Colleges join forces for academic gain


THREE third-level institutions in the Dublin area have joined to establish a formal partnership to enhance co-operation in the development of academic programmes in research and education.

It should lead to an unprecedented level of linkage between the “3U Partnership” which includes Dublin City University, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and NUI Maynooth.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny joined Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to launch the initiative in Dublin yesterday. Mr Kenny said it would create a powerful synergy between these trusted institutions to the benefit of Ireland.

All three institutions have had links of various kinds over the past few years, but the agreement, signed yesterday by Brian MacCraith, president of DCU, Philip Nolan, president of Maynooth, and chief executive officer Cathal Kelly for the Royal College, will deliver a much higher level of integration across disciplines.

There are plans to exchange academic staff and students, make combined bids when accessing State or EU research funding, and target access to international students on a collective basis, the three said yesterday.

While each institution would retain its independence and its own particular identity, together the 3U Partnership would help create a single combined identity in delivering education and developing academic programmes.

The institutions announced an immediate initiative to establish 3U Biomedical Research, a research consortium that will combine the efforts of the 750 researchers already in place across the three institutions.

They will also establish interdisciplinary masters degree programmes and create new international study programmes mainly at postgraduate level.

The three universities were “very different institutions with complementary strengths”, Prof Nolan said before the partnership launch. “It allows us to do things together that we couldn’t do alone. That complementarity is fundamental.”

Initial discussions on the link-up started back in 2010 and a steering group representing all three institutions had been meeting every fortnight for more than a year in preparation for the level of integration sought through the partnership, said Prof Kelly.

It was akin to “academic speed dating”, bringing together the academics and the programmes to achieve a close integration of the three institutions, he said.

“We are signing up for the long haul here,” Prof MacCraith said. There were initiatives that could be pursued immediately, for example the biomedical research body and developing foundation programmes to attract international students, but there was also a “pipeline” of initiatives to follow.

The universities also plan to target prospective students in the M50 corridor, the 10,000 to 15,000 students living in and around Dublin in the hopes of attracting them to one of the three institutions. “It is one of the focal points for the consortium,” Prof McCraith said.

The three had already worked out procedures for the control of intellectual property and bidding for funding, Prof Kelly said. There would be economic benefits but it would also pay off academically.