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€12.4m Ambitious Overhaul of Higher Education As IT Sligo Initiates Higher Education 4.0

6th Oct 2020

€12.4m Ambitious Overhaul of Higher Education As IT Sligo Initiates Higher Education 4.0

Higher Education is set to reimagine teaching and learning through an innovative and ambitious proposal led by Institute of Technology, Sligo, with the announcement of €12.4 million funding .   Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, T.D. has today announced the funding under the Human Capital Initiative.

This IT Sligo led project with Connacht Ulster Alliance partners, GMIT & LYIT, is among the 22  successful projects to receive funding from the Human Capital Initiative Pillar 3, Innovation and Agility.  This is the final Pillar to be announced and commands a total budget of €197 million over the 5-year period, 2020 to 2024.

Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to be able to announce the broad range of projects that will be funded under the HCI Pillar 3. These projects will develop and change teaching and learning. This global pandemic has reinforced the need for us all to be agile and diverse.  Crucially though it requires us to develop new skills and equip the next generation with the critical importance to the economy and the workplace of the future.”

Higher Education Authority CEO, Dr Alan Wall, has congratulated all of the Higher Education institutions receiving funding under the HCI scheme.

“It is great to see the culmination of this process as it represents hundreds of hours of work by the Higher Education Authority working with the Higher Education institutions and our international panel.”

HCI Pillar 3 will deliver 22 projects in higher education institutions, 17 of which involve collaborations between institutions.

For centuries, third-level education has changed little within crumbling campus walls of well-established Universities.  However, along the west coast a quiet revolution in higher education is taking place in the glass encased modern campuses of IT Sligo.

President of IT Sligo, Dr Brendan McCormack welcomed the announcement by Minister Harris:

“This is a significant day for third-level education and this project will help propel higher education into a new and exciting age of learning.  Institutes of Technology have always been able to quickly adapt to emerging trends in industry, supplying regional companies with talented, qualified students with the skills and knowledge industries require.  Now, as companies adapt to Industry 4.0, IT Sligo, with its Connacht Ulster Alliance (CUA) partners in GMIT and LYIT, will positively disrupt the Higher Education Sector through this €12.4million project to make third level more accessible and agile for everyone. The CUA institutes view this initiative as a powerful opportunity to assist in creating a new Technological University whose teaching and learning is innovative from the start.”

The project spearheaded by IT Sligo, who were early adopters of online learning.  Back in 2002, IT Sligo first delivered an online course to five students.  By using a lean and agile model of teaching, eighteen years later, the institute has now over 10,000 students across the globe accessing over 140 courses.  In the last number of years, they have seen a steady 20% annual increase in enrolments.  This year however, with a focus on working and learning remotely due to the pandemic, the institute has received nearly double the number of applicants.

Vice President Online Development at IT Sligo, Professor Jacqueline McCormack who led the successful application acknowledged her CUA colleagues across IT Sligo, GMIT and LYIT and the support of industry partners in making the submission a success:

“This project will significantly engage with employers and lifelong learners.  This proposal maps out a vision for the future of the agility of higher education in responding to the needs of individuals and employers, and the funding will be used to establish the systems and the capacity required to deliver flexible and highly innovative higher education opportunities. In addition to our core partners many enterprise partners have engaged in the project planning and we want to thank them for their support.”

Professor McCormack added; “New learning technologies provide the potential to better serve the learning needs of individuals and employers and improve access to and the rate of learning for everyone.”

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