Universities propose regional cluster plan


The higher education system should be reconfigured into five regional clusters, according to new proposals from the university presidents.

But the presidents rule out any forced mergers of colleges. They stress colleges should continue to be “autonomous institutions operating through their established management structures”.

The proposals by the Irish Universities Association, the umbrella body for the universities, come in response to pressure from Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn for some rationalisation among the seven universities, 14 institutes of technology and more than 20 other colleges that make up the higher education system.

In a recent speech, Mr Quinn said: “There is a need to achieve critical mass through consolidation and collaboration and the development of regional clusters.”

The association proposals are framed as part of the process to build a new “landscape” for higher education in Ireland. The Higher Education Authority will publish its own “draft configuration” of thesystem shortly.

The proposals from the presidents are unlikely to win favour among some institutes of technology who are seeking reconfiguration as a technological university.

University presidents oppose the establishment of a technological university.

The presidents see a regional cluster as a group of colleges “collaborating and co-ordinating activities across a broad range of areas within a defined region”.

Clusters, they say, would be based on a formal written agreement among the members on core operating principles.

Making the case for the new clusters, the presidents say the goals would need:

* To enhance the student experience and optimise the efficiency and effectiveness of educational provision within the cluster by facilitating joint planning of educational provision and effective inter-institutional collaboration;

* To promote collaboration and to ensure critical mass in research and more effective knowledge transfer and commercialisation;

* To engage more coherently and systematically with stakeholders.

The clusters, the presidents say, should have a formal governance structure comprising the relevant senior officers of the member institutions together with the “rules of engagement” which comply with individual institutional governance and autonomy.

Cluster colleges Five regions

The five regional clusters proposed by the university presidents are:


NUI Galway; Galway-Mayo IT; Sligo IT; Letterkenny IT; St Angela’s College; Shannon College of Hotel Management.


University of Limerick; Limerick Institute of Technology; IT Tralee; Mary Immaculate College of Education; St Patrick’s College Thurles.


University College Cork; Cork Institute of Technology; Waterford Institute of Technology; Carlow Institute of Technology. Dublin /North East/ Midlands

Dublin /North East/ Midlands


Trinity College; UCD; Royal Irish Academy of Music; Marino Institute of Education; National College of Art and Design; Institute of Art, Design and Technology Dún Laoghaire; Institute of Public Administration; Institute of Bankers.