Ireland Moving Towards a More Integrated Tertiary Education System

By Gemma Creagh - Last update

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According to a new report from SOLAS, Future FET: Transforming Learning, Ireland is moving towards a more integrated tertiary education system that combines FET & higher education & values lifelong learning as a key role in social inclusion & economic success.

According to the report, the agenda is aimed at “Transforming Learning over the next 5 years. As we transition from the first  FET strategy which followed the establishment of Education and Training Boards and SOLAS, we are moving towards a phase where real reform and performance improvement can deliver a more strategic and integrated FET system. The timing is perfect, with the formation of a new
Department dedicated to both further and higher education, new Ministers in place to oversee a more cohesive approach across both, and a programme for Government which sets out a range of commitments to grow the role and contribution of FET over the next few years.


The new approach to an integrated tertiary education system is based around three strategic pillars: building skills; fostering inclusion; and facilitating pathways. This will be underpinned by a strong focus on four enabling themes: digital transformation; learner and performance focus; staffing and structures; and capital development.

The central premise of the new strategy is that FET is for everyone and will serve as a major driver of both economic development and social cohesion. It is available in every community and offers you a pathway to take you as far as you want to go, regardless of any previous level of education. FET must become louder and prouder, with more and more people of all ages becoming aware of the opportunities to learn, develop, and progress through FET. There is a real opportunity to
grow the contribution and profile of FET and generate a more collaborative and cohesive postsecondary education system for Ireland.

To achieve this, the sector must simplify its structure and
learning pathways, facilitate easier access to education and training, ensure a more consistent learner experience, and build a more powerful identity within communities and for potential learners.

FET is starting this journey from a good base. It supports around 200,000 unique learners annually, underpinned by state investment of around €800million, and offers a range of learning opportunities and supports across Levels 1 to 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ). It is delivered by 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) ensuring that FET reflects regional characteristics and meets regional needs, and a range of other FET providers and support

While this new strategy marks a pivotal moment for FET, the Covid-19 crisis which we are all now experiencing in 2020 makes the need for change all the more pertinent. The way in which we work, learn, do business, and even engage with each other was already fundamentally changing as technology advanced, but the lessons and legacy from this Covid period will only intensify the pace at which this will happen in the future. Individuals will make different career and lifestyle choices, employers will adopt new business models and education providers will have to fully embed technology in the delivery of learning or else risk becoming irrelevant. There will also be significant social and economic damage as a result of the crisis, and FET must be there to support
the up-skilling and re-skilling of those who require a route back into sustainable employment, the re-invigoration of communities hit hard by restrictions, and the competitiveness of businesses as they seek a return to growth.”

Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science describes the new strategy, which aims to repair, repurpose and revive our economy and our communities over the course of the next five years, as “an ambitious new strategy based around the three core pillars of building skills, fostering inclusion, and facilitating pathways.”

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Gemma Creagh

Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing
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