Colleges in Ireland will have to earn their keep

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From 2014 on, Irish universities and colleges may face cuts of up to 10 percent to their state funding if their performances do not meet new measures.

Colleges will soon be assessed on their ability to retain students as well as how successful they are in matching them to industry needs. A failure to reach the outlined targets may result in having to get by on a tighter budget. Any cut to a college’s funding is likely to be awarded to an institution that has met the stated goals elsewhere.

Because the traditional focus on a college’s student intake is set to be replaced by an emphasis on the quality of the results it produces, colleges will now face a greater degree of accountability, the upshot of which is hoped to be a higher-quality third-level education for students.

Reductions

Presently, the state contributes in the region of 1.1 billion euro annually to higher education. The Higher Education Authority (HEA) will initially reserve 5pc of the annual grant allocated to each college subject to a review of how well the college in question meets its targets. In the longer term, however, as much as 10 percent of a college’s funding may be withheld until it satisfies the terms of the agreed-upon performance objectives.

Performance Criteria

The stated performance measures can be broken down into seven key indicators: engagement in regional clusters, co-operation between individual colleges, student retention rates and inclusion of disadvantaged groups, teaching and learning excellence, research and increased commercialisation, meeting regional labour market needs and enhanced internationalisation, including more non-EU students.

Colleges will not be expected to perform equally well across the outlined criteria; however, they will be expected to perform well in areas in which they are strong and to at least improve upon their performance in those areas in which they are weaker.

Colleges will be responsible for drawing up their own performance plans, which they must complete by September of this year. These plans will then be subjected to a review by the HEA and a team of national and international experts. The plans for each college will be finalised by January of 2014.

The growing number of students attending college, coupled with an ever-tightening state budget, means that colleges will be forced to continuously innovate and self-assess if they are to make the most of the resources at their disposal, and not face having those resources further reduced.


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