Minister for Education Richard Bruton endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on February 23 between Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LIT), Ulster University (UU), North West Regional College (NWRC) and Donegal ETB (DETB) . The education institutions have pledged to increase collaboration between the north and south of the border.
The MoU will affect the over 106,000 students attending the four institutions. These colleges and universities have previously worked to improve student mobility and have committed to working more closely together to solidify existing collaborations. They also seek to achieve greater national growth, improve innovation, and research and development outcomes for the North West Region. The institutions also wish to train individuals attending them.
At the launch of the MoU, Bruton stated: “Today’s announcement is a fantastic development for the North West region. This new partnership will greatly enhance collaboration between the education and training providers in key areas such as research, innovation and education and training.”
He also commented on its significance in light of Brexit and said: “Brexit will pose a significant challenge to our higher and further education institutions. Through our Action Plan for Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education system the best in Europe within a decade, we are preparing our education and training providers to respond to this challenge. Talent drives the success of any region and strong hubs will be the engine of regional development. Today’s partnership is a very welcome development, which will have a really significant impact on the North West region.”
The partnership aims to provide a “joined-up forum and implementation space for collaborative working to release the full potential of the North West City Region”. The alliance is an initiative of the North West Strategic Growth Partnership, in partnership with the Higher and Further Education and Training Institutions of the North West City Region.
Trinity implemented the Northern Ireland Engagement Programme in 2013, which sought to attract students from north of the border. The programme focuses on the promotion of Trinity at career fairs as well as in schools throughout Northern Ireland. The programme also aims to improve the overall college experience of Northern Irish students once they arrive in Dublin.
Applications from Northern Ireland increased by 4% for the 2017/18 academic year, with a rise from 928 to 964. However, only 262 offers were made to Northern Irish students, an increase of 20 from last year. Only 78 of those places offered last year were accepted. Currently, 2,000 Irish students attend university in Northern Ireland.
Trinity also provides an outreach system for Northern Irish students and graduates, most notably through their Student Ambassador System and their Northern Irish Alumni Association.
According to the British and Irish Chamber of Commerce, there are over 125,000 EU students in Britain, 10% of which are Irish. These students currently pay identical fees to those in Great Britain, but following Brexit, they may have to pay full international fees of between £20,000 and £30,000.