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Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science | Obstacles to further and higher educational sectors

To ask the Minister for Further and Higher Education; Research; Innovation and Science if he and his Department have identified any specific obstacles which may impede improvement and achievement in the further and higher educational sectors and impact our ability to continue to establish Ireland’s reputation as equal to the best globally in Higher Education; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


It is a key priority for my Department to continue to strengthen our skills ecosystem to ensure it has the agility and flexibility to adapt to changing priorities in the skills and workforce development landscape, including increasingly rapid, technologically driven changes in the world of work. This is why we are partnering with the OECD on a detailed and comprehensive OECD review of Ireland’s National Skills Strategy and approach, which is currently in the final stages.

The OECD Skills Strategy project, which ran through 2022 and early 2023, examined the skills ecosystem in a holistic way, including the Higher Education system. We know that Ireland does many things well, including our rates of tertiary participation by young people, and our partnership approach to solutions to nascent skills issues. The DESI Index 2022 ranked Ireland 5th overall, an 8.5% increase on 2021 and well above the EU average, while also indicating that Ireland now ranks 3rd in Europe for human capital. We will need to build on our strengths to meet the challenges and opportunities presented by the change world of work, the digital revolution, and climate transformation.

Clear areas of focus emerging from the work of the OECD, include increased focus on short, flexible and blended skilling options for individuals entering or transitioning in the workforce; and progressing ease of navigability through options for skilling and ensuring individualised, continuous learning journeys are encouraged and enabled for all. These will be key themes for my Department as we move forward on Ireland’s skills agenda.

This means ensuring that Ireland boldly and bravely embraces a fully transformed 21st century model of learning and talent development – and that we are just as successful in that as Ireland was in its embrace of education through the last century. The development of a Unified Tertiary System, launched last year, is led by the Department’s Statement of Strategy in its mission to develop Ireland’s higher and further education, and research and innovation sectors to ensure that they are capable of meeting the diverse needs of learners and researchers as well as industry and wider society.

Specifically in relation to the Higher Education sector, in May I launched Funding the Future – a landmark funding and reform framework for higher education. Funding the Future sets out the vision and direction of higher education funding, commits to addressing legacy issues in higher education and details our ambitious plans for investment and reform. One of the priority strands of work identified in Funding the Future is enhancing the quality and international standing of the higher education system. Budget 2023 allocated €40 million to advancing this reform agenda.

My Department will continue to work to improve higher education outcomes and enhance the agility and responsiveness of the higher education system and, in doing so, we will strengthen the standing of our higher education system internationally.

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