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Minister Harris announces significant policy development on unified tertiary sector

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (December 6th) announced the establishment of a significant new policy in the development of a unified tertiary sector.


A new National Tertiary Office is to be established within the Higher Education Authority to develop joint further and higher education degree programmes with 13 disciplines being advanced this year.


The project will be jointly managed by the HEA and SOLAS through a new National Tertiary Office which will be governed by an MOU between both organisations. 


This landmark policy will see students commence their third level experience in further education, but will complete the remainder in higher education colleges.


Speaking today at the launch of the Unified Tertiary Education policy, Minister Harris said: “This is a momentous day for third level education in Ireland.


“For decades we have discussed the creation of a unified third level system in Ireland. One in which you are driven by the career you wish, rather than the points you get.


“This is that vision in action. For September 2023 we will roll out courses where the student will commence their degree in further education and progress to higher education.


“This is a game-changer. This will ensure there are alternative routes to the points system. It will reduce dropout rates and crucially, it will ensure we have a system that is driven by the needs of the learners. I want to thank the Higher Education Authority and SOLAS, particularly Dr Alan Wall and Nessa White, for their leadership in driving this change forward.”


€2 million was set aside in Budget 2023 for this measure and this funding will be used for this project.


HEA CEO Dr Alan Wall said he was delighted to see this new National Tertiary Office come to fruition after considerable work by both the HEA and SOLAS in getting it off the ground.


Dr Alan Wall said: “This is something that ourselves in the HEA and our colleagues in SOLAS have been working on for some time, and we believe that it will create clear pathways for students transitioning from Further Education to Higher Education.


“The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science’s Statement of Strategy 2021 to 2023 outlines six strategic goals, one of which centres around developing talent and skills. Crucial to the achievement of this goal is the provision of diverse and progressive pathways for learners, enabling progression across and between different institutions.


“This is a very important model for Further and Higher Education, and we are currently in the process of recruiting a Director for this new National Tertiary Office to oversee this new programme.”


Welcoming the announcement of the establishment of the new National Tertiary Office today, Nessa White, Executive Director – Transformation at SOLAS, said today’s announcement marks a significant milestone in the evolution of both FET and HE provision nationwide.


Nessa White added: “There are now so many routes for learners to realise their chosen career and educational goals. Enhancing these pathways has long been a key focus of FET and HE in supporting learners to get to where they want to go.


“Through the newly established office we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the HEA, ETBs and HEIs to develop this new model for joint further and higher education degree programmes that will strengthen learner pathways and ensure they are accessible to everyone.”