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Centre for Cross Border Studies and the North West Tertiary Education Cluster joint conference

Posted On: 30 May 2024



On Wednesday 29 May 2024, Ulster University hosted a joint conference between the Centre for Cross Border Studies and the North West Tertiary Education Cluster.

The focus of the conference was very much around the future and what desirable transformation could be achieved for Ireland and Northern Ireland via more coherent planning.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS) is an independent organisation with charitable status, based in Armagh. By empowering citizens and building capacity across sectors, the Centre promotes and supports practical cooperation across the border on this island as part of the ongoing peace and reconciliation process, as well as cooperation between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, Europe and beyond to increase mutual understanding, prosperity and wellbeing. The Centre also provides practical information and advice for those crossing the border to live, work, study or retire – information and advice that is increasingly being sought after in the context of Brexit.

North West Tertiary Education Cluster (NWTEC) is now an established strategic alliance of all four publicly funded tertiary education providers in the North West City Region: Atlantic Technological University (ATU), Ulster University (UU), North West Regional College, and Donegal Education and Training Board. This deep partnership provides the full range of educational services including advanced skills training, cutting-edge innovation supports for enterprise, and internationally recognised high-quality research.

The conference was addressed by the Ministers in both jurisdictions with responsibility for higher education, Conor Murphy MLA, Economy Minister, and Patrick O’Donovan TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

Speaking at the conference, Minister O’Donovan said, “I am delighted to be here in Ulster University, this morning to speak at today’s conference. The North-West Tertiary Education Cluster (NWTEC) has evolved as a brand and a meaningful partnership focusing on supporting the development of this Region. It has been to the forefront in promoting and highlighting education, advanced skills training, cutting-edge innovation, enterprise services and internationally recognised high-quality research in this region”.

Former RTE Northern Editor Tommie Gorman hosted the event which started with a discussion on integrated education and the border and moved on to concentrate on how to foster economic development in the North West. The keynote address was delivered by Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec; Danny was previously a senior economist at both the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Central Bank of Ireland in Dublin.

Panel discussions featured leading enterprise representatives from the region and the development agencies from both sides of the border examining the opportunities available for the North West via coherent strategic collaboration. A very inspiring and thought-provoking conference was brought to a close with the leads from the four NWTEC partners setting out tertiary education priorities for the future North West.

“Hosting the Future North West Conference at Ulster University in Derry-Londonderry has been a privilege,” said Professor Paul Bartholomew, Vice Chancellor of Ulster University.

“We are delighted that the conference secured the interest of ministers from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, along with our friends from the North West Tertiary Education Cluster. Together, we are shaping the future of tertiary education on this island and prioritising the advancement of tertiary education in the North West. The collaborative spirit and shared vision evident here today has been very pleasing to witness.”

Dr Orla Flynn, President of the Atlantic Technological University, stated: “The conference was very stimulating, providing strong support for the North West Tertiary Education Cluster. Throughout the day we got many examples of tangible evidence of deep collaboration across the education partners, local government and the private sector. The conference offered a real vision for a connected future in which the North West can be a beacon for transformative collaboration.”

Donegal Education and Training Board Chief Executive, Anne McHugh, noted the importance of this collaborative work: “One of our priorities is to play a leading role in forming local and regional partnerships that will improve educational, social and economic outcomes for Donegal. This collaboration with ATU, the North West Regional College and Ulster University, through the North West Tertiary Education Cluster, in terms of upskilling and reskilling, is strategically important for the future uplift of this cross border region.”

Leo Murphy, Principal and Chief Executive of North West Regional College, said he “welcomed the NWTEC conference at Ulster University and that it provided an excellent platform to showcase the innovation and skills work taking place across the four institutions to help build this city region.”