Cross-Border Education In Focus

The North West of Ireland is being targeted in a new initiative to build educational alliances of mutual benefit to both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Letterkenny Institute of Technology and the University of Ulster have been funded under the Republic's Strategic Innovation Fund to undertake an 18-month study aiming "to develop a blueprint for a significant upgrading of higher education capacity in the North West and border region through a strategic alliance".

The region was defined as Co Donegal and the six Northern Ireland District Council Areas bordering Donegal, ie Coleraine, Limavady, Derry, Strabane, Omagh and Fermanagh.

The Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland 2025 Shaping Our Future (2001) highlights the importance of strengthening the role of Londonderry as the regional city and 'transport hub' of the North West.

The future economic direction for Northern Ireland is articulated in the Economic Vision for Northern Ireland (2005), which sets out a view of the longer term objectives for the economy, the importance of higher value-added jobs, enhancements to productivity and competitiveness, increasing skill levels and improving participation in education and training.

Very importantly, the focus of this project is in line with the priority under All-Island Co-operation in the Irish Government's National Development Plan which seeks "A significant upgrading of higher education capacity in the North West and the border region through strategic alliances between the educational institutions, North and South".

The Strategic Innovation Fund is a multi-annual fund, amounting to €510 million over the period 2006 - 2013, which is directed towards support for innovation in higher education institutions.

It supports new approaches to enhancing quality and effectiveness within higher education and research, incorporating the use of existing resources (including capital resources) more effectively, as well as new funding.

The current project was designed with two phases. Phase One, to December 2008, was a Scoping Study supported by external consultants - Indecon Intl / London Economics.

Their analysis indicates the need to augment higher education provision in the region and that the most effective means of achieving this is through strategic collaboration between Letterkenny and the University of Ulster.


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