Minister Mitchell O’Connor announces ring fenced funding for the Castlebar campus of GMIT

The Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, TD, today 15th December 2017 published the report of the Working Group on the future of the Castlebar campus of GMIT.

The Working Group was established by the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T.D., and the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD, in March 2017. The objective of the Working group was to formulate a plan for the sustainable future of the GMIT Mayo Campus in Castlebar.

The Working Group was chaired by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and comprised representatives from GMIT, the Department of Education and Skills, and important local stakeholders such as Mayo County Council and local business interests.

The report provides a wide-ranging assessment of the context within which the Campus is currently operating, and outlines a proposed vision for the Mayo Campus, as well as a strategic and comprehensive plan to address the financial and sustainability issues which have been experienced by the GMIT Mayo Campus in recent years.

In publishing the report, Minister Mitchell O’Connor pointed to some of the measures that would be implemented by her Department to support a sustainable future for the GMIT Mayo Campus:

“I welcome the report of the Working Group. It provides a roadmap for the sustainable future of GMIT in Castlebar. My Department will be working with the HEA and GMIT to ensure that the recommendations are implemented as quickly as possible. I am pleased to announce today that I will be providing ring fenced funding of €750,000 for the Castlebar campus for each of the next five years while the plan is being implemented. I will also be providing capital funding for the replacement of the roof of the GMIT campus that is currently in need of repair. These, along with the implementation of the other recommendations by GMIT, will ensure that the future of the GMIT Castlebar campus is secured”.

Other key recommendations to be progressed by GMIT will be the recruitment of a permanent head of campus for Castlebar, the establishment of a sub-committee of the GMIT governing body to oversee the development of the Mayo campus, and the appointment of an interim independent external facilitator to work with the executive board, campus and other stakeholders to oversee the transition to the new structural and operational arrangements.

The Working Group’s recommendations will be implemented over the next five years, over the period 2018-2022, with a review of progress at the end of year 2. There will also be formal progress reports to be submitted to the GMIT Governing Body and the HEA every four months.

Minister Mitchell O’ Connor thanked those who had contributed to the Working Group report:

“I would like to thank the members of the Working Group for their participation, as well as those stakeholders who contributed to the process. This includes the Governing Body and management team of GMIT, staff and students in GMIT, and local stakeholders. I hope that we can continue to work together in implementing the recommendations in the Working Group report. The clear message from the publication of the Working Group report today is that the Castlebar campus is open for business and that it will continue to play a vital role in the years ahead in providing educational and training opportunities in the Galway Mayo region and contributing to local and regional economic growth”.


GMIT Working Group

The GMIT Working Group was chaired by the HEA and comprised representatives of GMIT, the Department of Education and Skills and the HEA. The brief of the working group was to formulate a plan towards a sustainable future and growth options for GMIT Mayo Campus, Castlebar.

The Working Group engaged extensively with the local community and business interests, staff and students of GMIT, the executive and board of GMIT, local public representatives, and other stakeholders. This included a number of meetings and open fora.

To inform the work of the Group, a base of information was gathered including an analysis of labour market needs in the region, student supply and demand, the role of the further education sector and the impact of the campus on the local and regional economy. The views of external stakeholders were sought in relation to these matters and 23 submissions were received and considered by the Working Group. These views and submissions were considered by the Working Group and have fed into its overall deliberations, resulting in the compilation of the final report.

Key recommendations of the Working Group Report:

• The appointment of a dedicated permanent head of Mayo campus at vice-president to lead the practical delivery of this plan. (Recommendation 1)
• Establishment of a sub-committee of the GMIT governing body to oversee the development of the Mayo campus.
• Greater Mayo representation on the governing body should be facilitated where possible and within relevant policy and legislative frameworks
• Appointment of an interim independent external facilitator to work with the executive board, campus and other stakeholders to oversee the transition to the new structural and operational arrangements
• New programme development to be aligned with institute and campus strategies, the regional skills audit and market research including engagement with regional employers and representative groups
• The potential for development of new apprenticeship proposals (e.g. digital media, sales skills) should be investigated
• International and postgraduate offerings to be further developed to diversify the campus income base
• A mapping exercise should be undertaken with further education to build and communicate new progression pathways
• The Mayo Campus should continue its development as a centre of excellence for lifelong learning within GMIT
• A distinct marketing plan should be developed & implemented supported by a new dedicated marketing resource , with a major re-launch campaign for 2018/19
• Part of the roof to be replaced as soon as possible
• The development of a campus enterprise development strategy
• GMIT should seek designation of the campus as eligible for additional multi-campus funding when the new HEA funding model is established
• GMIT should seek time bound ring-fenced funding to allow the plan to be fully implemented and ensure future campus sustainability
• GMIT should engage with the DES on seeking approval to participate in a voluntary redundancy scheme

Minister Mitchell O’Connor launches two QQI reports to enhance quality in Higher Education

Mary Mitchell O Connor, T.D., Minister for Higher Education, today launched two reports by the national regulator for quality in Further and Higher Education:

· Quality within higher education which is a summary report of the quality assurance and quality enhancement activities in publicly funded higher education institutions pertaining to the previous academic year; and

· Professional Body Accreditation in Higher Education Institutions in Ireland which was commissioned by QQI to establish a clearer picture of the professional accreditation landscape in Ireland.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor indicated: “These reports provide evidence of the commitment of our publicly funded higher education institutions to maintain and promote quality of teaching and learning. There are positive messages in terms of the emergence of a ‘quality’ culture within our institutions and in how our institutions are using data collated through national surveys or at institutional level to improve the student experience”.

The key findings from Quality within Higher Education include the following:

· Work is continuing across HEIs to improve the student experience, with institutions continuing to focus on initiatives aimed at enhancing the first-year experience and increasing progression rates.

· The profile of quality offices within HEIs is increasing, while Quality Assurance is also becoming an area of growing strategic importance to Irish HEIs.

· Data continues to play an increasing role in QA in Irish HEIs, with the Irish Survey of the Student Experience (ISSE) in particular providing a way for institutions to benchmark nationally.

The report on Professional Body Accreditation in Higher Education Institutions in Ireland was produced by the Professional Association Research Network (PARN) in collaboration with all the universities, institutes of technology and those private independent providers availing of accreditation for programmes from professional bodies.

The report highlights the scale of professional body accreditation activity, with over 140 professional bodies active in this area. The report highlights the benefits to higher education institutions of accreditation activity but also identifies that these engagements can be resource intensive.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor commented: “The PARN report provides for the first time a clear picture of the professional accreditation landscape in Irish higher education. I expect that it will allow QQI to identify where efficiencies can be made in the future and to explore future data sharing opportunities which will reduce the impact of such accreditation on our higher education institutions while maintaining the benefits to institutions and their students”.

The two reports are available on the QQI website

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”.


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