One of the most significant developments in the Irish higher education (HE) system in many years took place at the end of 2018: the establishment of Ireland’s first Technological University, TU Dublin.

This was the culmination of many years of work and the merger of the Institutes of Technology of Dublin, Blanchardstown and Tallaght. Work also continued on the possible designation of other Technological Universities around the country.

We also saw a continued growth in student numbers (just over 230,000 as of 2017/18) and, in parallel, an increasing emphasis on student employability and upskilling. This latter national priority is manifested in the Budget 2019 announcement of the €300m Human Capital Initiative, as well as the ongoing expansion of apprenticeships. The HE sector’s contribution to Ireland’s employment performance will become even more important as Brexit comes to pass.

The 2019 Action Plan for Education will give effect to the new Minister’s priorities for the whole education sector. Work on a new Higher Education Act to update our primary piece of legislation, the 1971 Act, also commenced this year and this new law is expected to clarify the powers and responsibilities of the organisation.