Skip navigation

University College Dublin Logo

Advanced Search

UCD News

Nuacht UCD

Posted 14 May 2009

8 higher education institutions work together to establish Dublin as a learning city-region in support of the Smart Economy

The Minister for Education, Mr Batt O’Keeffe TD has announced a radical new initiative between four universities and four institutes of technology in the Dublin region that will transform the higher education system.

With a collective enrollment of almost 50% of all undergraduate students and approximately 62% of all PhD students in Ireland, the members of the new Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance (DRHEA), will work together to improve the training and professional development of academic staff, and support the enhancement of teaching and academic programmes across the eight Dublin institutions.

The DRHEA also aims to establish Dublin as a primary destination for international students, and to help widen participation and improve access to third level in the Dublin region.

Far right – The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Eibhlin Byrne; and the Minister for Education and Science, Mr Batt O’Keeffe TD; pictured on Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, with students from the 8 higher education institutions involved in the DRHEA to mark the official launch

The members of the DRHEA are: University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth, Dublin Institute of Technology, the Institute of Art Design and Technology, the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, and the Institute of Technology Tallaght.

“Bringing together the rich scholarly traditions and diverse expertise of the member institutions in the Dublin region, the DRHEA will provide a major opportunity for a wide range of collaborative innovations that will significantly enhance the capacity and potential of the regional higher education system,” said Michael Kelly, Chairman of the Higher Education Authority.

Launching the Dublin Alliance on 13 May 2009, Minister O’Keeffe said: “City-regions are becoming the focal points for knowledge creation and learning in the new age of global, knowledge-intensive, and highly networked and integrated economies and societies”.

“This is public investment being used to support collaborative approaches and new ways of developing higher education to respond to the challenges of the 21st century. Collaboration is not the easiest strategy but it allows us to think bigger. And we need to think bigger in order to pursue our ambitions and to compete on the international stage.” he said.

The DRHEA provides a unique opportunity to place higher education at the core of strategies to establish Dublin as a Learning City-Region that will drive forward the government’s programme for Building Ireland’s Smart Economy.

With €43 million funding by the Department of Education and Science and the Higher Education Authority under the Strategic Innovation Fund, matched by an equivalent amount by the participating institutions, the scale and scope of the project is unprecedented and will result in far reaching collaborative innovations over a number of years. The Alliance is governed by a Board that is independently chaired by Mr Brendan Tuohy, former Secretary-General of the (previous) Department for Communications, the Marine and Natural Resources, and includes a range of external stakeholders in the development of the Dublin city-region as well as senior representatives of the participating Higher Education institutions.

Speaking at the official launch the President of NUI Maynooth, Professor John Hughes said:

“The institutions represented by the DRHEA recognise the clear potential to transform higher education in the Dublin city-region. Collaboration on this scale is unprecedented within Irish higher education and has few international parallels. In these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to work together to improve and enhance the higher educational system.”

“By the end of this year, the DRHEA will bring together collective efforts to improve the training and professional development of academic staff under a single umbrella, the Dublin Centre for Academic Development,” he said. “An immediate result of this will be that training programmes, and development and support for academics, can be delivered by any one institution and be available to staff from all participating institutions.”

Speaking at the official launch the President of DIT, Professor Brian Norton said:

“Both within the Dublin city-region and nationally, higher education institutions must work together towards a common goal. The DRHEA has a long term vision for collaboration within the region.”

“We are focused on improving the experience of the undergraduate student, through better preparation, training, development and support for academic staff, but also by sharing across institutions the best practice and lessons learned in each institution.”

“We see a future for doctoral education where the seamless mobility of students across institutions is possible, while each institution specializes in its area of strength. Students will be able to attend different courses across institutions, according to their needs and the specialization of the institution,” he said.

The DRHEA Alliance Management Committee will be chaired by the Deputy President, Professor Jim Walsh at NUI Maynooth, from June 2009, following the initial chairmanship by Dr Philip Nolan, Registrar and Deputy President at University College Dublin.

Further information on the DRHEA is available at:


Learning and teaching: improving quality for both students and their teachers

The Dublin Centre for Academic Development (DCAD), the focal point for the DRHEA’s Enhancement of Learning strand, will create a ‘virtual’ Centre that will capitalise on expertise in educational practice, pedagogy and training in the individual institutions, and will provide access to tailored, structured programmes of training, development and support for academics in a cost-effective and collaborative manner.

The DCAD will prioritise the development of a professional development framework, underpinned by an agreed set of core values that will act as benchmarks for excellence for learning, teaching and assessment across the Dublin region and more generally across Irish higher education

Graduate education: enabling the best education for “Dublin” graduate students

The DRHEA Graduate Education Strand will radically reposition the Dublin region as an International Centre for Graduate and in particular, Doctoral Education, by combining the strengths of the participating institutions.

The DRHEA Graduate Education Strand has established an inter-institutional network in the disciplines of Biomedical Science, Chemistry, Economics, Engineering, Physics and Politics/Sociology/Public Policy.

Disciplinary Leaders have been working together and have already provided some advanced discipline specific taught modules and master classes available to all doctoral students in the alliance. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) for inter- institutional collaborative agreement on module delivery, graduate student mobility and credit exchange across the DRHEA has been prepared and will be signed and fully implemented by September 2009

Developing Dublin as an international destination for learning

The DRHEA will work to increase the number of international students attending the 8 institutions by 2011/12. This will be achieved through the development of “Destination Dublin”, providing a clear and concise message about the shared values that make Dublin an international location of choice for mobile students.

“On the ground” activities will take place at critical junctures for the student, such as at the point of arrival in Dublin (working with Dublin Tourism to provide information at the airport, the provision of a pick up service for students etc.), and at the beginning of their stay (providing a shared integration and cultural programme in partnership with key external stakeholders such as Dublin City Council).

To catalyse recruitment, the provision of Scholarships (branded as the “Lord Mayor of Dublin International Scholarships”) will be linked to positive career outcomes for Dublin-bound students.

Widening participation: reducing barriers into and through Higher Education

Despite the range of sectoral – and individual institutional - initiatives that have taken place to incentivise greater access to Higher Education, significant disparities continue in the level of take-up of higher education places among students from differing groups in society.

Where barriers to HE exist that can be reduced by collaboration across the Dublin region institutions, this will be the focus of work undertaken by a new Higher Learning Network. The learning needs of the Dublin region – most acutely in today’s economic climate - must be better understood and a focused energy directed across the partner institutions to widen participation to adult learners who wish to complete the first cycle of Higher Education.

>> More News and Events
<< Back to Home

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Councillor Eibhlin Byrne; and the Minister for Education and Science, Mr Batt O’Keeffe TD; pictured on Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, with students from the 8 higher education institutions involved in the DRHEA to mark the official launch
In the Media