Second progress report presented to the Council of Universities Ireland

Council meeting
20 April 2004

A. 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

Contracts were signed between Andy Pollak (representing UI) and Lewis Purser of the European University Association to carry out this 12-month research project in January. Mr Purser presented a draft methodology, work plan and target group for questionnaires to two meetings (via conference calls) with the Project Steering Group on 30 January and 13 February. Participating in these meetings were SG members Professor Aidan Moran (UCC), Professor Peter Roebuck (UU), Mr Conor O’Carroll (CHIU), Ms Anne Davies (QUB), Dr David Redmond (NUI Maynooth) and Mr Pollak.

B. International officers seminar

The international officers of all nine universities met on 17 December in DCU. It was clear from the meeting that there is a relatively low level of dialogue between the international officers on the island. The only concrete proposal was that their bi-annual meeting to discuss joint participation in a US higher education fair should be expanded to include discussion of other mutual all-island concerns.

C. A high level seminar on e-learning as a strategic imperative for higher education on the island of Ireland

A meeting (via conference call) was held on 27 January with e-learning specialists from UU, QUB, DCU, TCD and NUI Galway. A proposal for a one-day seminar with the above title to be held in autumn 2004 was forwarded to the February meeting of the Executive Committee. The EC approved this proposal. The seminar will be addressed by leading authorities from the US, Australia or Britain, and will aim to attract no more than 35 participants drawn from university presidents, registrars, senior administrators and senior e-learning practitioners. The specialists stressed the importance of getting senior administrators involved in the debate about the present and future strategic role of e-learning in universities on the island. The first planning meeting for this event will take place on 21 April.

D. 4th North/South Higher Education Conference

The fourth North/South Higher Education Conference, organised under the auspices of the Department of Education and Science and the Department for Employment and Learning (UI sits on the planning committee) will take place in the Slieve Russell Hotel in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan on 20-21 May. It will look at examples of good practice in cross-border higher education in Sweden and Denmark (the Oresund university) and Switzerland, France and Germany (the EUCOR network). Among the keynote speakers will be the Rector of Copenhagen University, Prof. Linda Nielsen, and Prof. McKenna, as chairman of Universities Ireland.

E. US-Ireland R and D Task Force

The US-Ireland R and D Task Force final report was agreed in November. It included the idea of setting up a steering group to oversee various initiatives with the support, it is hoped, of the US National Institute of Health and the US National Science Foundation. Professor McKenna will report on progress.

F. Relations with Universities UK

A meeting with representatives of Universities UK has been fixed for Friday 24 September in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. UUK president Prof Ivor Crewe and chief executive Baroness Warwick plus several other British university heads will attend. Universities UK would like leadership and governance to be among the subjects discussed at the meeting. The British Embassy in Dublin will host a dinner for Universities Ireland and Universities UK on the previous evening.

G. Relations with North/South Roundtable Group

At a meeting on 23 February of the committee of the high level business association, the North/South Roundtable Group, InterTradeIreland chairman Dr Martin Naughton strongly supported a proposal for a high level all-island Summer School for Business – which would be the first of its kind in Ireland – in which Universities Ireland would play a significant role.

H. US Scholarship Schemes

At the October UI Council meeting, Andy Pollak was asked to prepare a short paper on the workings of the three significant scholarship schemes which bring US students to universities in Ireland, North and South: Fulbright, Mitchell and, to a much lesser extent, Ferris [See separate paper]. Because of the small numbers of US Fulbright scholars and students coming to Northern Ireland universities through the UK Fulbright Commission, the Executive Committee suggests that the Irish Fulbright Commission should be asked to investigate the possibility of taking over the administration of incoming US students and scholars at Northern Ireland universities from the UK Commission. Proportionately a much larger number of US Fulbright scholars and students come to the Republic of Ireland than to the UK.

I. African Co-operation Proposal

UI had a meeting with Concern Worldwide and the Department of Foreign Affairs in mid-January to discuss the possibility of becoming a vehicle for universities on the island to work with higher education institutions in a poor region of Africa. The DFA has offered UI three economy flights to Uganda and South Africa for an exploratory trip to make contacts and explore the possibilities of working with African higher education institutions in an Irish Aid priority region in eastern or southern Africa. At the Executive Committee’s request, the universities will be sending in summaries of their present contacts and exchanges with Africa.

J. Website and headed paper

The UI website – at – has been on line since January. The UI headed notepaper is now available.

K. Dinner with President McAleese

President McAleese is hosting a dinner for Universities Ireland on the evening of the next Council meeting on 20 April. It will be attended by the university presidents, senior administrators and academics from the nine universities, senior officials from the Department of Education and Science, the Department for Employment and Learning and the North/South Ministerial Council, CHIU representatives, and others.

Andy Pollak