Future students will be able to mix and match modules from degree courses across the country's seven traditional universities under a ground-breaking initiative, it was announced today.
It is one of 22 innovative projects in a €197m, five-year Government-funded programme to support the development of necessary labour market skills.
Others include the use of virtual laboratories in higher education and a new hub to upskill the building sector on green construction.
The biggest single allocation, €21m, is going to Trinity College Dublin to fund a “next-generation “teaching initiative.
The establishment of the Creative Futures Academy – a joint €10m project between University College Dublin and IADT Dun Laoghaire - to support digital and screen culture, cinema, literature and broadcasting, art, design, and fashion is also in the mix.
In one project, worth €12.3m, the seven universities will establish a framework to allow for students gaining qualifications in short courses delivered in flexible formats.
“This first-of-its-kind project will increase Irish university capacity to extract and adapt high-demand modules from existing programmes, and develop tailored courses, to suit the needs of enterprise and learners” said a spokesperson for the Irish Universities Association (IUA).
Another of the university-specific initiatives sees Dublin City University getting €20m for a radical restructuring of its undergraduate curriculum.
IT Sligo is teaming up with Galway-Mayo IT and Letterkenny IT for a €12.4m programme to reimagine teaching and learning, building on strength that IT Sligo has developed since it delivered its first online course to five students in 2002.
Meanwhile one of three collaborations for which IT Carlow is receiving support is for the Centre for Insurance, Risk and Data Analytics Studies (CIRDAS).
In Cork, a project to develop the next generation of graduates for the health and life sciences industry sector is worth €8.7m to University College Cork, Cork IT and nine industry partners.
The funding is being made available under the Innovation and Agility strand of the Human Capital Initiative (HCI), which was announced in Budget 2019 to meet the priority skills needs of business and industry.
It also aims to incentivise reform in third-level, and projects will promote innovative methods of teaching and delivery so that learners will benefit from improved quality and more engaging ways of learning.
The funding is being shared across all the universities, institutes of technology and some other bodies, with 17 collaborative projects.
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said the projects would develop and change teaching and learning.
“This global pandemic has reinforced the need for us all to be agile and diverse. Crucially though it requires us to develop new skills and equip the next generation with the critical importance to the economy and the workplace of the future.”
Welcoming the announcement, Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, said it would develop new programmes in identified areas of skills needs in the modern workforce and drive agility and innovation across third level.
Ibec’s head of education and innovation policy, Claire McGee said professional and personal lives were being disrupted by new technologies, new methods of communication and new lifestyle preferences and “the education system needs to reflect this new evolving dynamic.”
She said the HCI, which was funded by employers through the National Training Fund, was an opportunity to put talent, technology and innovation as a central pillar of Ireland’s reimagined future following Covid-19.
Level 5 restrictions allow for discretion about whether schools should close, but, in this instance, Nphet is advising that measures are imposed elsewhere so that schools can remain open.