A consortium of Technological Universities in Ireland has been awarded an initial allocation of €18.81m under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) to support teaching and learning reforms arising from the experiences of digitally enabled education during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility is funded by the European Union and is the largest component of NextGenerationEU – the European Union’s response to the global pandemic.
This is the first tranche of €40m in NRRP funding which will be made available to the technological sector over a two-year period (2022-2024) to support flexible course provision and increase participation in higher education by underrepresented groups alongside innovative approaches to addressing regional skills needs. This funding complements the €90m made available by Government over a three-year period (2020-2023) to support the development and progression of technological universities through the Technological Universities Transformation Fund (TUTF).
The award was made to the NTUTORR (National Technological University Transformation for Recovery and Resilience) consortium consisting of Atlantic Technological University; Dundalk Institute of Technology; Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology; Munster Technological University; South East Technological University; Technological University Dublin; Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest; and the Technological Higher Education Association.
The Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD welcomed this investment saying:
The pandemic has accelerated changes to the way we live, study and work. Our higher education system demonstrated its agility in meeting the challenges of delivering quality education during the pandemic.
This funding will enable the technological sector to systematise the learnings from the experience of digitally enabled education and support the provision of digitally enhanced teaching, learning and assessment to meet the needs of staff, students, and enterprise in the regions.
HEA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Alan Wall, said:
This considerable investment in the newly emerged technological university sector is a statement of confidence in its capacity to transform the teaching and learning experience of staff and students and to drive regional economic development. The collective delivery of this national programme by the technological sector is the realisation of the collaboration envisioned in the TURN Report and signals the transition to the next phase in the progression of the sector.
The NTUTORR (National Technological University Transformation for Recovery and Resilience) project is designed to transform learning, teaching and assessment by focussing on transforming the student experience and developing the capabilities of all staff to address a sustainable pedagogical and learning environment with particular and critical focus on the Sustainable Development Goals and equality, diversity and inclusion.
The project has been informed by sector-wide evidence gathered as part of the “Next Steps for Teaching and Learning: Moving Forward Together” project coordinated by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, which addressed and reflected on, key lessons learned during the pandemic. The project also takes account of the data on students’ experiences during the period of public health restrictions in addition to their overall experiences of higher education gathered as part of the national Student Survey.
The project responds to the TURN Report (TU Research Network) which highlights the importance of digital infrastructure and ICT provisions for Technological Universities and the wider technological sector.
NOTES TO EDITOR:
National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP)
The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) has been developed by the Government so that Ireland can access funding under the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).
Ireland is expected to receive more than €900 million in grants over the lifetime of the Facility.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the largest component of NextGenerationEU, the European Union’s response to the global pandemic. The aim is to help repair the immediate economic and social damage brought about by the pandemic and to prepare for a post-Covid Europe that is greener, more digital, more resilient and fit to face the future.
The NTUTORR project is awarded under RRF Priority 3 – Social and Economic Recovery and Job Creation, and the funding will cover a two-year period between 2022 and 2024. The project will build Technological University capacity in education and training reforms, including the strengthening of effective active labour market policies by accelerating TU plans in the area of co-creation of research-informed teaching and learning through dynamic collaboration and open engagement between students, TUs and partners from industry, the professions, and civic society as part of a coherent response to existing and new challenges aggravated by and/or resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.
This funding complements the investment by Government of €90m over three years to support the development and progression of technological universities through the Technological Universities Transformation Fund (TUTF). The Fund supports activities and costs associated with programme and change management, governance and management structures, academic affairs and quality assurance, research capacity building, communications and stakeholder engagement, corporate affairs/operations, digitalisation/IT systems, and student administration and support. To date, €60m of TUTF has been allocated to support the development and progression of technological universities.
The National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (published in 2011) recommended significant reform of the institute of technology (IoT) sector so that it could be better positioned to meet national strategic objectives. In particular, the Strategy recommended consolidation within the sector and a pathway of evolution for consolidated institutes of technology that would allow them to demonstrate significant progress against stated performance criteria and to apply to become technological universities.
The objectives of the technological sector reform are to raise standards, to deliver better quality outcomes for students and for other stakeholders in the region and to enhance the performance of institutes of technology in their very important mission whether they are seeking technological university status or remaining as stand-alone institutes. The consolidation of the sector brought about by mergers of IoTs will increase the scale, critical mass and quality of the institutions, allowing them to compete on the world stage with other comparable higher education institutions internationally.
The development and progression of technological universities is an established policy objective of Government in the context of overarching national strategy on higher education landscape restructuring. Technological universities address the social and economic needs of their region and focus on science and technology programmes that are vocationally and professionally oriented. Each technological university is distinguished by a unique mission and ethos that is aligned and consistent with the mission and focus of institutes of technology with an emphasis on programmes at levels 6 to 8 and industry-focused research. Technological universities also have an expanded remit in terms of research and research profile and provide postgraduate taught and research programmes up to doctoral level. TUs are expected to play a pivotal role in facilitating access, widening participation and supporting regional employment through relationships with the further education and training sector and the provision of flexible programmes.
There has been significant progress in advancing the technological university agenda since the enactment of the Technological Universities Act in 2018, which provides the statutory framework for the development of technological universities. There are currently five technological universities established in the State:
- Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) involved a merger of the former Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology Tallaght, and was established in January 2019.
- Munster Technological University (MTU), representing a merger of Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee, was established in January 2021.
- Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest (TUS) involved a merger of Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick Institute of Technology and was established in October 2021.
- Atlantic Technological University (ATU) represented a merger of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Letterkenny Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Sligo, and was established on 1 April 2022.
- South East Technological University (SETU) involved a merger of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow and was established on 1 May 2022.
Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) is committed to becoming a technological university and has made significant progress in advancing this ambition with the assistance of a special advisor appointed by the HEA.
Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT), Dun Laoghaire, is exploring its options under the Technological Universities Act, 2018, with support from the HEA.