A DECADE OF UNIVERSITIES IRELAND ACTIVITIES AND INITIATIVES
This short report, prepared for the 10th anniversary Universities Ireland (UI) Council meeting on 25 April 2013, summarises Universities Ireland’s main activities over the decade since its formation at a meeting of university presidents and vice-chancellors in NUI Maynooth in April 2003.
The Centre for Cross Border Studies in Armagh then accepted an invitation to provide the secretariat for this all-island network of university leaders.
The current chair of Universities Ireland is Dr Michael Murphy, President of University College Cork.
PROMOTION OF IRISH UNIVERSITIES ABROAD
A meeting of the international officers of all nine universities was held at Dublin City University in December 2003 under the auspices of Universities Ireland to discuss matters of common interest in the area of promoting Irish and Northern Irish universities abroad.
RESEARCH PROJECT ON THE FEASIBILITY OF HARMONISING REGULATIONS, AWARDING JOINT DEGREES AND DEVELOPING TRANSFER ARRANGEMENTS BETWEEN THE UNIVERSITIES ON THE ISLAND OF IRELAND
This research project was carried out by Lewis Purser, then of the European University Association and now of the Irish Universities Association, between 2003 and 2005.
Among its ‘action points’ were:
- a working group to examine the feasibility of establishing all-island graduate schools in key areas (e.g. bioengineering, human rights law);
- mechanisms to encourage greater North-South partnerships in EU Framework and other European programmes; and
- the development of guidelines on the collaborative North-South provision of modules, programmes and degrees.
MEETINGS WITH UNIVERSITIES UK
Three meetings were held between delegations representing Universities Ireland and Universities UK in 2004, 2006 and 2008 (two in Dublin, one in London).
Among the issues discussed were business-university partnerships, EU developments and the Bologna process, governance, leadership and funding issues, and increasing Irish-UK university research collaboration. The September 2004 meeting was the first ever meeting between representative bodies of British and Irish universities.
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATION, ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION AND CROSS-BORDER HIGHER EDUCATION CONFERENCES
Between 2003 and 2006 Universities Ireland organised five all-island higher education conferences with funding from the Irish Department of Education and Science and the NI Department for Employment and Learning.
- May 2003 – conference in Cavan on ‘International Education: A Capacity Builder for the Island of Ireland?’ with keynote speakers from the US, the UK and Australia.
- November 2003 – conference in Belfast on ‘Widening Access to Third Level Education on the Island of Ireland: Towards Better Policy and Practice’ with keynote speakers from the US and South Africa.
- May 2004 – conference in Cavan on ‘Cross-Border Higher Education Cooperation in Ireland and Europe’ with keynote speakers from Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.
BUSINESS-UNIVERSITY COLLABORATION CONFERENCES
- June 2005 Universities Ireland organised a conference in Belfast entitled ‘Higher Education and Business: Beyond Mutual Incomprehension’ with keynote speakers Richard Lambert, former editor of the Financial Times and Sir Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI.
- March 2006 UI organised a conference in Malahide entitled ‘What role for Higher Education in the development of the 21st century workplace?’ with keynote speakers Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel, Sir Digby Jones and IBEC Director General Turlough O’Sullivan.
FEASIBILITY STUDY INTO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN ALL-ISLAND, INTER-UNIVERSITY TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER MARKETING NETWORK
This study was carried out for Universities Ireland, the Irish Universities Association and InterTradeIreland by a team from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.
It led to a business plan in consultation with PA Consulting Group which recommended an inter-university technology transfer marketing network on the Scottish model.
This was presented to the Irish universities’ Vice Presidents for Research and discussed at a meeting in early 2007, but its recommendations were not followed up because the VPs for Research preferred to focus on building their universities’ individual technology transfer marketing capacities, rather than collaborating with other Irish and Northern Irish universities.
NORTH/SOUTH POSTGRADUATE SCHOLARSHIPS
Started in 2006, this has been the longest running of Universities Ireland’s initiatives.
33 postgraduate students – doing Masters and the first year of PhD programmes – have crossed the border to study in the other jurisdiction.
Every university on the island (plus Dublin Institute of Technology, which pays to be part of this scheme) has hosted UI-funded postgraduates.
Matching corporate sponsorship from a wide range of firms has raised over Stg£250,000 to support this scheme, with the result that many of the scholarships were in STEM subjects vital to the Irish and Northern Irish economies.
In 2008 the awards were presented by the then Taoiseach, Brian Cowen.
IRISH-AFRICAN PARTNERSHIP FOR RESEARCH CAPACITY BUILDING
This four year project (2007-2011), largely funded by €1.5 million from Irish Aid, brought together all nine universities on the island and four universities in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda to develop a coordinated approach to Research Capacity Building (RCB) as part of inter-university cooperation between Ireland and Africa.
The overall aim of the project (coordinated by Universities Ireland, and by far its largest project to date) was to develop effective strategies for sustainable research capacity building for poverty reduction in the 13 partner universities in the areas of health and education, with gender and ICT as cross-cutting themes.
Over 300 Irish and African academics were involved in this initiative; research capacity building training schools were held in Malawi and Tanzania; and numerous reports and training manuals were produced.
Irish Aid and UI funding ended in August 2011, and the initiative is now led and financially supported in a reduced form by Dublin City University.
SCHOLARS AT RISK: IRISH SECTION
Universities Ireland has been the Irish Section of the international inter-university network, Scholars at Risk (based at New York University), since 2008.
SAR provides sanctuary in universities, particularly in Europe and North America, for academics and scholars who are persecuted in their own countries, and lobbies and advocates on their behalf.
Seven scholars have been hosted in Irish and Northern Irish universities using UI funding: from Iran, Iraq, Burma and Democratic Republic of Congo.
NORTH/SOUTH STUDENT DEBATES AND CONFERENCE
In 2010 and 2011 Universities Ireland sponsored North/South debates – involving students, academics, journalists and politicians from both jurisdictions – in Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway.
Despite an invitation to the student debating societies of all the universities on the island to follow suit, none did so.
In November 2010 UI sponsored a conference of young politicians, business people, academics, students and others at University College Dublin entitled ‘The Agreement Generation: An Opportunity for Change?’
MEETINGS WITH SCOTTISH UNIVERSITIES
In January 2012 UI took a delegation of Irish and Northern Irish university heads to Aberdeen to meet their Scottish counterparts and the Scottish Education Minister, Michael Russell. A return visit involving the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn, is planned for later this year.
REFLECTING ON A DECADE OF WAR AND REVOLUTION IN IRELAND 1912-1923
Leading historians from the 10 Irish and Northern Irish universities (including the Open University in Ireland, which became UI’s 10th member in 2011) came together in 2012 to launch a 12 year programme of activities to reflect on the 1912-1923 period in Irish history.
This started last year (2012) with a bursary programme for PhD students studying the period (two bursaries awarded) and a major conference attended by 320 people in Dublin entitled ‘Reflecting on a decade of War and Revolution in Ireland 1912-1923: Historians and Public History’ (keynote speaker: Prof. Jay Winter from Yale University, one of the US’s most eminent historians of the 20th century).
This year an archival project has started, more bursaries have been advertised, and a conference will be held on 15th June in Dublin entitled ‘Reflecting on a decade of War and Revolution in Ireland 1912-1923: the Cause of Labour’ (keynote speaker: President Michael D.Higgins).
Further details >>
The plan is that the 2014 conference will be on the origins of the First World War in Ireland.