Connacht-Ulster Alliance institutes to collaborate on 6 HCI funded projects to help develop and transform education landscape

Higher Education is set to reimagine teaching and learning through an innovative and
ambitious proposal led by Institute of Technology, Sligo, with the announcement of €12.4
million funding under the Human Capital Initiative announced on Monday 05 October by
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris,
TD.

CUA €12.4m ambitious overhaul of Higher Education

This IT Sligo-led project with Connacht-Ulster Alliance partners (CUA), GMIT and LYIT, is
among the 22 successful projects to receive funding from the Human Capital Initiative Pillar
3, Innovation and Agility. This is the final HCI Pillar to be announced and commands a total
budget of €197 million over the 5-year period, 2020 to 2024.

President of IT Sligo Dr Brendan McCormack welcomed the announcement by Minister
Harris: “This is a significant day for third-level education and this project, titled,
“HigherEd 4.0: Enabling agile responsiveness from Higher Education” will help propel
higher education into a new and exciting age of learning. Institutes of Technology have
always been able to quickly adapt to emerging trends in industry, supplying regional
companies with talented, qualified students with the skills and knowledge industries require.
Now, as companies adapt to Industry 4.0, IT Sligo, with its Connacht- Ulster Alliance (CUA)
partners in GMIT and LYIT will positively disrupt the Higher Education Sector through this
€12.4 million project to make third level more accessible and agile for everyone.”

“The CUA institutes view this initiative as a powerful opportunity to assist in creating a new
Technological University whose teaching and learning is innovative from the start. The
project is spearheaded by IT Sligo who were early adopters of online learning. Back in
2002, IT Sligo first delivered an online course with five students. By using a lean and agile
model of teaching, eighteen years later, the institute has now over 10,000 students across
the globe accessing over 140 courses. In the last number of years, IT Sligo has seen a
steady 20% annual increase in enrolments. This year however, with a focus on working and
learning remotely due to the pandemic, the institute has received nearly double the number
of applicants.”

Vice President Online Development at IT Sligo Professor Jacqueline McCormack who led
the successful application acknowledged her CUA colleagues across IT Sligo, GMIT and
LYIT and the support of industry partners in making the submission a success: “This project
will significantly engage with employers and lifelong learners. This proposal maps out a
vision for the future of the agility of higher education in responding to the needs of individuals
and employers, and the funding will be used to establish the systems and the capacity
required to deliver flexible and highly innovative higher education opportunities. In addition to
our core partners many enterprise partners have engaged in the project planning and we
want to thank them for their support.”

Professor McCormack added; “New learning technologies provide the potential to better
serve the learning needs of individuals and employers and improve access to and the rate of
learning for everyone.”

The CUA institutes in Sligo, Letterkenny and Galway-Mayo will also collaborate on several
other HCI funded projects including an IT Carlow-led project with THEA and the IUA titled
“Realising the potential of recognition of prior learning and lifelong learning in Irish Higher
Education” which received €6.9m.

In addition the CUA institutes will collaborate on four other projects:
GMIT will collaborate with Limerick Institute of Technology on the LIT-lead project called
“Digital Academy for Sustainable Built Environment (DASBE)” which received €7.5m.
IT Sligo will collaborate on a UCC-led project called “Sustainability in Enterprise: Delivering a
Low Carbon Future” which received €3.9m and on a UCD-led project called “The Advance
Centre for Professional Education” which received €14m.
Letterkenny IT will collaborate on an IT Carlow-led project called “Centre for Insurance, Risk
and Data Analytics studies” which received €1.7m.

Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to be able to announce the broad range of projects that
will be funded under the HCI Pillar 3. These projects will develop and change teaching and
learning. This global pandemic has reinforced the need for us all to be agile and
diverse. Crucially though it requires us to develop new skills and equip the next generation
with the critical importance to the economy and the workplace of the future.”
HCI Pillar 3 will deliver 22 projects in higher education institutions, 17 of which involve
collaborations between institutions.

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