Monday 21 October 2019

Greater cross-border co-operation needed

Declan Breathnach TD and Michael Mulvey PhD, DkIT President
Declan Breathnach TD and Michael Mulvey PhD, DkIT President

Olivia Ryan

Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) organised a symposium aimed at opening dialogue on how Institutes of Further and Higher Education can work together to develop a blueprint for successful cross-border collaboration in the North Leinster South Ulster region.

The 'DkIT Symposium: A Changing Cross Border Landscape for Further & Higher Education' brought together more than 80 policy-makers, academics and industry representatives from North and South to discuss challenges and opportunities surrounding BREXIT and the implications it may have on Further and Higher Education network in the region.

In his opening address DkIT President, Michael Mulvey PhD said: 'Our region is quite unique in that it spans two jurisdictions, it is cross border and the consequence of that can be a fractured approach to development. The result can be that resources are not always maximised - and the opportunity to offer a wide range of opportunities and pathways for progression may be lost.'

Much of the symposium focussed on identifying ways in which organisations can work together for the benefit of communities and learners in the region, either through strategic alliances, engagement with industry, research collaboration or clearly defined progression pathways between further and higher education. In her address, Siona Cahill, President of Union of Students in Ireland called on stakeholders to protect the education choices of young people both North and South by ensuring that they are not inhibited by freedom of movement issues following BREXIT, either through physical borders or through implications on fees and admissions.

As part of its discussions, the Symposium also examined plans and the vision for the region with particular emphasis on Project Ireland 2040 and the National Planning Framework. Anthony Abbott-King, Senior Planner in Louth County Council spoke about the North East in the context of the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor and opportunities to enhance regional connectivity particularly in an all-island context. As part of the region's spatial strategy he emphasised the importance of 'place-making' through social and economic outcomes and discussed how local government is prioritising the wellbeing of people as the regional population continues to grow.

Margaret Hearty, Director of Programmes & Business Services at InterTradeIreland reflected on the cross-border region in terms of enterprise, innovation and research. She spoke about the importance the Further and Higher Education sector in helping to drive successful collaborations between enterprise north and south, such as the Fusion Programme and the Co-Innovate programmes.

The Argus