July 3, 2003

New all-island body set up to promote co-operation between universities in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Press Release 3 July 2003

The nine universities on the island of Ireland have set up Universities Ireland, a new ‘umbrella’ body to promote co-operation and collaboration among universities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The new body, which was set up by the university presidents at a recent meeting in National University of Ireland Maynooth, will undertake work in a number of designated areas. These will include:

  • Undertaking research projects to improve inter-university co-operation. The first of these will be a 12-month research project on the feasibility of joint degrees and credit transfer arrangements between universities on the island.
  • Follow-up work from issues discussed at the six-monthly North/South higher education conferences organised by the Centre for Cross Border Studies on behalf of the Department of Education and Science (Dublin) and the Department for Employment and Learning (Belfast).
  • This will include work on ‘branding’ the Irish universities abroad, and improving the island of Ireland’s profile in the international student recruitment market, as discussed at the most recent North/South higher education conference in Cavan in May.
  • Development of university-industry links, technology and research transfer on an ‘island of Ireland’ basis, in consultation and collaboration with the North/South trade and development body, InterTradeIreland.
  • Universities Ireland will be funded by an annual levy paid by the nine universities, and by grants from the Department of Education and Science in Dublin, the Department for Employment and Learning in Belfast and InterTradeIreland in Newry.

    The secretariat of the new body will be provided by the Centre for Cross Border Studies, with offices in Armagh and Dublin, which was set up in 1999 to research and develop practical co-operation across the Irish border in a number of areas, notably education.

    Universities Ireland complements the Northern Ireland universities’ membership of Universities UK, which continues to play an important role sector in lobbying and disseminating information and policy throughout the UK higher education sector.

    The first chairman of Universities Ireland, Professor Gerry McKenna (President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster), said:

    ” Increasingly we are living in a global village where the most important resource is brainpower. It is part of the great tradition of universities that they should support collaboration in the pursuit of knowledge and as part of their contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of the regions in which they are based. There are real benefits to be gained for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland from the nine universities cooperating together in order to harness the synergy of their complementary strengths, and to have the island of Ireland recognised as a world class centre for higher education, including research and knowledge transfer.”

    Welcoming the formation of Universities Ireland, the Irish Minister for Education and Science, Mr Noel Dempsey TD, said: “Much important work has been going on in North/South educational co-operation at the level of schools, at the level of organisations and at the level of universities and further education colleges. The establishment of Universities Ireland will consolidate existing co-operation and facilitate the potential for future co-operation at 3rd level across a range of disciplines. This collaboration is linked to a wide range of sectors critical to the economies, North and South. In this context the higher education sector has a key role to play in generating dialogue, analysing issues, exploring concepts and ideas, and leading the wider community in the exploration of solutions”.

    The Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office with responsibility for Employment and Learning, Ms Jane Kennedy MP, commended this further development of inter-university co-operation: “Universities Ireland is a very practical response by the universities to the challenges posed by the increasingly competitive and global world of higher education.”

    Further information from

    Andy Pollak, director, Centre for Cross Border Studies, 39 Abbey Street, Armagh BT61 7EB
    Tel. 028-3751-1550 Fax 028-3751-1721 (048 from the Republic of Ireland) Mobile: 0771-5042122
    e-mail: a.pollak@qub.ac.uk