Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science Simon Harris met with the Irish Universities’ Association (IUA) and Provost Patrick Prendergast on Tuesday morning to discuss the future of the new higher education department following the appointment of the new government Cabinet at the weekend.
In a tweet, Harris wrote: “Excellent initial discussion on range of issues included Covid-19 impact in universities, benefit of new Department linking research and higher education, international students and social inclusion.”
On Saturday, the incoming coalition government announced the new position of Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science, appointing Harris, Fine Gael’s outgoing Minister for Health, to lead the department.
Speaking to Trinity News regarding this morning’s meeting, Tom Molloy, Head of Communications for Trinity, said: “There was a good positive meeting today and we look forward to many more in the weeks and months ahead.”
In May, 1,500 Irish scientists called for a department specifically dedicated to higher education and research. Scientists claimed that this was to stop Ireland becoming a “backwater” in the area of science. In June, Prendergast, wrote an open letter published in the Irish Times calling for the foundation of a Department of Higher Education and Research.
Speaking to Trinity News about the meeting this morning, Director General of the IUA, Jim Miley, stated: “We had a very positive initial engagement with the new Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science today.”
Miley continued: “It is clear Minister Harris is determined to ensure that his Department will play a key role in ensuring that the great potential of our students is realised through an enhanced and integrated Department where both higher education and research are housed together.”
“The Minister has made it clear that the government sees the new Department as a key enabler of economic growth and of social cohesion and opportunity in society, an ambition that we wholeheartedly share,” Miley added. “We look forward to working with the Minister and his officials to realise that ambition.”
Speaking on an Instagram video last night, Minister Harris spoke about the first day of his new role and what he wishes to achieve.
He said: “I am really excited about this new role.”
“I think what it’s really going to do is a couple of things. One it is going to help create jobs in our country and help protect our economy,as we all know is a really difficult time after Covid has caused so many people and their jobs,” Harris continued. “So, by having a focus on research, science and innovation, how we can attract investment into our country and how we can help Irish businesses work with research and innovation is a huge huge opportunity to future proof our economy, future proof our country and help get people back to work.”
Harris stated: “We will work full time on issues related to making sure that every single person in Ireland can reach their full potential.”