Within a student-centred approach to education, Engagement is a core activity for the higher education sector. Engagement aims to link teaching and learning and research and innovation closely together, creating partnerships with business, industry, civic and international organisations, and enabling students and staff to reach out into the community. Delivering engagement places the sector at the centre of social, civic, political and economic activities in their local communities. It also facilitates HECA member institutions in fulfilling their mission to produce work-ready graduates who are prepared for roles responding to regional and national economic and societal needs.

The main stakeholder groups common to all HECA member organisations are:
• Learners – at all stages of their lifelong learning journey, from prospective student to alumnus and everything in-between
• Staff – including academic, professional, management and support staff
• Business and enterprise – regionally and nationally
• Civic and community partners
• Higher Education partners - other Higher Education Institutions and representative bodies within teaching and learning
• International partners

Student Engagement

HECA continuously strives to facilitate developmental activities and initiatives aimed at enhancing student engagement. For example, the independent colleges higher ed sector in Ireland is heavily involved in the annual International Conference in Engaging Pedagogy (ICEP), and the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. Recent HECA annual conferences and colloquia have centred on innovative and engaging techniques of teaching, learning, assessment and research.

HECA members also share best practice around engaging staff and students in community based initiatives, and with enterprise and workforce development.


A real strength of the established and state accredited independent colleges sector in Ireland at the moment, is the sustained work over a couple of decades to widen participation for students from all walks of life who demonstrate the ability, motivation and potential to succeed at third level. This has been a key focus for many privately funded colleges, who have invested non-taxpayers money in a wide array of supports and initiatives to strive to ensure that college environments remain diverse, vibrant places which are more representative of the society they serve.

In addition to more typical general learning and social supports to standard, international, and mature cohorts of learners such as mental health subsistence, study and research skills, general health service, financial aid, additional tutorial support, deferral of programme duration, and ICT skills support; HECA members continually strive to provide more specific supports and innovative ways of including more disadvantaged learners.

A key strategic issue for HECA members is the flexible provision of programmes to an increasingly diverse range of learners. For example, supplementary admission routes with flexible provision and additional supports (in compliance with national standards and QA systems of HEIs), are increasingly available across HECA members for learners falling into one or more learning disability groups, and those from more challenged socio-economic backgrounds.


The independent college’s sector provides higher education to students of diverse backgrounds and nationalities. HECA members have promoted Ireland as a high-quality study abroad destination to international students since the early 1990s. HECA supports and invests in the internationalisation strategy of the Irish government, and those HEIs within HECA who recruit international students fall under the ‘Education Ireland’ brand, administered for the Irish Dept. of Education by Enterprise Ireland.

A link to the current Irish government strategy entitled ‘Irish Educated, Globally Connected – an international education strategy for Ireland 2016 – 2020’ can be found here.

International Scholarships

There is a wide variety of scholarships available for international students from many sources including individual HECA members themselves and the Irish Government. Students are advised to contact the institution of their choice directly, to obtain more detailed information.

The Government of Ireland International Scholarship Scheme is a key element in the delivery of a quality teaching, learning and research experience for students and staff and for building international engagement for the sector. The scheme is funded in partnership between the Government and the higher education institutions. Scholarships are prestigious awards reflecting the core messages about Ireland as a centre of international education.

The schemes are awarded:
• to high calibre higher education students from non-EU/EEA countries;
• to study in Ireland for a period of one year

The scheme is managed by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills. Government of Ireland International Education Scholarships will be awarded to high calibre students from non-EU/EEA countries to study full-time in Ireland for a period of one year.

Why Choose Ireland?

Ireland's worldwide reputation for high-quality education is built on the solid foundation of commitment to excellence. Ireland is a beautiful island, combining contemporary modern cities with unspoilt countryside, offering cityscapes steeped in history and landscapes lush with a rich natural habitat. Renowned for friendliness, our safe, English speaking country offers the warmest of welcomes to students from all over the world.

Please visit the Irish government ‘Education in Ireland’ web link here for more info and videos: https://www.educationinireland.com/en/Why-Study-in-Ireland-/

Enterprise Engagement

As a national and international need for state-accredited workforce development / skills-based provision grows, HECA members are becoming increasingly engaged with enterprise. The independent colleges higher ed sector in Ireland has traditionally played a sector-leading role in engaging with and being responsive to industry, to inform, and co-design curricula and assessment. It has maintained a deep level of engagement with enterprise on a local, regional and international level.

It is helpful to understand HECA member college – employer relationship and the many activities supporting it, as a continuum of activities and levels of engagement, with each step or level representing a higher degree of engagement and deeper integration of employers in a college’s workforce and education activity.

Level 5: LEADING

The level of engagement depends on the nature of the relationship (lower level of engagement, working relationship, strategic partnership) between HECA member HEIs and the employer(s), and what both organisations wish to achieve from the relationship.

A good example of a sector-leading strategic partnership engagement with industry has been the work of HECA members invested over many years in the Springboard initiative. This national scheme has been a major catalyst to reskilling and upskilling the employed and unemployed of Ireland since 2012, with the independent college’s sector representative of 45% annual provision on average in recent years.

Community Engagement

HECA member colleges are having an increasing impact in their communities. HECA HEIs are significant local institutions, supporting cultural and civic development in their communities though a range of activities which are core to their key teaching missions, but which also involve significant extra-curricular and non-educational activities.

Engagement occurs across the following key areas:

Student Projects and Work Placements
Work placements and collaborative projects with community partners are an integral element of higher education programmes in the private higher education sector, offering a mutually beneficial experience and cooperation for both the companies and the students who participate. In terms of some research projects at undergrad and postgrad levels, the community/civic partners are active participants in the design and delivery of research projects and the dissemination and practical use of their outcomes.

Staff and students from the sector volunteer with a range of community organisations and initiatives.

The broad range of outreach activities within the private higher education sector includes participation in and leading on, for example, school visits, science fairs and cultural events.

Educational Programmes
Programmes for community-based learning are on offer across HECA members.

Social Responsibility
The supports offered by the private higher ed sector to organisations extend to those contributing to development of new ideas, services and models to better address social issues. HECA members have also established and contributed to significant charity based events over many years.

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