Cross-border provision of public services for Wales: Further and higher education - Welsh Affairs Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Letterkenny Institute of Technology


  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: universities—83,000 and IoTs—52,000. There are also circa 31,000 part time students: universities—16,000 and IoTs 15,000.

  1.5  The sector has grown significantly since the 1980s. During the period 1980—2004 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 developments—regionally 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.


  3.1  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.

October 2008

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