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.