Top colleges ditch rivalry to help students get 'smart' jobs
THE two western universities are joining forces in a new regional alliance focussed on delivering a better deal for their students, regional communities and the economy.
NUI Galway (NUIG) and the University of Limerick (UL) yesterday unveiled details of how they plan to work closely together in what was touted as an unprecedented collaboration in Irish higher education, due to the sheer scale of the venture.
The significance of the new strategic alliance was underscored by the presence of Taoiseach Brian Cowen at the announcement in Dublin yesterday, along with Tanaiste Mary Coughlan and Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe. Mr Cowen described it as a "key building block" for the country's 'smart economy' project and promised it would make a major contribution to economic and social development.
He said the two universities were demonstrating how "working together means working smarter".
The strategic alliance covers every aspect of college activity including teaching, research, commercialisation of research ideas, and spin-off companies.
A key feature will be the establishment of a research relationship with America's Georgia Institute of Technology, which has a track record in translating ideas into commercial opportunities with industry partners.
NUIG president Dr Jim Browne said the future of higher education would be best served by a network of collaborating institutions, each developing international excellence in priority areas.
UL president Professor Don Barry said that, by coming together, both third-level institutions were optimising their delivery of world-class research, innovative teaching and service to the community.
The colleges have a combined enrolment of almost 28,000 undergraduate and post-graduate students and 3,881 staff, and a combined annual income of €372m.
Academic excellence is a prime focus, and among the initiatives will be exchange opportunities for students between the two universities, on a modular or semester basis.
Both colleges offer degree programmes in medicine and they plan to create a new medical academy at Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals, which will enhance the status of the two hospitals.
In an era of tightening budgets, the universities are committed to the joint development of structured PhD programmes.
On the research front, they plan to build on the west of Ireland's strength in biomedical device industries, which now employ 24,000.
Dr Browne said Ireland was a leading centre for biomedical devices, concentrated in the west, but the industry knew that it must change to grow .
The colleges say they also plan to join forces on research in the green technology sector, and collaborate to keep Ireland at the forefront of software development and internet technology research.