Third progress report presented to the Council of Universities Ireland

September 2004

1. Research project on the feasibility of harmonising regulations, awarding joint degrees and developing credit transfer arrangements between the nine universities on the island of Ireland

A seminar in connection with this project was held in Dublin on 17 September. Researcher Lewis Purser presented his preliminary findings and there was discussion with 20 university administrators and academics. All nine universities were represented at the seminar, as was the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland and NUS-USI. Sessions were chaired by the Provost of the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus, Prof Peter Roebuck; the outgoing Registrar of NUI Cork, Prof. Aidan Moran, and the former UCD President, Dr Art Cosgrove.

A copy of the seminar discussion document by Lewis Purser (UIC/P5/04) is attached. The final report on this project is due in January-February 2005.

2. An all-island symposium on the strategic use of e-learning by universities

This event will take place on Thursday 4 November at Dublin City University from 10.30-4.30. It will be addressed by the leading authorities on this subject in the USA and the UK: Dr Andy DiPaolo, Executive Director of the Stanford Centre for Professional Development at the University of Stanford, and Professor Diana Laurillard, head of the e-Learning Strategy Unit at the Department of Education and Skills. Invitations will be restricted to 30 university presidents, registrars, vice-presidents for teaching and learning, senior Department of Education and Science and Department for Employment and Learning officials, HEAnet and JANET representatives, a Science Foundation Ireland representative, senior university e-learning specialists and a small number of leading private sector specialists (at vice-president for innovation level).

The symposium will be opened by DCU President, Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski and closed by UI Chairman and University of Ulster Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry McKenna. Because of the very high demand for places at this symposium, we recommend that Presidents wishing to attend should inform Andy Pollak at the Council meeting or very soon afterwards whether they are interested in attending.

3. Relations with Universities UK

The meeting with representatives of Universities UK will take place on Friday 24 September, the day after the next UI Council meeting, at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin (from 9.30-1.00). The UUK delegation will comprise Prof. Ivor Crewe (chairman, Essex), Baroness Diana Warwick (chief executive), Professor Drummond Bone (Liverpool), Professor Robert Boucher (Sheffield), Professor Patrick Dowling (Surrey) and Dr Geoffrey Copland (Westminster).

A detailed briefing paper has been prepared by the UI and UUK secretariats covering the three subjects for discussion: leadership issues (to be presented for Universities Ireland by Dr Hugh Brady), governance issues (to be presented by Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski) and European issues (to be presented by Prof Roger Downer).

The British embassy will host a dinner for the two delegations on the evening of the 23rd, which will also be attended by the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Science, Mr John Dennehy, and the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Employment and Learning, Mr Will Haire.

4. Relations with North/South Roundtable Group

At a plenary meeting on 2 June, the North/South Roundtable Group ‘think tank’ of business and public sector leaders considered a discussion document on the ‘Increased Competitiveness of the Island Economy’, based on the work of five NSRG sub-groups (innovation, infrastructure, education, labour supply and the social economy). The NSRG is jointly chaired by the Governor of the Bank of Ireland, Mr Laurence Crowley, and the Managing Partner of PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Northern Ireland, Mr Stephen Kingon.

Universities Ireland was cited as having a “lead role in implementation” in 15 recommendations/actions put forward by the NSRG’s innovation (co-chaired by Professor Gerry McKenna) and education subgroups. Five of these were “priority recommendations and actions” for “short-term implementation” (i.e. to be implemented “within a one-two year period”). The priority recommendations and actions were those the NSRG “consider will make the most significant contribution to the increased competitiveness of the island economy”. These were:

  • “An advisory service comprising a collection of experts on intellectual property and technology transfer should be set up” (with InterTradeIreland).
  • “Implement an awareness initiative to highlight the commercial opportunities to academics and the investment opportunities to venture capitalists” (with third level institutions, development agencies and venture capital associations).
  • “The educators must interact with business to improve their curricula with regard to the marketing and sales business functions” (with third level institutions and business bodies).
  • “The Centres of Excellence programme should be co-ordinated on an all-island basis identifying 2 or 3 areas of exceptional potential for the island” (with InterTradeIreland and development agencies).
  • “Subsequently an international promotional programme for these Centres of Excellence should be developed”(with InterTradeIreland and development agencies).

There were four “other recommendations and actions” for “short-term implementation”: These were:

  • “There is a need for third level institutions to have a clear and shared focus on the commercialisation of research” (with third level institutions).
  • “Sales should be dealt with separately from marketing with all third level education programmes” (with third level institutions).
  • “Introduce a pilot scheme to provide a week’s experience in universities in the South for Lower Sixth students from the North” (with Departments of Education and Northern Ireland schools).
  • “Organise a high level all island leadership Summer School (Harvard model) for leading figures in the business, education and the public sector. This event would be utilised to develop the leadership dimensions of key opinion formers, to put all-island competitive and development issues in a global context, and to include the following elements:
  • key global issues facing Western developed economies
  • competing against emerging low cost economies
  • international input on regional development strategies
  • developing an enterprise and innovation culture
  • opportunities for networking.”

(with public sectors and business bodies)

The medium and long term recommendations and actions (to be implemented within 3-5 years and over 5 years respectively) were:

  • There should be an increased focus on marketing and sales across the island and more resources should be applied to this area by universities, industry and government.
  • In the medium-term establish a standing committee/forum/think tank of educationalists and industrialists from the North and South to address issues common to both jurisdictions and to examine models of good practice both on the island and internationally.
  • For the long-term create a think tank and appropriate processes to ensure a continuing dialogue and co-operation between educationalists and industrialists from the North and South.
  • A closer link should be established between the development agencies and the third level institutions North and South to ensure that the intellectual property and commercialisation processes do not deter potential entrepreneurs from exploiting intellectual property.
  • Engineers and scientists should be trained in marketing and sales.
  • A fund should be established to bring international marketing and sales experts to teach best practice in third level institutions on the island.

The UI secretariat would be grateful for some guidance on prioritising this list of recommendations/actions and on the capacity issues raised by them.

5. Relations with IBEC/CBI Joint Business Council

On 20 September a meeting was held between William Poole, chief executive of the IBEC/CBI Joint Business Council and Jackie Harrison, Director Projects of the Joint Business Council, and Andy Pollak to discuss issues of common interest. Among the issues discussed was the possibility of joint work on a study of need and demand for the provision of more North/South industrial placements for undergraduates, and on a study of skills needs in the two jurisdictions and how they might be tackled co-operatively.

6. African Co-operation Proposal

This proposal is that Universities Ireland should become a vehicle for all-island co-operation projects with higher education institutions in poor countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. It was agreed at the 20 April Council meeting that a first step should be a paper on existing links between Irish universities and HEIs in that region. A sub-committee comprising Professor Noel Whelan of University of Limerick, Professor Gillian Robinson of INCORE at the University of Ulster and Andy Pollak was set up to explore the proposal and prepare the paper. In early May this committee wrote to the UI liaison people in the nine universities requesting:

  1. A short description of specific co-operation projects with eastern and southern Africa each university is currently undertaking;
  2. An indication by each university as to where it sees its contribution to an initiative by UI to raise this level of co-operation and to integrate it into an islandwide undertaking.

The universities responded in June and July with lists of both individual researchers’ contacts and institutional programmes. In August the sub-committee delivered a proposal paper to the Development Co-operation section of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, which has offered to finance a trip by three UI representatives to Irish Aid priority countries in eastern and southern Africa to explore co-operation possibilities with the relevant national and regional education authorities and institutions. In early September Andy Pollak met two senior DCI officials, Frank Sheridan and Fintan Farrelly, to discuss issues raised by the paper and the DCI offer.

They suggested that the next step should be the convening of a workshop bringing together 20-25 of the people already centrally involved in development work through the Irish universities to explore how best to put in place structures and develop the capacity of universities in Ireland to engage with countries in Southern and Eastern Africa (they suggested a number of names). They suggested a number of key people who might address such a workshop, including Dr Paud Murphy, formerly director of HEDCO and now an East African specialist with the World Bank. DCI and the Department for International Development in London should also be represented.

7. Undergraduate computer competition

In June the UI secretariat was approached by Kevin Buckley, the managing director of Mandrakesoft, the distributors of Linux Open Source software in Ireland, with a proposal for an all-island competition for final year computer science students to carry out a project using Open Source software. InterTradeIreland was approached at the same time. The UI executive committee agreed in principle to give the competition its imprimatur, if InterTradeIreland also agreed to back it. However Mr Buckley has decided there is not enough time to organise such an all-island competition for this academic year. He is piloting it at the University of Limerick this year with the aim of extending it to other universities, North and South, in 2005-2006.

Andy Pollak

20 September 2004