In my opinion: Technological University will help the smart economy
This year will be another testing year for our economy and society and many challenges will have to be overcome before a full recovery can be achieved. One of the core components of the national plan for economic recovery is the Government's strategy for the development of a smart economy focused on the support and creation of cutting-edge, high-tech, innovative industry and enterprise. The country's higher education sector has a vital role to play in this national strategy and Institutes of Technology (IoTs) are well positioned to meet the challenges head on.
The IoTs, which currently represent over 40pc of the country's higher education population (with approximately 75,000 enrolments) and have an expanding involvement in research, development, innovation and enterprise support activities (a three-fold increase in activity in the past five years), are focused on translating the country's investment in higher education, research and development into significant social and economic benefits.
Our priorities for the country at this crucial stage continue to be increased flexibility, responsiveness to change, and innovation.
The presence of IoTs all over the country in urban and regional centres ensures that the sector is well positioned to fully contribute to the establishment of Ireland as an Innovation Island through the further development of integrated education, research, innovation and commercialisation systems.
This not only ensures the support and development of indigenous enterprises, but also encourages continued foreign direct investment through the attraction of multinational business to Ireland.
The key areas for sector-wide development include:
- Continued expansion of provision and participation in higher education, not only to cater for increased demand, but also to ensure that the level of education and skills of the workforce is comparable to, if not higher than, those of our competitor countries in the global economy. This will require increased investment in higher education.
- Further development of the institutes' R&D and enterprise-support activities. This is vital to assist recovery and to harness the huge potential at local and regional level in the creation of new industry, enterprise, products and services.
- To embark on further sector-wide international collaborative activities which are not only a source of additional revenue but also enhance the reputation and perception of the sector and the state in the competitive global economy.
In the broader policy context, a landmark development in the first half of 2010 will be the output of the Higher Education Strategy Review Group.
The group's report will shape the landscape for higher education for years to come.
Ideally it will focus on improving the quality of, and opportunities available in, higher education, primarily for learners, but also for providers and other stakeholders.
In this regard existing structures need to be examined and reviewed. IoTs would particularly welcome a recommendation on the establishment of a Technological University.
Such a recommendation would ensure continued coherence and consistency in the sector, retention of the existing mission and direction, while also strengthening the position of the sector and its graduates in relation to development opportunities both at home and abroad.
IoTs have overcome many challenges in the past and reached and surpassed many milestones. This is a testament to their staff and graduates.
Now the challenge for IoTs is to continue to build upon this success and above all to play a leading role in Ireland's drive towards economic recovery.