Ministers McHugh and Mitchell O’Connor Announce 3,000 New Student Places

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D. and Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. today (Monday 16th December 2019) announced 3,000 new places on 138 full-time undergraduate courses for autumn 2020 and 2021.

The additional opportunities for students are being created thanks to Government investment of €24 million in the second round of funding under the Human Capital Initiative.

The new university and college places have been awarded to 22 higher education institutions following a competitive call for the expansion of existing courses in key skills areas.

The places are provided following applications under Pillar Two of the Human Capital Initiative, a key part of the Government’s Future Jobs Ireland strategy and its focus on enhancing skills and developing and attracting talent.

Third level institutions have been backed by Government to address key areas which have been identified as high priority enterprise skills needs such as science, engineering, ICT and professional construction.

For each extra place that is provided on target courses, higher education institutions will be allocated €2,500 in additional funding

Minister McHugh said: “This is the Human Capital Initiative and Government investment of more than €24 million at work – creating more and better opportunities for students on courses that help to answer challenges of the future.

“We know where the demands are for highly educated, qualified graduates. And this investment is responding directly to that need. There is a future focus to many of the courses, like robotics and intelligent devices, digital healthcare, building services and renewable energy.

“Government is looking to tomorrow; our education system is backing the vision; and our universities and colleges are answering the call to prepare students with better skills for a changing world of work. This investment is a key part of the Government’s strategy, under Future Jobs Ireland.”

Speaking at the launch of the Athlone Institute of Technology’s new Strategic Plan Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “At this time of year, when our Leaving Cert students are deciding which courses to select for their CAO applications I am delighted to be able to announce almost 3,000 additional places on 138 courses over the next two years.

“This generation will cope with more complex problems than any before them.Our students deserve the widest choice and the best opportunities to help prepare them for the future. I am determined that we will continue to develop our programmes and work with enterprise to ensure that our graduates are among the best prepared and equipped to meet our future challenges.”

The Ministers also marked the investment package and expanded third level opportunities by announcing the opening of the Call for Proposals under Pillar 3 of the Human Capital Initiative.

This pillar invites applications for funding from higher education institutions with a focus on two key areas:

Innovation in modes and methods of delivery – Ensuring that courses in areas of key skills needs demonstrate innovative methods of teaching and delivery. In particular there will be a focus on new approaches to teaching and learning to ensure students are equipped with the skills they need to be effective and successful in a future world of work being transformed by technology.

Agility – Supporting measures to enable higher education institutions and students to prepare for and respond to future developments in work, technology and society.

Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “Today I am announcing the call for proposals under Pillar 3 of the Human Capital Initiative. This will incentivise continued reform and innovation in third level provision, building on best practice nationally and internationally, strongly supporting innovation in programme design and delivery.

“It is aimed at giving institutions the agility necessary to respond to developments in technology that may not yet be evident, and gives students the skills to adapt to a constantly changing world of work. I am sure that we will see many innovative and forward-looking projects submitted under this call.”

The primary objective of the Human Capital Initiative is to fund additional capacity across the higher education sector and to use that investment to meet priority skill needs for the future.

The special fund totals €300m over five years – €60m a year from 2020 to 2024.

Pillar One of the Human Capital Initiative, which will be launched in early 2020 will comprise Government investment of €65 million in graduate conversion courses.

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