Memorandum submitted by the Letterkenny
Institute of Technology
1. HIGHER EDUCATION
1.1 Higher education in Ireland is broadly
characterised by a binary structure, comprising universities and
institutes of technology. There are seven universities which are
essentially concerned with undergraduate and postgraduate degree
programmes, together with basic and applied research. There are
fourteen institutes of technology (IoTs), including the Dublin
Institute of Technology (DIT), which provide higher certificate,
ordinary and honours degree programmes, along with a number of
Masters and PhD programmes as part of their growing involvement
in basic and applied research and technology transfer programmes
with industry. Institute of Technology programmes tend to be applied
in nature, with graduates often trained to meet specific needs
of business and industry. The Institutes also tend to have a strategic
mission to support business and enterprise and respond to economic
changes in a regional, national and international context.
1.2 Within each sector and between the two
sectors, a diversity of institutions offers a wide variety of
types and levels of courses. A number of other third level institutions
provide specialist education in such fields as teacher education,
art and design, medicine, business studies, rural development,
theology, music and law. In addition, there are a growing number
of private institutions.
1.3 There are also seven Colleges of Education
located throughout the country. Two colleges, Mater Dei Institute
and St. Angela's College, offer degree level courses leading to
a qualification as teachers of specialised subjects at secondary
school. The five remaining Colleges of Education provide approved
degree courses which lead to qualification as a primary school
teacher: The Church of Ireland College of Education, Froebel College
of Education, Mary Immaculate College, St. Patrick's College and
Coláiste Mhuire, Marino. While the Colleges of Education
are separate institutions to the universities, all have academic
and certification linkages to a university.
1.4 The bulk of third level education is
provided in the institutions described above which are supported
very substantially by the State; most receive in excess of 80%
of their income from the Exchequer. The publicly funded sector
comprises circa 135,000 full-time students: universities83,000
and IoTs52,000. There are also circa 31,000 part time students:
universities16,000 and IoTs 15,000.
1.5 The sector has grown significantly since
the 1980s. During the period 19802004 the participation
rate in higher education rose from 20% in 1980 to 36% in 1998
and to 55% in 2004.
2.1 Letterkenny Institute of Technology
(LYIT) is a thriving third level education institution that has
been providing higher education in County Donegal since 1971.
In 1998 it was designated as an Institute of Technology and currently
has 2,500 full-time students enrolled on Higher Certificate, undergraduate
and postgraduate degree programmes. The college offers courses
in a number of core disciplines, including business, tourism,
engineering, science, nursing, computing, design and digital media.
2.2 Since 1997 Letterkenny IT has received
exchequer funding in excess of 70 million, allowing it to
develop significantly in a number of key strategic areas. The
result is that Letterkenny IT now enjoys the benefits of a modern
integrated campus with the opening of a suite of graphic design
studios as well as state-of-the-art facilities for nursing courses.
Sport and recreational facilities are located in a new multi-purpose
centre, An Dánlann, which also houses a dedicated student
centre with ancillary student support services including a Medical
Centre, a Counselling Service, a Careers Office and Chaplaincies.
Meanwhile, the Institute has developed a full range of administrative
services including the Information Resource Centre, Student Services,
Computer Services, Human Resources, Estates, Development and Finance.
2.3 Following an application to HETAC (Higher
Education and Training Awards Council) in January 2004, an Evaluation
Group for Delegated Authority visited the Institute in April 2004.
They issued their findings to HETAC and formal approval issued
on 27 September 2004. This conferred on the Institute the right
to award its own qualifications. Much preparatory work paved the
way for this milestone involving the production of a Quality Assurance
Handbook and the approval of the Institute's Academic Council.
The Institute went through a similar approval process for taught
master's programmes including a peer review in June 2007, formal
confirmation was subsequently granted by HETAC.
2.4 The Institute's new Strategic Plan 2007-13
ushered in a new era for the Institute as it aligned its profile
with the Gateway status accorded to Letterkenny in the National
Development Plan (NDP) 2006 and its successor the NDP 2007-13.
The Institutes of Technology Act 2006 saw two important developmentsregionally
with the incorporation of the Tourism College Killybegs (TCK)
as a fully fledged School of Letterkenny IT and nationally with
the Institute of Technology sector coming under the aegis of the
Higher Education Authority (HEA) which has now become the funding
agency for all universities and Institutes of Technology in the
Republic of Ireland.
2.5 The Institute's on-campus Business Development
Centre caters for a range of incubation businesses and has resulted
in a number of very successful spin-out organisations in the recent
past. An extension to the centre is under construction, as is
the development of dedicated research space funded by the Department
of Education and Science.
2.6 Letterkenny IT continues to evolve its
course offerings to meet the needs of the region and it will continue
to play an important role in the transition of the local economy
from textiles manufacturing and fishing to a knowledge economy
that is now emerging. With over 50% of the Institute's graduates
finding employment in the North West on an annual basis, this
is contributing to a pool of graduate employment in the region
which should prove attractive to prospective employers.
2.7 Letterkenny IT takes seriously its remit
of importing best practice into the region and, in collaboration
with other stakeholders, supports the development and upskilling
of indigenous industry. It sees its involvement in cross-border
programmes as an important regional initiative in the context
of ongoing cooperation with the University of Ulster and the North
West Regional College in Derry.
3. NORTH WEST
3.1 Letterkenny Institute of Technology
(LYIT) has been awarded funding by the Irish Higher Education
Authority (HEA) administered Strategic Innovation Fund (cycle
2) in relation to a strategic alliance with the University of
Ulster (UU) aimed at increasing higher education capacity in the
North West and border region. This proposal has two distinct elements:
a scoping study and a complete specification or blueprint for
the strategic alliance. The focus of the scoping study is: to
build a fuller picture of the opportunities for collaboration,
views of stakeholders, the needs of the North West Gateway region,
the respective operating environments of the partner institutions
and possible models for achieving the aims of the proposal.
3.2 Indecon International Consultants and
London Economics have been engaged to complete this piece of work.
Significant progress has been made to date and a final report
is due by December 2008. Following the completion of the scoping
study the remainder of the project will detail a blueprint for
collaboration between LYIT and UU.
3.3 This project is an example of positive
cross-border collaboration, where the higher education institutions
are taking the lead in how a strategic approach to planning can
benefit the communities that live in the region.