The government have launched a €5m Higher Education Innovation and Transformation Fund. The announcement was made yesterday by the Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, and the Minister for State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor.
The fund is an addition to the €100m which the government have have been investing in higher education since 2016. The fund is set to be provided to applicants on a competitive basis throughout the year. Funding submissions are to be assessed by an international expert panel throughout the year.
The fund has prioritised the four areas of the support of innovation, transformation and quality improvement in teaching and student learning outcomes, the support of student retention and progression in individual institutions and institutional collaboration, innovation and transformation in flexible, distance and e-learning opportunities and programmes and measures to support Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).
While launching this fund, Minister Bruton noted the importance of the fund in the government’s aspiration for Ireland to become the best European education and training system by 2026. He recognised that “key to this ambition is the need to support innovation throughout the education system”.
Alongside this fund, Minister Mitchell O’Connor opened a funding application for institutions operating on a multi-campus basis. Should applicants be successful, they are to receive €250,000 in additional annual funding.
In recognising its importance, Minister Mitchell O’Connor noted that “this funding is intended to recognise the challenges faced by operating in more than one campus, over a wide geographical area, and the funding that this presents”.
These funding initiatives follow the publishing of a review of funding allocation for higher education, which was published in 2018. Both of these new funding models were recommended in the report.
According to the report, its goals were to review the existing approach to funding higher education institutions; identify and consider options regarding how that approach is developed; and to make recommendations on an appropriate future approach and its implementation.
The recommendations were made by an expert panel in 2016, which included Bríd Horan, the Chair of the Trustees Bank of Ireland Pension Fund; Professor Philip Gummett, retired Head of the HE Funding Council of Wales; Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen; and Mary Kerr, former Deputy CEO of the Higher Education Authority (HEA).
This follows a month after the Union of Students in Ireland published its pre-budget submission in which it called for an investment of €1.26bn in the higher education system by 2030.