April 4, 2022

Press Release: Time to Recognise The Contribution of Private Higher Education in Ireland

The Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA) Statement on the BH Associates Report Strengthening the Sustainability, Quality and Competitiveness of Irish Higher Education: Policy Options

Launched April 4th Launch Information

The Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA) welcomes the BH Associates Expert Report Strengthening the Sustainability, Quality and Competitiveness of Irish Higher Education: Policy Options and its support of the role of private higher education in Ireland.

One in every ten higher education students are enrolled in private higher education institutions in Ireland, studying a range of disciplines from teaching, healthcare/nursing, counselling, law, engineering, ICT, business, arts, humanities, sports to design and fashion. The Expert report says it is now time to recognise the contribution of private colleges and the State should consider using private higher education institutions (HEIs) to deliver on its objectives. This could be achieved by formal contractual arrangements between government and the private HEIs for the provision of education and training. 

The report notably points out that “The private higher education providers are something of a Cinderella in our system, by times tolerated or ignored but rarely positioned as a key component of a healthy system.  As the private higher education sector takes on a more active role, it is timely to consider its contribution, role and responsibilities within the Irish tertiary education landscape”. 

One striking discrimination is the lack of State supports for students studying at private higher education. The report suggests that the exclusion of private college students from SUSI and other student support programmes must be dealt with fairly and equitably if the sector is to play its fullest role in meeting Ireland’s higher education and training needs.  This view also supports the recommendations of the all-party Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills Report in 2017 who recommended to the Department of Education & Skills that students enrolled in private HEIs should be entitled to SUSI and the Student Assistance Fund if eligible.

The report was prepared by BH Associates, a leading education consultancy firm established by Tom Boland, former CEO of the Higher Education Authority and Professor Ellen Hazelkorn, former vice president of DIT.

HECA chair Professor Diarmuid Hegarty said it provided an excellent overview of the challenges and opportunities facing the higher education sector in Ireland. “We agree with the report’s conclusion that we are only at the early stages of a learning revolution”, he said.

Among other ideas put forward for consideration are capping student numbers in higher education; year-round use of college and training facilities; ending unnecessary duplication of courses; an integrated and collaborative university-based research system.

It also suggests greater focus on work-based/work-informed learning, employability and work placements, competency-based education (CBE) and the new forms of apprenticeship. Lifelong learning vouchers to provide open pathways for learners to come in and out of the tertiary system are also proposed for discussion. 

The Higher Education Colleges Association (HECA) represents 12 institutions in the private sector including CCT College, Dublin Business School, Dorset College, Griffith College, Galway Business School, Hibernia College, ICHAS, IICP, St Nicholas Montessori, Open Training College, Setanta College and SQT. All HECA member colleges offer programmes which are quality assured and validated by QQI).

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