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Dublin: 17°C Monday 18 October 2021

First ever performance review of Ireland's higher education system now published

It found that half of 30-34 year olds have third level qualifications, the highest level in Europe.

Image: Education via Shutterstock

THE FIRST EVER performance report into the Higher Education System in Ireland was published today.

It shows that higher education in Ireland is competing very well internationally and graduate employment has bounced back to pre-crisis levels.

The report was presented by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn.

It shows that:

  • Half of 30-34 year olds now have third level qualifications, the highest level in Europe
  • Irish universities are in the top 1 per cent of research institutions in the world across 18 academic disciplines
  • Ireland is 1st in the world for the availability of skilled labour
  • Ireland has the 4th highest percentage of Maths, Science and Computing graduates in the EU
  • 75 per cent of Irish employers are satisfied with graduate skills.

Minister Quinn said, “Higher education is one of the success stories in Ireland in recent years.

Despite the strains and stresses it has endured, the system has shown great resilience and has been a major contributory factor to economic and social development.

“Of course there have been challenges and we are also aware that there will be further issues to grapple with in the years ahead.”


Student numbers are expected to rise by 20,000 from 2011 to 2016.

That’s a 10 per cent increase bringing the number of students in Ireland from 196,397 in 2011 to 216,732 in 2016.

The HEA report advises that the combination of increased student numbers and reducing resources per student carries risks to the quality of graduates and outcomes generally.

The report states that “Such risks will need careful management”.

Completion rates for honours degree courses are well above the OECD average but there has been a deterioration in non-progression rates at Level 6 and 7.

The report also shows that the numbers and proportions of students from under-represented socio-economic groups are increasing but not fast enough.

New Plan

Consultations will begin shortly to help prepare a new plan aimed at boosting the percentages of students from non-traditional backgrounds going to higher education.

The plan will be published before the end of the year.

The total number of institutions will be reduced from 39 to 25 over the next few years.

Minister Quinn said that, “Higher Education, like all other areas in the public service, has had to do more with less resources. It has introduced efficiency measures to meet changing circumstances”.

Despite this, I am happy to say that there is little evidence of any drop in the quality of our graduates to date.

“All our universities as well as DIT are still in the top 500 in the world and many of our institutes of technology performed exceptionally well in the recently published U-Multirank published by the EU”.


Read: 8 Irish universities feature in the top 200 spots in world university rankings>

Read: 16 things you’ll only know if you went to Dublin City University>

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