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.
Key Facts & Figures
Enrolments in higher education have risen by 9% between 2013/14 and 2017/18. There were over 223,000 enrolments in higher education in 2017/18, compared with just over 206,000 in 2013/14.
The proportionate increase in enrolments between 2013/14 and 2017/18 has been largest for the non-EU and EU (excluding Ireland and the UK) groups with increases of 40% and 30% respectively. Enrolments from Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) have fallen 24% over the period.
Over the period 2013/14 to 2017/18, there has been a 13% increase in honours degree enrolments but a decrease of 14% in ordinary degree enrolments. Taught masters and PhD enrolments over the same period are up 25% and 5% respectively.
Field of Study
Across the fields of study, the largest proportionate increases in enrolments between 2014/15 and 2017/18 were in the education and business, administration & law fields at 26% and 12% respectively. Health and welfare, engineering, ICT and science enrolments increased 8%, 6%, 4% and 4% respectively over the same period.
Over the period 2013/14 to 2017/18, female enrolments increased 14%, male enrolments increased by only 3%. Over the same period, enrolments of those aged under 24 increased 13% but enrolments of those aged 24+ increased by only 1%.
Graduate numbers from higher education in Ireland increased 9% between 2013 and 2017. There were over 70,500 graduates in 2017 compared with just less than 65,000 in 2013.
Honours degree graduate numbers increased 5% between 2013 and 2017, ordinary degree graduate numbers decreased 9% over the same period. Although taught masters graduate numbers increased 25% between 2013 and 2017, PhD graduate numbers decreased by 17% over the same period.
Graduates Fields of Study
Graduates numbers from the education and health & welfare fields of study increased by 23% and 12% respectively between 2014 and 2017. Graduate numbers from the ICT, business, administration & law, engineering, agriculture and services fields increased by 5%, 4%, 4%, 4% and 4% respectively over the same period.
A HEA analysis of completion rates in higher education showed that 76% of new entrants to higher education in 2007/08 completed their studies. The completion rates vary across the NFQ levels of study from 63% at NFQ level 6 and 61% at NFQ level 7 to 82% at NFQ level 8.
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.