new report by renowned education analyst Professor Malcolm Skilbeck calls for new thinking about third-level education in Ireland and for the creation of a new cross-sectoral university which would make an important contribution to society and to the economy.

The report is critical of the current 'binary system' in Ireland which nominally divides the remit of the universities from that of the Institutes of Technology but which in reality has been bypassed and has become irrelevant. The report says that efforts to sustain the binary distinction now are `inconsistent with the kind of socio-economic environment and the national priorities which are sought'.

Instead Skilbeck recommends the development of an integrated framework for tertiary education, with individual institutions linked together under an enlarged university umbrella. He recommends the establishment of a new type of cross-sectoral university, which diversifies the `standard' model and changes traditional assumptions about the nature of a university education and identifies Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) as an ideal model for pioneering the way forward in this regard. He also suggests that Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) could follow in a relatively short time, perhaps forming the nucleus of a new university of the south-east.

Anticipating some objections to the report's findings, Professor Skilbeck firmly discounts the argument that establishing DIT - and perhaps WIT - as a new type of university would in some way weaken the technology sector. He maintains instead that the entire higher education system is subject to huge internal and external change and the status quo is no longer an option - "tertiary education world-wide is undergoing change on an unprecedented scale. Ireland is no exception and the question is not turbulence or no turbulence, but how to steer and manage change to procure maximum benefit.'

Welcoming the report, the President of DIT Dr. Brendan Goldsmith said 'Professor Skilbeck is an acknowledged authority on education internationally as well as having authored landmark reports on education in Ireland, and his recommendations merit the most serious consideration. His findings in relation to DIT are a source of particular satisfaction as they acknowledge the enormous progress the Institute has made in the scope of its teaching and research, in staff policies and in internal organisation. We set ourselves these goals some years ago and are very pleased to have attained them.'

Dr. Goldsmith said the report was commissioned by DIT as part of a strategic review of the work of the higher education sector in Ireland and is one of three reports which have been funded by Atlantic Philanthropies. The other two reports were commissioned by the Council of Directors of the Institutes of Technology and the Council of Heads of Irish Universities (CHIU).

Professor Skilbeck's full report, entitled 'Towards an integrated system of tertiary education in Ireland' can be viewed in (pdf) or (doc) formats.

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