‘Ireland has too many universities’ - Glen Dimplex chairman

Disruptive reform of the Irish education sector called for at Global Irish Economic Forum

Ireland has too many universities and needs a more disruptive approach to education, the chairman and CEO of Glen Dimplex has said.

Speaking today at the Global Irish Economic Forum, Sean O’Driscoll also said Ireland needs to redefine the role Institutes of Technology play in education.

“We have too many universities and we need to pick the winners and the losers.”

“We need to redefine the role of ITs. They should not be quasi-universities. ITs should be about apprenticeships and internships.”


Giving the recommendations of a working group, Mr O’Driscoll also said the Transition Year programme needs to be redefined at second-level.

“What is it – a holiday or a life-changing experience in one’s life?”

“ There needs to be disruptive reform in the education sector.”

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller criticised the notion that in Ireland, everything but a university education is seen as inferior.

“We have to promote non-academic education as something equal to academic training, if not better.”

He said colleges such as the Institutes of Technology are often seen as places for people who didn’t get into university, a view that needs to be moved away from.

“We need to incentivise employers to offer apprenticeships and internships. Irish graduates are not necessarily fit for their jobs. There should be on the job training as part of academic education.”

Natus managing director and co-founder of the Farmleigh Fellowship, Fred Combe, said almost 20,000 international students come to Ireland to study every year, but nearly all of them leave straight after.

He said visa extensions should be given to entrepreneurial students from abroad to encourage them to set up businesses here.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said all ideas and recommendations from the forum would be taken away and examined.

“I’ll bring a memo to government about how we are going to bring them forward.”