Minister Mitchell O’Connor leads largest Education Mission to India to date

Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. Minister of State for Higher Education arrives in New Delhi, India today (Friday 23rd February 2018) to lead the ‘Education in Ireland’ trade mission to India.

The trade mission is built around Education in Ireland Fairs organised by Enterprise Ireland in 5 cities; Chennai; Bangalore; Kochi; New Delhi and Pune.

Admission staff and academics from 20 Irish Higher Education Institutions will engage with over 2,000 Indian students during the Education in Ireland Fairs, making this the largest education mission to India to date.

Speaking prior to her departure Minister Mitchell O’Connor said; “I am delighted to lead the largest Education in Ireland mission to India to date, where 20 Irish higher education institutions will accompany me to promote the Irish higher education sector. Ireland’s Higher Education Institutions are at the forefront of research and innovation. We are known for delivering ‘employment-ready’ skills so students can transition smoothly into the workplace. This has been an important driver in Ireland’s transformation into a high tech, knowledge based economy. The possibility of gaining valuable post-study work experience makes Ireland a very compelling option for Indian students”.

She continued; “This mission is part of the Department of Education and Skills’ plan to substantially increase the numbers of international students studying in our higher education institutions, by 33%, from 33,000 to 44,000 by 2020”.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor will visit the Education in Ireland Fair in New Delhi on Saturday 24th February where she will meet with Irish higher education institutions and their Indian agents as well as Indian students considering moving to Ireland to study for a third-level qualification.

In New Delhi, Minister Mitchell O’Connor will visit Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where she will witness the signing of an agreement of understanding between JNU and University of Limerick. The signing is the latest development in the relationship between the two universities which is focussed on growing research collaboration, the exchange of faculty, researchers and students and joint cultural programmes.

She will also witness the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Birla Institute of Technology & Science and Trinity College Dublin.

At a reception to be hosted on Friday night by the Irish Ambassador to India H.E. Brian McElduff, Minister Mitchell O’Connor will announce details of two new programmes launched by Cork Institute of Technology and NUI Galway; open the call for applications for the ‘Government of Ireland -International Education Scholarships’; and launch the ‘Ireland-India Alumni Network’.

The launch of Cork Institute of Technology’s MSc in Artificial Intelligence and the new MSc in Business & Hospitality offered at NUI Galway’s Shannon College is expected to attract a high level of interest from Indian students during the Education in Ireland fairs.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor will travel on to Mumbai where on Monday 26th February she will meet with officials of the Government of Maharashtra and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Mumbai University to discuss how to develop further collaborations between Ireland and the State of Maharashtra in the areas of international mobility of students, staff and research initiatives.

Giles O’Neill, Head of Education in Ireland at Enterprise Ireland said; “India is now the fastest growing education market for Irish higher education institutions. Latest figures from Enterprise Ireland show a 90% growth in exports from the Irish education sector to India since 2013. In 2017, Higher Education Institutions saw a rise of 25% in the level of interest from Indian students wishing to study in Ireland. Based on the positive response and levels of interest we have seen from across India on this Education in Ireland mission, we expect to see similar growth in the next academic cycle. This is as a result of the commitment and resource dedicated to India by our international offices and academics in Irish higher education institutions. Most importantly, it is down to the experience those Indian students experience whilst in Ireland – a world class education, a tremendous life experience and something that prepares them well for their own international careers”.

The 20 higher education institutions participating in the 5 Education in Ireland fairs in India are: Athlone Institute of Technology; Cork Institute of Technology; College of Computing Technology; Dublin Business School; Dublin Institute of Technology; Dublin City University; Griffith College Institute of Technology Blanchardstown; Institute of Technology Carlow; Limerick Institute of Technology; Letterkenny Institute of Technology; Maynooth University; Michael Smurfit Business School; National College of Ireland; National University of Ireland Galway; Trinity College Dublin; University College Cork; University College Dublin; University of Limerick; Waterford Institute of Technology.

Higher Education Central to Success of Project Ireland 2040

– €2.2 billion will transform sector infrastructure
– Technological Universities will be the key to regional development

I am delighted that Project Ireland 2040 recognises the vital importance of higher education to our medium and long term growth as an economy and society.

There are two priorities for higher education:
• A significant increase in the funding available to support refurbishment, maintenance and equipment renewal across the system;

• Setting up a prioritised Exchequer supported higher education building programme to:

– Build the capacity of multi-campus Technological Universities and of Institutes of Technology to deepen the talent pool for regions and to drive research and innovation;

– Generate the additional capacity necessary to support increased enrolments and address skills needs at a regional and national level, including life-long learning;

In recent months I have seen at first hand the need for investment in all our higher education institutions. The case is compelling and overdue.

In parallel I have been steering the Technological Universities Bill through the Oireachtas. The Bill’s enactment is now very close.

Technological Universities and investment in higher education in each region will have a crucial role to play in delivering the skilled and talented people that sustains enterprise clustering and new investments.

The Government’s ambition for the regions will be met by investing in making places attractive for enterprises and developing deeply rooted sectoral clusters and collaborations built around higher education.

Technological Universities will be the beating heart of the regions.

We’re going to deliver eleven major infrastructure projects around the country as part of a PPP programme for higher education at Athlone IT, IT Blanchardstown, IT Carlow, Cork IT, IADT Dun Laoghaire, GMIT, Limerick IT, Letterkenny IT, IT Tallaght, IT Tralee and Waterford IT.

I am also working with institutions to ensure that private finance will also play an important role in the delivery of infrastructure in the higher education sector.

Over the ten year period of the NDP, the 7 universities plan projects (including those awaiting sanction) with total investment of over €3 billion to be funded with a mix of own resources, borrowing, philanthropy and Exchequer grants.

Examples of projects being planned by universities include:
• UCC: new business school, student accommodation, upgrade and expansion of Tyndall Institute, new dental hospital;
• DCU: enhanced capacity in teaching, research and innovation; new student centre, new sports facilities, additional accommodation and 21st century Digital Campus;
• TCD: New business school, E3 learning foundry, student accommodation, Trinity Technology and Enterprise Campus;
• NUIG: New student residences, completion of the Human Biology building and other campus upgrades;
• UL: New student centre, sports facilities, new student residences;
• NUIM: International Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation, new student residences, refurbishment of South Campus;
• UCD: New Teaching and Learning building, Science Centre Phase 3, Centre for Creative Design.

Project Ireland 2040 is an enormous step-change for higher education in Ireland.

The future is bright for our students and society.

Action Plan for Education 2018 Launch


The Action Plan for Education 2018, led by Minister Bruton, is the next step in the Government’s plan to make Ireland’s education and training system the best in Europe by 2026.

An Taoiseach today launched the Plan in St. Audoen’s National School with Minister Bruton, Minister of State Mitchell O’Connor and Minister of State Halligan.

Major international studies have recently shown the strength of the Irish education system. Ireland’s 15-year-olds are among the best in OECD countries in reading and are above average in mathematics and science. Our primary school students are the best in Europe for reading and maths.

The Action Plan for Education 2018 builds on this success and sets out a roadmap for how we plan to support education leaders on the journey to making Ireland’s Education and Training Service the best in Europe by 2026.

Minister Bruton launched a three year plan in 2016. The 2018 plan being announced today is in accordance with his commitment to putting in place an annual process where the government commits to concrete actions and strict timelines.

Some key actions in the 2018 Action Plan:

– School Excellence Fund: Support school clusters to undertake innovative projects in areas of Digital, Disadvantage, Creativity, Gaeltacht and School Inspection under the School Excellence Fund.

– Leadership: Support schools in deploying the recent investment of 3,000 extra posts of responsibility. Improve middle management structures in schools and empower school leadership with training, mentoring and resources. A proportion of the CPD budget will be dedicated to delivering on strategic priorities such as innovation and leadership.

– Brexit: Implement Foreign Languages Strategy to significantly increase the number of students studying a foreign language at all levels. Increase Erasmus uptake. Publish strategy to attract world-leading researchers to higher level institutions in Ireland post-Brexit.

– Digital: Implement Computer Science for Leaving Certificate in 40 schools. Implement School Excellence Fund- Digital to support schools in digital innovation. Progress new maths curriculum for primary schools to include elements of coding. Continue work of Minister’s Digital Implementation group of experts.

– STEM: Formally recognize outside of school initiatives at Junior Cycle. Develop new summer courses in STEM subjects and industry placements for teachers. Deliver 20% increase in take up of students doing STEM for the Leaving Certificate and 40% increase in female participation.

– Disadvantage: Update DEIS Plan – our plan to tackle educational disadvantage. Develop a more tailored resource allocation model for DEIS schools. Address barriers to higher education.

– Parental Choice: Enact the Parent and Student Charter Bill and the School Admissions Bill. Shortly commence Reconfiguration for Diversity process to deliver step up in number of multi-denominational schools.

– Higher Education: Enact Technological Universities Bill, with the first TUs to open in September 2018. Review quality of Higher Education, including the quality of teaching. Implement new model for allocating funding to higher level institutions to better align to national priorities and incentivise lifelong learning, innovation and research. Develop a consistent digital experience for third-level students.

– Wellbeing: Recruit 10 more NEPS psychologists. Provide more guidance to schools on the use of external providers. Publish Wellbeing Policy Statement. Expand Student Support Teams. Support Wellbeing programme for Junior Cycle.

– Special Education: Develop first ever In-School Speech and Language Therapy Service. Undertake comprehensive assessment of the SNA scheme to ensure we are achieving the best outcomes for children with special educational needs.

– Critical skills: Deliver new, revised literacy and numeracy targets given the success of Irish students in meeting existing ones. Increase number of students taking higher level maths at junior cycle and senior cycle.

– Curriculum: trial new assessment methods and commence work on reviewing senior cycle programmes; Implement senior cycle Physical Education as a leaving certificate subject in 80 schools. Develop new Religion and Ethics programme for primary schools. Implement Mathematics, Home Economics, History, Music and Geography to new Junior Cycle.

– Skills: Roll out Springboard+ 2018, offering all courses to those in employment for the first time. Conduct review of career guidance. Publish Entrepreneurship Policy. Develop 25 new apprenticeships and 10 new traineeships

– Teacher supply: establish a Teacher Supply Steering Group; build on initiatives already announced and develop a policy on Teacher supply to support the availability of relevant teaching resources across the system in the short-medium and long term.

– Gaeltacht: Implement Gaeltacht Schools Policy – for which the budget this year has doubled. Issue grants and resources for schools who have opted into Gaeltacht schools scheme. Commence Schools Excellence Fund – Gaeltacht. Commence new M – Ed programme for Irish language teachers.

– Ongoing Review: every agency under the remit of the Department of Education and Skills will be reviewed to ensure they are in line with our ambition to be the best in Europe; first reviews to commence in 2018

An Taoiseach said:

“Education improves our society, boosts our children’s potential and is integral to our economic success. Our approach to education is about giving every child an equal opportunity in life, and that’s why the Government is determined to build the best education and training system in Europe by 2026.

“The Action Plan for Education 2018 builds on achievements made during 2016 and 2017, and the focus this year on excellence and innovation means that we are embedding the extensive reforms already taking place within the sector, for the benefit all learners. This year, for example, we’ll be encouraging schools to work together on innovative projects; we’ll take steps to increase the number of students studying a foreign language and we’ll introduce PE as a Leaving Cert exam subject in 80 schools.

“As a Government, we are spending more on education, increasing teacher supply and investing significantly in new schools. The Action Plan for Education will help to ensure that this investment delivers the best possible results for students at every stage of the education system.”

Minister Bruton said:
“Education is key to delivering on our ambitions as a nation. It is the engine that drives economic growth. It is a powerful tool in breaking down cycles of disadvantage and ensuring every person is given the opportunity to fulfil their full potential.

“I’ve set the ambition to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. Thanks to the leadership and dedication of our education and training providers, this is a realistic goal. International studies have recently shown how far along this journey we already are. This Plan is our roadmap for taking us the rest of the way.

“The expectations from our education and training service are changing. The challenge in the years ahead will be to invest and transform our education system so that it broadens career paths, builds momentum around key curricular reforms, continues to break down cycles of disadvantage and embeds regional development.

“Since I’ve been Minister, the education budget has grown by €1billion. This significant investment shows the importance this Government places on Education. We are hiring more teachers and investing more to support learners with special education needs than ever before. We are seeing higher retention rates, exceptional outcomes in literacy and numeracy and better results in ensuring opportunities for those who come at education at a disadvantage. All of these investments and results show that we are on a journey to becoming the best education and training service in Europe”

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said:

“The focus of this year’s Action Plan on excellence and innovation is very welcome. Today’s launch comes when we have a new Systems Performance Framework and new funding arrangements in place for the Higher Education sector. These will see more funding for STEM courses, the introduction of an Innovation Fund and a performance fund to reward institutions who excel in particular areas, as well as new funding streams for research and incentivised life-long, part-time and flexible learning opportunities.

“Linked to these changes is the progress through the Oireachtas of the Technological Universities Bill, which recently moved a step closer to enactment. Technological Universities will provide an opportunity to drive regional development and provide more opportunities for individuals, enterprise and the community. They will have a significant impact and influence regionally, nationally and internationally.

“All of these changes fit with the overall focus on excellence and innovation across the education and training sector as a whole, and, as Minister of State for Higher Education, I am delighted to see how Higher Education will contribute to that during 2018.”

Minister Halligan said:

“Delivering a coherent national response to skills needs is vital as we build on and sustain our economic recovery. Some of the measures we’ll be taking to do this in 2018 include continuing to strengthen the apprenticeship and traineeship systems, supporting the development of an Upskilling Pathways Plan, implementing a strategy to attract world-leading researchers to Ireland in the context of Brexit, increasing the enrolment of postgraduate researchers and growing the number of programmes to support postdoctoral researchers, in partnership with enterprise.

“By equipping learners with the right skills and fostering strong partnerships between employers, higher education and further education and training providers, we will ensure Ireland continues to be an attractive place for international investment.”

What Being the Best in Europe Means:

• Delivering a learning experience to highest international standards

• Harnessing education to break down barriers for groups at risk of exclusion and setting the benchmark for social inclusion

• Equipping learners of all ages and capacities to participate and succeed in a changing world

• Leading in innovation and a broad range of endeavours, scientific, cultural, enterprise and public service

• Fostering strong relationships between enterprise and education and building strong bridges with the wider community

Article from The Irish Times: Mitchell O’Connor Pledges Support to Clonkeen College Board

“Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor has voiced her support for the Clonkeen College board of management in its dispute with the school patron over the sale of sports playing fields.

Speaking to a packed parents association public meeting on Monday night, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said she would work “tirelessly” to ensure the board of management and school community got a fair hearing at Government level and to protect the interests of current and future pupils at the south Dublin boy’s school. read more…


Speech in Dáil Éireann on Clonkeen College – Topical Issues Thursday 01 February 2018

I am a neighbour to Clonkeen College. My home is a few hundred metres away. My neighbours’ children are pupils in the school and many former pupils of mine have been educated there.

Clonkeen College is an outstanding school with an excellent reputation. Offering a comprehensive and holistic education to all its students, including a wide range of sports, including football.

I also want to draw attention to the Special Needs Unit in Clonkeen College. This unit serves children accessing a Special Education which, I understand, needs to be delivered in a caring, special environment.

I supported this Special Needs Unit in my time as Principal of the Harold School, and indeed have visited it. And I have seen, first-hand, the great work that is carried out within this Special Needs Unit.

I want to say that I know first-hand how great this school has been managed and also its competent Board of Management.

The Department, and indeed the Taxpayer, as is well known, has invested over €10 million in its development and enhancement in recent years.

I want to put on the record of this House that I have worked tirelessly since last summer to facilitate a resolution to this issue.

I arranged a meeting between the Minister for Education and Skills, and Principal, and members of staff, and the Board, and the Department, to which I invited Deputy Boyd Barrett and other Elected Representatives.

I have met subsequently with the school principal, Board of Management, individual parents, and pupils, and stakeholders, on numerous occasions.

I have communicated with stakeholders and also with the School Principal, often on a bi-weekly basis, and indeed in some cases on a daily basis.

I understand the statutory role of the Minister for Education now in this process.

However, speaking for myself, as an Elected Member for Dun Laoghaire, and as a former school Principal in the area that has spent 31 years of my career educating children, I still believe that talks between both sides is the best route forward in this process.

As a local TD, I am available to do whatever I can to bring both sides back to the table. Thank you.