key target outcomes included in the Foreign Languages Strategy are:

– To increase the proportion of the higher education cohort studying a foreign language

– To increase participation in the Erasmus + programme

– To double the number of teachers participating in mobility programmes

– To improve learner attitude to foreign language learning and to highlight the benefits of learning a foreign language

– To adopt the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) by education institutions and by employers

– To enhance employer engagement in the development and use of trade languages

– To encourage enterprise to identify need and to support and invest in the development of those linguistic skills regionally

– To promote and encourage work placements requiring the use of foreign languages.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor stated that, “We need to prepare ourselves to take advantage of new opportunities and ensure that we have a steady stream of graduates with foreign language competence to meet these new business opportunities.”

The Minister thanked the Cultural Institutions and Embassies of Germany, France, Italy and Spain for facilitating the Conference, the outcome of which will build on the work already underway in the implementation of the foreign language strategy.

She wished the Conference every success and looks forward to hearing the outcome of the deliberations.

Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D. and her counterpart the Minister of Higher Education, H.E. Dr Rawya Al Busaidi sign a Memorandum of Understanding between The Department of Education and Skills and the Ministry of Higher Education of The Sultanate of Oman in the field of Higher Education cooperation

The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D., has today, in Dublin, signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of Higher Education cooperation with her counterpart from the Sultanate of Oman, the Minister of Higher Education, and H.E. Dr. Rawya Al Busaidi.

This agreement is as a result of Minister Mitchell O’Connor’s successful St. Patrick’s Day visit to the Sultanate of Oman, where both parties agreed that they wished to sign an agreement to further develop and enhance the cooperation that presently exists between Ireland and Oman in the Higher Education area.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said during the signing ceremony that:
“I am delighted that H.E. Minister Rawya Al Busaidi was in a position to come to Ireland to sign this important agreement which will be of mutual benefit to both the Irish and Omani Higher Education Systems. The agreement will allow for an enhanced level of Academic, Staff and student exchange between Higher Education Institutions in both Countries.”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor went on to say that “The Irish education system plays a key role in forging crucial global relationships and building international outlook and awareness. One of the core ambitions of my Government’s International Education Strategy, ‘Irish Educated, and Globally Connected’ is to support the development of internationally-oriented, globally competitive institutions and this agreement will assist us in delivering on this ambition.”

Bilateral cooperation in education between Ireland and Oman has been reflected in the growing numbers of Omani students studying in Ireland. Ireland now hosts over 500 Omani students in our higher education institutions

This growth in numbers is a priority area for our international education strategy as we seek to grow existing connections and to build new markets and partnerships.

Irish Educated, Globally Connected, A new International Education Strategy for Ireland, 2016-2020 is available at:

International education is currently worth €1.58 billion to the Irish economy. Of this €1.58 billion, the higher education sector contributed some €819 million and the English Language Training sector contributed €762 million.

Growth targets –

A growth target of 33% in the Higher Education sector has been set which will result in an increase in international students in both public and private HEIs from 33,118 in 2014/2015 to approximately 44,000 by the end of the 2019/2020 academic year. In terms of the target output value for Higher Education, the aim is to increase the output impact value from €819m in 2014/2015 to €1.15bn by 2019/2020.

A growth target of 25% has been set for the ELT sector, which will result in an increase in ELT students from 106,000 in 2014/2015 to 132,500 by the end of 2019/2020 academic year. The aim is to increase the output value by approximately €200m from €760m to €960m during the lifetime of the strategy.

In terms of the target output impact value, the value will increase from €1.58bn in 2014/2015 to €2.1bn by 2019/2020.

The mobility of academic staff and researchers is an essential element in the creation of a truly international campus. Ireland’s International Education policy is to actively promote outward and inward mobility of staff, researchers and students.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor gives opening address at first Technological Higher Education Association Colloquium in GMIT

Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D., opened the first annual Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) Colloquium in GMIT today (10th of May). The three core themes for the day revolve around a central theme of ‘Engagement’ and it brings together students, agencies, enterprises, further education, policy makers, and the voluntary sector to explore the reality of the ‘Engaged Institution’ and how to meet the challenges ahead while working with industry, community, and policy-makers.

Speaking at the Colloquium, Dr Joseph Ryan, Chief Executive of THEA, said, “THEA is now one year in operation and it has been a dynamic time with many changes culminating in the passing into law of the Technological Universities Act 2018 which offers the promise of the creation of new Technological Universities in Ireland. These can have a profound and catalytic role in support of their regions and communities. As a sector, our members have already demonstrated the impact that an Institute of Technology can have on the lives of the community it serves and on the sustainability and enhancement of the local economy. We are delighted to have a range of experienced speakers here today, from industry, politics and academia, with various perspectives who will share in a reflection on the contribution of the technological sector and help us shape how that can best be calibrated to meet future challenges.”

Speaking at the event, Dr Fergal Barry, President of GMIT, stated, “We are delighted to host the first annual Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) Colloquium here in GMIT today (10th of May). GMIT and the students and region we serve has been a major beneficiary of the reforms within higher education since our founding nearly 50 years ago. Our vision is to provide students with a transformative university experience, empowering our graduates to fully contribute to the social, economic and cultural betterment of society. We aim to invest in excellent applied learning, teaching and research environments reflecting the real needs of business, enterprise and the professions in our region. I want to welcome again the investments of €5M in GMIT’s iHub and €25M in a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Building. GMIT student enrolments have increased considerably in recent years to over 7000 enrolments. The ongoing reform of our Higher Education Sector led by Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, particularly the passing of the Technological Universities Act, will allow TU Consortia to deepen our engagement with industry and organisations for the people we serve across the region for many years into the future.”

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D., stated, “Today’s Colloquium firmly positions the technological higher education sector as the champion of access, opportunity and engagement, forging links across diverse communities, geographies and socio-economic boundaries. Government’s commitment to and support of the sector was evidenced by the announcement of the €200m capital funding earlier in the year and it points to an exciting future for the sector as we look towards the establishment of the first technological universities. We look forward to continuing our engagement with THEA in civic dialogue around the transformative effect that higher education and engaged institutions have on entire communities.”

Monica Barnes RIP

It is with profound sadness that I learned of Monica Barnes passing last evening. Monica was the most wonderful, warm hearted woman and represented our Dun Laoghaire constituency so ably. She was articulate, sincere, and passionate about the advancement of women.

Only last week when I spoke to her, she was excited and enthusiastic about coming to our next DunLaoghaire Constituency meeting and celebrating Votáil 100. She was also due to participate in an event tomorrow for Fine Gael women of the “Class of ‘83”.

I have the lovely memory of meeting three generations of the Barnes family a few short weeks ago: Monica, Sarah and her granddaughter Ailbhe. It was clear how much of Monica’s energy and passion has been passed through the generations.

I offer my deepest condolences to the Barnes family.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor to widen the demographic of students from our higher education institutions taking up international study abroad or internship opportunities


In the University of Limerick today Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor launched a report “Enhancing Mobility for Access Students Ireland [EMASI]” and online resource for higher education institutions in Ireland to widen student participation in international mobility opportunities, such as Erasmus +, for non-traditional students such as mature students, student with disabilities or from lower socio-economic groups.

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Minister Mitchell O’Connor hosts information summit on Technological University application process

The Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D. today convened an information summit of all the Presidents and Governing Body Chairpersons of institutes of technology involved in consortia working towards technological university designation.

The purpose of the event, held in the headquarters of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), was to brief the Presidents and Chairpersons on the practical implications of the new Technological Universities Act 2018 for the technological university development process. The Minister piloted the Act to completion in the Houses of the Oireachtas on 8 March 2018 with the Act being signed into law by President Higgins on 19 March 2018.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “I am delighted that we have succeeded after a considerable period to put the Technological Universities Act in place. This provides the legislative framework upon which TU development consortia can now progress their applications when readied. Technological universities will be a critical step-change in the Irish higher education landscape and will significantly strengthen the sector’s impact at regional, national and international levels.”

The meeting was attended by officials from the HEA, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of the Taoiseach and the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland (QQI). At the meeting the legislative provisions and practical processes involved in the making of an application to the Minister for Education and Skills for two or more institutes of technology who wish, and are in a position to, apply for technological university designation, were set out. The consortia representatives engaged fully in the subsequent question and answer session on procedural matters relating to the application process, eligibility criteria, panel assessment etc.

Senior representatives of the institutes involved in all four of the current consortia attended the meeting and confirmed the intent to progress applications. The consortia are at different levels of progression with the first application on behalf of the TU4Dublin consortium – comprising Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology Tallaght – expected to be submitted by the end of April 2018 and further applications anticipated by the end of the year.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor stated “The attendance of such senior representatives and in such numbers is a clear signal to me of the intent of all the consortia to progress as speedily as possible with their plans to attain TU status. The legislative process is in place, the Exchequer is providing significant developmental funding and a rigorous assessment process involving an international expert advisory panel is being established by the HEA to ensure that technological universities become a reality very soon. I have also put in place a specialist unit in the Department to assist consortia in the TU development process. All practical assistance is being, and will continue to be, provided to bring this key piece of higher education restructuring to fruition.”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor awards 40 students from under-represented groups 1916 Bursary Awards

The 1916 Bursaries, initiated to support access to higher education for under-represented students will be awarded to 40 students in a ceremony at the GPO Witness History Museum on the 17th April. The bursary scheme funded by the DES /HEA under the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) Fund is aimed at increasing diversity in Higher Education.

The recipients, termed “Leaders and Learners” in recognition of the strong focus on education and equality of leaders of the 1916 Rising, are selected from under-represented communities and first-generation entrants to college, including lone parents, students with disabilities, Irish Travellers, members of other ethnic minorities, and refugees and asylum seekers

A UCD-led consortium comprising Trinity College Dublin, Marino Institute of Education, the National College of Art and Design, and the Institute of Art, Design and Technology – have come together to support the 1916 Bursary Fund. The recipients join a growing body of students already receiving supports through access programmes of the participating colleges. Bursary applicants were asked to outline their aspirations for the future, identify the financial and social impediments that stood in their way and give examples of how they had already shown leadership in their homes, schools or communities.

In her address the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, said: “These 1916 bursaries are a fitting tribute to the educational vision of those who fought for Irish independence. It is apt that they are being launched here in the GPO. The leaders of the Rising were also learners with a range of qualifications: nurses, teachers, accountants, soldiers and sculptors. Their education contributed to their involvement in the Rising and their vision of a new Ireland of equal rights and opportunities. A century on, we are still striving to make this vision a reality, and these bursaries show the commitment of our colleges to greater equity in education.”

Speaking at the ceremony, Professor Grace Mulcahy, Chair of the Consortium said, “just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the Higher Education Community to be truly effective in recruiting and retaining students from diverse and under-represented backgrounds; these bursaries are an essential component to ensuring that we continue to do so.”

Mary Mitchell O’Connor passes into law the Technological Universities Act: President Michael D Higgins signs the Technological Universities Bill

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said, “This is a transformative piece of legislation and I am delighted that it is now enacted. The Technological Universities legislation has been a high priority for this Government and will radically change the higher education landscape.

“The legislation will underpin the development of a new type of higher education institution, building on the strengths and mission of institutes of technology to develop world class technological universities.”

She went on to say “The creation of technological universities provides the opportunity to drive regional development and provide more opportunities for individuals, enterprise and the community. These institutions will have significant impact and influence regionally, nationally and internationally.

“I know that the Institute of Technology sector has been waiting for the enactment of this legislation before applications for Technological University status could be submitted by the consortia of Institute of Technologies who have come together.

“I am excited about the prospects for all regions with a Technological University. The presence of a Technological University, with a specific mandate towards regional development will have a transformative effect on communities. Enhanced higher education institutions will deliver the skilled and talented people that sustain enterprise and new investments. Ultimately it will make these areas more attractive places to live, raise a family in and work.”

Following enactment of the legislation, the next step in the process is for applications for TU status to be submitted to the Higher Education Authority for assessment by an international panel of experts. These will be submitted by consortia of existing Institutes of Technology, which have come together to seek TU status.

The Minister looks forward to the first of these applications being submitted in the coming months with a view to the establishment of the first Technological University in the current year.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor concludes successful Middle East trip

Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. Minister of State for Higher Education has concluded a hugely successful St. Patrick’s Day trip to the Middle East. She visited Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The Minister said, “I am truly delighted with how our St. Patrick’s Day mission went. One of our great strengths as a country is our people and during my time in Oman and the UAE I have met some inspiring and motivated Irish entrepreneurs and business people who are strengthening our bonds with this region. I felt this week that my presence in the Gulf will only complement the ongoing work of our Embassy network and state agencies in Oman and the UAE, in promoting awareness and confidence in Ireland’s economy, as well as showcasing what we have to offer as a nation”.

A key priority of the Minister’s visit was to highlight the excellent quality of the Irish Higher Education sector.

During the visit to Oman the Minister met with her counterpart, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Rawya Saud Al Busaidi to discuss opportunities to further deepen the relationship between the higher education sectors in Ireland and Oman. The two Ministers discussed areas of academic and student exchange and the areas of research and development.

Dr.Rawya Saud Al Busaidi was fascinated to hear about the Minister’s recent passing of the Technological Universities Bill as she is keen to merge their Advance Science Schools with their Technological Universities to create Technological Hubs within Oman.

Dr Rawya Saud Al Busaidi has confirmed she will travel to Ireland in May to meet with the Minister and visit some of the new sites for Ireland’s Technological Universities.
Ireland currently hosts over 500 Omani students in our Higher Education Institutions.

In the United Arab Emirates, Minister Mitchell O’Connor met with the UAE Minister for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, Dr. Ahmad Bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi. The UAE Minister was keen to explore how Ireland had strengthened its connections with industry and how it was developing future skills.

At the meeting Minister Mitchell O’Connor also highlighted the work that she and her officials were doing in the area of research and innovation within the Higher Education sector.

Dr. Ahmad Bin Abdulla Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi has also confirmed that he will travel to Ireland in June to meet with the Minister to visit some leading institutions that are spearheading the way in building stronger links with industry and creating work-ready graduates in new technologies.

The Minister made time in her busy schedule to visit the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland – a most renowned and much loved institution in Dubai. RCSI is a flagship institution in the UAE since 2006, with 540 graduates. She spoke with the graduates and lecturers on how the RCSI can enhance their footprint within the UAE.

While in Abu Dhabi the Minister went on a tour of Khalifa University where currently they have two Irish Deans. She met with students, both male and female, studying STEM subjects and heard first hand their experiences of doing both internships and studying in Ireland.

While in Dubai before travelling to Abu Dhabi the Minister met with Nadia Verjee, Senior Vice President of EXPO 2020 Dubai and in person the Minister confirmed Ireland’s participation in the event.

While education formed the central part of this five-day visit, the Minister also participated in receptions for the Irish communities and met with Irish businesses and business groups in Oman, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

She visited Spinney’s Supermarket with Michael Hennessy from Bord Bia and first hand saw the huge array of Irish produce on the shelves. Over 50 products from Ireland have pride of place on the shelves of this UAE institution.

The Minister met with David Boyce, Aishling McDermott and Siobhan Naughton from Tourism Ireland who introduced the Minister to leading practitioners in tourism to Ireland. They discussed the huge benefit to Irish tourism that the 28 direct flights from the UAE to Ireland have had and also the huge benefit of the lifting of the visa requirements for Emirati citizens since January 31st 2018.

The Minister concluded her visit to the UAE by saying, “We have a huge amount in common. We are both hi-tech, knowledge based and ambitious countries. In my opinion we are natural partners. There is a very strong interaction at political level between our two countries and I sincerely hope that my St Patrick’s Day visit, will in some small way have strengthened our ties. There have been four Irish Ministerial visits since last November and I hope that my visit has solidified our warm and close relationship. I am delighted to have met with the Expo 2020 team while I was here and to have shared with them first-hand how committed we are to Expo 2020, with innovation being the hallmark of Ireland’s participation. I am genuinely thrilled that both Ministers for Higher Education and Infrastructure have confirmed a return visit to Ireland where we will be able to show them first hand the excellence within our Higher Education Institutes”.

Minister Mitchell O Connor meets her equivalent in Oman and they discuss Ireland’s Technological Universities

Minister Mitchell O’Connor is currently in the Middle East and has met with Her Excellency Dr. Rawya Saud Al Busaidi in the Department of Higher Education in Oman.

Ireland has over 500 Omani students.

Dr. Rawya Saud Al Busaidi asked Minister Mitchell O’Connor for her advice on setting up Technological Universities and how could Oman benefit from Ireland’s recent experience.

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