The first Universities Ireland seminar of international affairs officers of the nine universities was held in Dublin City University on 17 December 2003. All the universities were represented, together with the director of the International Education Board Ireland, Mr John Lynch. The seminar followed a conference the previous May in County Cavan – ‘International Education: A Capacity Builder for the Island of Ireland?’ – which was organised by the Centre for Cross Border Studies on behalf of the Department of Education and Science in Dublin and the Department for Employment and Learning in Belfast.
The areas discussed included: the need for a definition of international education to include both the attraction of overseas students, Irish students going abroad and ‘internationalising’ Irish university campuses; the emphasis by senior administrators on overseas students as a source of revenue, sometimes to the detriment of EU exchange programmes; the lack of a forum for international officers, North and South; the relative newness of and lack of resources devoted to this sector; the difficulties posed by two different quality assurance systems on the island; the problems of gaining the interest of academic staff in this sector; the place of students from developing countries; the work of the inter-departmental review group on international education in the South (due to report early in 2004); and the bid by IDP Education Australia to take over the promotion of Irish universities abroad, which has provoked significant opposition in some of the Republic’s universities and is currently being considered by a Conference of Heads of Irish Universities working group.
It was agreed that it would be useful if the bi-annual meeting to prepare and review the joint Irish universities participation at the NAFSA conference in the US could be extended to incorporate a Universities Ireland-organised forum (with an invited outside speaker) to discuss wider issues of concern to international officers, North and South.