Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor turns sod on €30 million Student Accommodation Project

Minister Mitchell O’Connor today turned the sod on Oisín House at Trinity College Dublin.

The new purpose built student accommodation will comprise 250 bed spaces, disability services, retail units, a health unit, sports and recreation facilities and Estates & Facilities support space once complete. The overall floor area will be 12,110 square meters and the building will be six floors high.

The estimated cost of the project is approximately €30 million and the expected completion date is Q3, 2019. The project is being managed by Trinity College Dublin, and will be financed by the college’s own reserves and from EIB and other commercial banks.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said:-
“I am delighted to have been invited by Trinity College today to turn the sod on Oisín House. A development which will play an important part, not only in the life of the University, but also in helping to reduce the difficulties that students are faced with in arranging accommodation during the current housing shortage.

“I launched the National Student Accommodation Strategy on this site last July and I am delighted to be back here today to see the progress of an important contribution to the targets set out in that plan.

“The target of 7,000 additional bed spaces will be met, if not exceeded and I am delighted to report that over 2,600 purpose built bed spaces have now been completed since launch of Rebuilding Ireland with a further 3,800 under construction and 5,000 more bed spaces either approved for planning or awaiting approval at the current time.

“Delivering purpose built student accommodation is not simply about reaching targets, it is about offering real choice to students and reducing the inevitable stresses which come with looking for somewhere to live.

“It is important to remember that students living in this accommodation will not only be members of the Trinity community, but will also become members of the local community in the Pearse Street area. I hope that this development will be an asset to this area and I have no doubt that the future residents of this accommodation will be encouraged to engage with the wider community”.

Notes

Oisín House will be built on Pearse Street to provide 250 student rooms over a Health and Sports Centre for Trinity College. The project is bedded in its Dublin location, yet is a contemporary interpretation of that environment, working to make a new vernacular for the city. The courtyard plan can be seen as a strategic extension to the sequence of Trinity squares, yet it also acts as a public city square and will serve as a public gateway between the College and the city, bringing increased life to this relatively dead section of Pearse Street.

The form is like a granite rock with an undulating stone roof folded and shaped, reflecting the mountains in distant view to the South and, at close quarters, a grouping of ordinary Georgian roofs glimpsed in the city. It feels like a solid mass externally excavated and penetrated by routes and ways through. Its materiality reflects its form and location – a board-marked concrete working plinth supporting a granite upper world – which descends to ground floor to encase it externally, revealing the concrete core at key moments.

TCD currently has a total of 1,750 PBSA units. 600 of the units are within the campus, 200 are in Goldsmith Hall on Pearse Street and there are 950 located in Dartry. The existing on campus PBSA is currently let at rates ranging from €140 – €180 per week depending on type (single, shared, ensuite etc.). Off-campus PBA are at 100% occupancy rate.

For further information about the project visit http://www.universitytimes.ie/2017/07/government-launches-accommodation-strategy-launched-promising-21000-student-beds-by-2024/

http://mcculloughmulvin.com/printing-house-square/2017/1/19/printing-house-square

Minister Mitchell O’Connor opens IT Sligo Constance Markievicz building

• Refurbished School of Business & Social Sciences named after one of Ireland’s most influential female historical figures
• Building’s name was chosen following poll amongst students and staff of the Institute
• €7 million refurbishment provides a transformed 21st learning and teaching environment
• Officially Opened by Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D.

Institute of Technology, Sligo’s newly refurbished School of Business & Social Sciences Building was officially opened on Monday.

Students, staff and invited guests gathered in the new facility which is being named after Constance Markievicz, one of Ireland’s most influential historical figures, and who had a deep association with the North West.

The €7 million project was officially opened by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D.

The 4,400 square-metre refurbishment, completed in October, was designed by Rhatigan & Company Architects, Sligo and was built by Boyle Construction, Donegal. It comprises 16 classrooms/lecture theatres; eight PC labs; four Early Childhood/Creative Design Studios; two social learning areas; offices for 72 staff as well as a café and support space.

The name of the new building was chosen following an internal competition amongst students and staff of the Institute.

“We asked our students and staff for their suggestions, and the name which received most traction was Constance Markievicz,” explains Dr Michael Barrett, Head of School of Business & Social Sciences at IT Sligo.

“She is one of Ireland’s most influential female historical figures, and her name has a strong resonance in Sligo and the North West. The fact that she continues to strikes a chord with both the younger and older generations was one of the key factors in the decision to name the building after her.”

Born in February 1868, Countess Constance Markievicz (her maiden name was Gore-Booth) was a suffragette, a socialist and a leading figure in the Irish Republican movement. She was spent most of her childhood in Lissadell House in County Sligo, and played a major role in the 1916 Rising. She became first Irish female cabinet minister in Dáil Éireann, and was also the first woman to be elected to the British parliament in 1918.

Speaking at Monday’s official Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “The scale and ambition of IT Sligo for its students and staff is neatly encapsulated in this spectacular new facility.

“In terms of infrastructural landscape, IT Sligo can justifiably lay claim to having one of the most advanced and dynamic campuses in the Institute of Technology sector today.

“This new building also marries that sense of looking to the future with celebrating the past, as reflected in naming the facility in honour of one of Ireland’s best known female historical figures.”

Dr Brendan McCormack, President of IT Sligo, said: “One of IT Sligo’s key objectives for the next five years is to create an innovative and inspiring learning and teaching environment.

“Students come to IT Sligo because they get the support to be successful in their learning and this new facility is a reflection of that ambition. It has a ‘University’ feel to it – which matches our ambition to build scale as IT Sligo moves confidently towards achieving Technological University status.”

The new external identity of IT Sligo’s Constance Markievicz building provides increased visual prominence for the northern end of the campus through the redesign of the old 1970s facades, the internal refurbishment to improve layout, natural daylight and ventilation standards whilst uplifting the internal spaces with new finishes.

The buildings approach to energy efficiency has taken into account the improvement of building fabric, reducing the requirement for heating and lighting through a reduction in elemental U-values and high efficiency plant with increased environmental control. Existing fenestration patterns have been redesigned to improve the internal daylight factor and allow natural ventilation.

The Constance Markievicz building will be home to some 1823 students and 118 staff in the Institute’s School of Business & Social Sciences.

Ireland will be hosting the 10th European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State with special responsibility for Higher Education today (17th November 2017) has announced that Ireland will host the 10th European Conference on Gender Equality in Higher Education.

This is the first occasion that this major biannual conference will be held in Ireland. These European conferences have since 1998 brought together hundreds of gender equality practitioners, researchers and administrators from Europe and beyond.
The conference provides an international forum to discuss and exchange information and experiences on the challenges related to gender in academia, gender equality promotion and interventions in higher education and research institutions.

The Minister stated “hosting of this conference is an ideal opportunity for Ireland to outline the advances we are making towards tackling gender inequality in our third level institutions. These conferences provide a major international meeting point of higher education researchers and policy makers, and we can learn from the experiences of colleagues in other countries, to assist us in addressing the challenges that we all face”.

The conferences provide a unique international forum for networking and the discussion and exchange of information, experiences, policies and research findings from universities, higher education institutions and non-university research institutions. The European Network on Gender Equality in Higher Education, which was established as a result of the conferences, provides an international forum to share information about good practices and experiences as well as research results concerning changes and challenges related to gender equality in academia. It connects over 500 members from over 30 countries

The Minister further stated “The Gender Equality Task Force that I recently established which builds on work done for the 2016 HEA National Review on Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions, will report in 2018. The hosting of the conference is opportune and will enable us to highlight the outcomes of both the work of the 2016 Gender review and the Task Force to both a national and international audience”.

Previous conferences were organised by a local group, consisting of a number of stakeholders. The Trinity Centre for Gender Equality and Leadership (TCGEL) will work closely with representatives from the Irish universities, Institutes of Technology and other stakeholders in framing a programme for the conference.

The first European conference on gender equality in higher education was organized in Finland by the University of Helsinki in 1998.

Since then the conferences have been held in Zürich (2000), Genoa (2003), Oxford (2005), Berlin (2007), Stockholm (2009), Bergen (2012), Vienna (2014) and Paris 2016.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor announces €6.3m allocation to support Technological University development and higher education landscape restructuring

The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today (Tuesday, 14 November) announced the allocation of €6.3 million in funding in support of  the ongoing restructuring of the higher education landscape including the development of consortia projects seeking to progress to designation as Technological Universities.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “The landscape of Irish higher education is significantly evolving. The Government continues to back this progressive evolution in higher education by all available means not least in a practical funding manner.  The latest funding allocation includes €4 million in ring-fenced funding secured in Budget 2017 for the development of technological universities and further significant funding has been secured in this regard in Budget 2018 also.”

She went on to say “The total €6.3 million in funding announced today will continue to support six significant projects. These projects will build national capacity, improve teaching and learning, the student experience, build skills supply and further strengthen the interface between higher education and industry that has been so important to Ireland’s economic recovery.

In relation to the Technological University development projects, this significant funding is of very practical assistance to consortia seeking Technological University designation. Taken together with the progression of the Technological Universities Bill, which I am bringing to Committee Stage in the Dáil tomorrow, this is further testament to the Government’s committment to make the long-sought concept of Technological Universities a reality”.

In addition to the four Technological University development consortia, the other landscape restructuring projects to which further funding has been allocated comprises the incorporation of Dublin City University, St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Mater Dei Institute and Church of Ireland College of Education. This landscape project has created a “New DCU” pluralist teacher education centre of international relevance and scale. Finally, there is the ongoing restructuring project which has seen the successful integration of Shannon College of Hotel Management with NUI Galway and the progression of an agreement between NUI Galway and St. Angela’s College Sligo, whereby these institutions aim to create an internationally recognised centre of excellence in teacher education on Ireland’s western seaboard.

Notes

The 2012 National Strategy for Higher Education provided for substantial changes to the landscape of Irish higher education including reform of teacher education, improved institutional alignment and the development of Technological Universities.

Technological Universities will have an emphasis on the social and economic development of their regions through an emphasis on programmes at levels 6 to 8 on the National Qualifications Framework and the development and use of new knowledge through industry-focused research. Technological Universities will also enhance the pivotal national role traditionally played by the Institutes of Technology in facilitating access and progression by a wide range of students.

The National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ) is a system of ten levels used to describe the Irish qualifications system. The NFQ is based on standards of knowledge, skill and competence and incorporates awards made for all kinds of learning, wherever it is gained (see: www.nfq-qqi.com/).

2017 Funding Call in support of Higher Education landscape restructuring

The HEA invited submissions for funding support in respect of the costs arising from landscape reform as part of the implementation of the National Strategy for Higher Education in October 2017. The total funding available under this call in academic year 2017/18 is c. €6.3 million. This call follows the allocation of similar landscape reconfiguration funding by the HEA in 2015/16. Further information and landscape reform is available on the HEA website at: http://hea.ie/policy/he-reform/the-changing-landscape/

Funding Allocations by Consortia 2017–2018

The 2017 – 2018 allocations are set out in the Table under. Expenditure will be subject to ongoing monitoring, review and formal approval by the HEA.

Higher Education Landscape Funding Allocations 2017–2018 (€m)
Technological University Consortia HEA to date 2017–2018
Connacht Ulster Alliance €0.92 €1.20
Munster Technological University €1.27 €1.03
TU4Dublin €2.62 €2.26
Technological University for the South-East €0.57 €0.15
Institutional Mergers    
DCU Incorporation €9.91 €1.50
NUIG Incorporation €1.65 €0.15
Totals €16.94m €6.29m

 

Technological Universities Consortia

There are currently four consortia of Institutes of Technology engaged with the process seeking to become designated as technological universities:

  • Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA), consisting of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo, and Letterkenny Institute of Technology
  • Munster Technological University (MTU), consisting of Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee
  • TU4Dublin, consisting of Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Tallaght and Institute of Technology Blanchardstown
  • Technological University for the South-East (TUSE), consisting of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow.

 

Technological Universities Bill 2015

The legislative process for the Technological Bill 2015 commenced in January 2014 and had passed Committee Stage when the 31st Dáil was dissolved in February 2016. 

As a result of a number of issues raised regarding the Technological Universities Bill, the Department of Education and Skills, as directed by Minister Bruton, undertook consultations with stakeholders, including Trade Unions and as part of that process, a clarification document was agreed between the Department, Teachers’ Union of Ireland and the Technological Higher Education Association.   TUI members voted to accept the agreement in June 2017 and suspended their industrial action in relation to the development of Technological Universities.  A clarification document also issued to IMPACT as part of this process. The main issues covered during consultation process related to terms and conditions for staff, strengthening the regional remit of a technological university, membership of governing bodies and amendments to the application process for designation as a technological university.

Detailed drafting of the insertions and amendments to the Bill was approved by Government in July 2017 and was progressed in the interim by the Department with the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General. The Insertions and amendments to the Technological Universities 2015 Bill (As initiated) will be brought to Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann on 15 November 2017 by the Minister for Higher Education.

Library Services in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown to receive investment of over €100,000

Library services in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown are to receive €100,800 in extra funding, Fine Gael Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has said.

The funding was announced this week by the Minister for Rural & Community Development, Michael Ring TD.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “This represents an unprecedented Government investment in our public libraries. The funding will allow for the modernisation of our library service and for the extension of library opening hours.”

“The investment package comprises €75,600 from the Department of Rural and Community Development, supplemented by additional funding of €25,200 from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council. This funding is in addition to significant funding already provided by Minister Ring’s Department for public libraries here this year.”

“A library is much more than a building with books on a shelf, it is a community hub, a centre of knowledge and learning, a treasure trove of literature, information and technology. This investment in libraries in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown will greatly enhance the range and quality of services available to users.”

“As an avid reader myself, as well as a former School Principal, Teacher, Mother and Grandmother I value the role our libraries have in education, culture, personal development and entertainment as well as providing access to IT facilities and meeting spaces.”

“In the days of electronic readers and e-books it is heartening to see that rather than libraries declining, they continue to grow. In Dun Laoghaire Rathdown, library membership grew by over 20,000 between 2010 and 2015, testament to the key role our libraries play in our communities.”

“This investment will enable the implementation of our new public library strategy which will be launched early next year and which will be focused on modernising the public library service in Dun Laoghaire Rathdown. It’s an ambitious strategy which is aimed at increasing library membership and usage of our public libraries.

“This programme of funding demonstrates Fine Gaels continued commitment to the public library service over the coming five-year period of the strategy.”

“I’ve traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.” – Janice James

Minister Mitchell O’Connor welcomes Cabinet approval for progression of the Technological Universities Bill

The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. welcomed the approval by the Government of insertions and amendments to the Technological Universities Bill.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor said, “I am delighted that we can now proceed to progress the revised Technological Universities Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas. I look forward to debating and engaging with Deputies and Senators on this very important piece of legislation for the Higher Education sector.

The Minister stated “I am sure we will produce through the legislative process what will be seen as a very significant milestone in the evolution of the Higher Education sector and the Institutes of Technology sector in particular. The legislation when enacted will underpin the development of a new type of Higher Education institution, focusing on the combined strengths of our excellent Institutes of Technology to develop into top class Technological Universities”.

The Government had previously approved the key insertions and amendments to the Technological Universities Bill in July. The insertions and amendments were developed following a consultation process with stakeholders including the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, IMPACT, the Union of Students in Ireland and the Technological Higher Education Association. These amendments relate to terms and conditions of service for staff, strengthening the regional remit of a Technological University, membership of governing bodies and amendments to the application process for Technological University designation.

It is also intended that an insertion will be made at Report Stage of the Bill to allow the Minister for Education and Skills to appoint an investigator to a publicly funded Higher Education institution to investigate and report on issues related to governance and management of the institution. The relevant provisions will be introduced at Report Stage for which Cabinet approval will also be sought. The drafting of these specific amendments are being finalised between Department officials and the Attorney General’s Office.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “The advancement of the Bill to early enactment by the end of the year if possible, will pave the way for consortia that are ready to make applications for designation to apply and be assessed in 2018.

She went on to say, “This will be a very significant and advantageous step for the Higher Education sector and will have major benefits for the sector, students, the community and regional development. It will constitute a step change for the new institutions when established in terms of their critical mass, reach and influence regionally, nationally and internationally”.

Status of Technological University Consortia

There are currently four consortia engaged with the process to become designated as Technological Universities. These are TU4Dublin (Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Tallaght, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown), Technological University for the South-East (TUSE – consisting of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow), Munster Technological University (MTU – consisting of Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee) and the Connaught Ulster Alliance (CUA – consisting of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo and Letterkenny Institute of Technology).

Breast Cancer Ireland Fundraiser: Thank You

I was delighted that so many people attended the recent coffee morning in the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. It was a very positive event and there was a wonderful atmosphere in the room.

Thank you so much to everyone who attended on the day, and to those who were unable to attend and sent good wishes. Thanks also for the donations to Breast Cancer Ireland, we raised €675 through your generosity. Please see below a copy of the acknowledgement from BCI in thanks for the funds raised.

Breast cancer is currently the second most common cancer in women in Ireland. Every year it affects about 3,000 women and 20 men in this country. Breast Cancer Ireland, and other cancer charities, do phenomenal work to support patients and their families, as well as contributing to vital ongoing research to help to combat the disease.

I would like to thank the Royal Irish Yacht Club for the beautiful setting for the event; and Ciara Holmes, from Breast Cancer Ireland, for giving her time to attend on the morning.

Sincere thanks to Ian McConnell from the band El C, who also joined us on the day. Ian played their Christmas Single “Don’t Cry for Christmas”, a beautiful, poignant song, which touched the hearts of everyone in the room. The single can be pre-ordered here and all proceeds from the song will go to The Irish Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK, in memory of lost loved ones.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor launches Gender Equality Taskforce for Higher Education

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State with special responsibility for Higher Education today (6th November 2017) has announced the establishment of a Gender Equality Taskforce.

The Minister has appointed this high level taskforce to prepare a prioritised three year action plan, in consultation with stakeholders.

The Task force will also oversee a national systems review of the recruitment and promotion policies and practices currently in place in higher education institutions, with a view to identifying good-practice and highlighting areas that need improvement. This will feed into the development of actions for the action plan.

Funding of €500,000 was provided in Budget 2018 to support the work of the Taskforce and greater gender equality in the sector. A regular reporting mechanism will be put in place to track progress on the various actions to be implemented.

The Task Force will build on work done for the HEA National Review on Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions, which was published in 2016. That report set out an important analysis of the position in relation to gender equality in Irish higher education institutions and made recommendations to improve the position.
The Task Force will identify good practices in the higher education sector, including in those institutions who have been awarded Athena Swan awards and lessons learnt from those that have not been successful with Athena Swan applications.
Commenting on the review of recruitment and promotion systems, the Minister said that “I was very concerned that nearly three quarters of respondents to a HEA survey on gender equality indicated that there were issues in relation to transparency in recruitment, promotion and progress in higher education institutions. I want these issues thoroughly examined and changes put in place where needed”.

The Minister went on to say that “I know there are good practices in our higher education system, but we need to ensure that all institutions learn from these. Where improvements are required, they need to be addressed without delay. Having a national action plan with progress monitored on a regular basis will help to drive the change that we need to see. It will give us a clear line of sight on all relevant activities across the sector. “

The Chairperson of the Task Force, Marie O’Connor, said “I am delighted to have been asked by Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor to chair this Task Force on Gender Equality within our Higher Educations Institutions. Gender equality starts at home – none of us today have lesser ambitions for our daughters than our sons! It is important as all students enter education that there are female role models and mentors and this is even more vital in the Higher Education Institutes which are so influential in the development of skills for future careers of young people.

We know that diversity fosters innovation, brings new ideas, new ways of working and makes for better communities and businesses. Women are significantly underrepresented in top positions in the higher education sectors In Ireland and indeed across Europe. The recent HEA Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutes indicates that talent alone is not always enough to guarantee success for women and that a culture change is necessary to foster an environment where our daughters, sisters, aunts and our mums have equal opportunity and encouragement as their male counterparts to progress in their career pipeline and that this influential sector in Ireland achieves a long lasting and sustainable change. The task force and l look forward to working with the Minister, Department, Higher Education Authority, higher education institutes and stakeholders on how to best address gender equality.

Taskforce members

Chairperson Marie O’Connor
Marie O ‘Connor was a financial services partner at PwC in Ireland for 30 years. She has also been a board member of a number of State and Not for Profit organisations. Marie was the founding Irish Country Lead for 30% Club and continues as a member of its steering committee. Nominated in 2017 as one of Financial Times FT Heroes for Championing Women in Business, Marie was also honoured by Irish America Magazine as one of its Wall St 50 for 2017 and its Inaugural Top 50 Women in 2016

Mr Ryan Shanks
Ryan Shanks is Head of Strategy Practice at Accenture Ireland, delivering technology-enabled strategy and transformation initiatives that position Accenture s clients to take advantage of the latest business opportunities.
Ryan has over 17 years’ experience of successfully delivering large-scale, complex change and transformation programmes across multiple industry and the public sector.

Professor Philip Nolan
Professor Philip Nolan, President of Maynooth University, overseeing all operations from teaching and research to capital development and international initiatives. He is responsible for setting the future direction and goals for the University.

Dr. Patricia Mulcahy
Dr. Mulcahy is President of Institute of Technology Carlow. She was recently appointed as the new IBEC South East Regional President. She is also chairperson of the South East Regional Skills Forum.

Sheila Nunan
Sheila Nunan is the General Secretary of the INTO. She has been a member of the Executive of the INTO since 1995 and was INTO President in 2005/2006. Sheila is the current President of ICTU having been elected at the Biennial Delegate Conference in Belfast in July 2017.

HEA Review of systems of recruitment and promotion

The Minister has requested the Higher Education Authority to commission a review of the systems of recruitment and promotion in operation in publicly funded higher education institutions in the Republic of Ireland will be conducted. This work will be overseen by the Taskforce announced today.

The objective of the review is to provide a national position of the recruitment and promotion practices currently in place in the HEIs, with a view to identifying good-practice and highlighting areas that need improvement. Institutions will be expected to take steps to improve their systems in a specified timescale where the need for improvement is identified.

The review will seek to identify good practice in the system including in those institutions who have been awarded Athena Swan institute awards or have made applications.

The terms of reference for the Task Force will be to:
• Oversee a review of the systems of recruitment and promotion policies and practices in higher education institutions,
• Review national and international practice and relevant literature including the Review on Gender Equality published by the HEA in 2016 and good practices arising from the Athena Swan process and lessons learnt from unsuccessful applications,
• Consult with relevant stakeholders,
• Prepare a prioritised three year action plan.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor launches an online resource to inform Higher Level Institutions’ Student Retention Strategies

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, T.D., Minister of State for Higher Education, today 2nd of November, 2017, launched an online resource to assist higher level institutions to create effective student retention strategies and to enhance student experiences. The Online Resource for Learning Analytics (ORLA) was developed by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning to support institutions to use existing data to benefit their students’ learning. The Minister stated, ” This resource will help institutions, teachers and researchers to better understand students’ learning behaviour. The insights gained from analysing data that institutions already have can enable them to both enhance the student experience and reach out to students experiencing difficulties”.

On average, approx. 15% of third-level students do not progress to the second year of their course. Some of these students could be helped to stay in education if institutions applied Learning Analytics (LA) to the data in their in-house student systems to develop new approaches and strategies to support students to continue with their studies. ORLA is a tool box that provides a detailed introduction to the concepts and applications of Learning Analytics. The resources can be used to develop institutional strategies and help teachers make better use of the data available to them. They are supported by a suite of case studies, written and submitted by educators who have successfully incorporated LA into their teaching or module management.

Welcoming the Ministers announcement of ORLA, Sarah Moore, chair of the National Forum said, “Employing Learning Analytics intelligently can provide predictive models that can help shape our teaching approaches, allowing us to look at what is working for our students and what is not. The tools contained in ORLA can inform earlier and more focussed student interventions, with a view to optimising student success.”

The comprehensive suite of information available through ORLA was developed by the National Forum in conjunction with over 60 representatives from across the higher education sector. The National Forum will continue to work over the coming years with institutions to develop their use of Learning Analytics, for example targeting support for priority groups identified in the HEA National Access Plan. ORLA can be accessed through www.teachingandlearning.ie/orla

Minister Bruton and Minister Mitchell O’Connor welcome results of first external review of fund for students with disabilities

Nearly 350% increase in number of beneficiaries to the scheme in past 10 years

Working Group to be established to fully implement recommendations of the Review

Minister of Education and Skills Richard Bruton and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor today welcomed the publication of the first external review of the Fund for Students with Disabilities (FSD).

This is the first formal external review since this fund was established in 1994. The review notes that from 2007 to 2014 the number of students being supported through the Fund grew from 3,500 to over 10,000 beneficiaries and more recent figures provided by the HEA demonstrates that the significant increase in numbers applying and eligible for funding has continued into the 2016/2017 academic year with over 12,000 students now receiving assistance.

The Fund was established to support full-time students on approved further and higher education courses with disabilities who might otherwise, because of financial reasons, suffer severe hardship or be unable to continue their third level studies. The Fund is managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills, and is co-funded by the Irish Government and the European Social Fund as part of the ESF Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.

RSM Consultancy was commissioned by the HEA in April 2016 to undertake the review of the Fund and to make recommendations on the future policy and operation of the fund. The review concentrated on four main areas:

  • Financial provision of the Fund;
  • HEA model and guidelines;
  • Student experience of the fund;
  • Educational institutions and the fund.

The review evaluated the effectiveness of the Fund in supporting access and participation in further and higher education by students with disabilities. It also assessed whether the policies, guidelines and practices for the Fund are fit for purpose and in line with international best practice. The review made a number of recommendations on what aspects of the Fund are working well and where improvements could be made.

The Higher Education Authority has committed to fully implementing the recommendations of the Review and has committed to establishing a Working Group to oversee this implementation.

Speaking today, Minister Bruton said:

“Ensuring our education system is inclusive and meets the needs of all our students is a key priority of mine as Minister. The Fund for Students with Disabilities plays a vital role in ensuring students with disabilities can access and remain in further and higher education, by helping students overcome obstacles which might otherwise hinder them from completing their course.  I was pleased that the review found that students’ experience of the fund is positive and I am committed to ensuring that a Working Group is established to implement any recommendations for improvement”.

Commenting today, Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. said:

“I welcome the publication of the report on the Fund for Students with Disabilities today. The Fund for Students with Disabilities is available to students with disabilities attending both further and higher education courses and to students attending approved courses in Northern Ireland, the UK and the EU. We want to ensure that students with disabilities can access and fully participate in their chosen courses and that essential funding is available to ensure that they successfully complete their chosen course of study. A review of the Fund is one of the key actions identified in the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015 – 2019 and I am pleased that this review has been completed”

Further information on the Review of the Fund for Students with Disabilities is available at www.hea.ie.