Education News

Awards Recognise Higher Education Institutions’ Innovative Societal Contributions

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has announced five performance funding awards totalling €5 million to higher education institutions in recognition of their innovative programmes and societal contributions to help create a better society.

Each award is valued at €1 million, and they were determined on the basis of an evaluation of 21 Impact Case Studies submitted by higher education institutions (HEIs) to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) in March 2021.

Minister Harris said, “I would like to congratulate the successful institutions on submitting high quality case studies that provide us with a snapshot of some of the exciting and innovative initiatives ongoing in higher education.”

“The institutions receiving awards today are clearly making a positive and significant impact on Irish society, in areas such as inclusion and gender equality, leadership and sustainability, and are helping create an Ireland that is progressive, and one in which every person has the same opportunities to reach their potential.”

Among the successful case studies is one from IT Carlow which details the development and delivery of a Certificate in Family Caring in partnership with Family Carers Ireland (FCI). The course provided family carers with the skills they need to care safely and confidently for a loved one at home, and with 94 per cent of the 162 students entering third level education for the first time, it also gave learners a renewed confidence in themselves.

The award to UCC was based on innovative programmes that support inclusive education pathways for students with intellectual disabilities. The Certificate in Contemporary Living gives these students the skills they need to transition successfully from further education to meaningful employment.

NUI Galway has been awarded for a case study detailing recent actions to advance gender equality within the university. With the establishment of a Gender Equality Task Force, opportunities for women to progress in NUI Galway have greatly improved over the past four years.

Munster Technological University secured an award for their case study outlining an innovative leadership development programme. The recently established university has driven leadership skills throughout its staff by developing high-quality coaching and mentoring programmes, which has helped improve engagement between staff and their students.

Another award has been granted jointly to Athlone IT and Limerick IT, which will merge to form the new Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest on October 1st, on the basis of two separate case studies on their participation in the Regional University Network European University (RUN-EU) initiative.

Athlone IT worked with like-minded European colleges to develop projects such as an Eco-Innovation Hub to unlock the potential of the Midlands peatlands as a sustainable enterprise, while it also invited students from RUN-EU partner colleges to take up structured PHD research projects at their campus.

LIT shared the award for its work at actively engaging with the European Universities Initiative (EUI), which envisages Europe as a global hub of education and will enable a new generation of Europeans to cooperate across borders, languages and disciplines and thus develop a stronger European identity.

Dr. Alan Wall, CEO of the HEA, said, “I’m particularly delighted that progressive initiatives aimed at facilitating participation in higher education by some of the more underrepresented and disadvantaged groups in our society have received well deserved recognition through these awards.”

“One of the primary benefits of this process is the rich learning that has been collated by the HEA, which we will disseminate widely so that it can be embedded across the higher education sector.”

The funding awards can be used to expand and progress existing initiatives, or can be put towards new initiatives that contribute towards national strategic imperatives. Oversight of the funding awarded will be managed by the HEA.

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