Last November, in a task-force set up by the Royal Irish Academy, academics suggested that improving cross-border collaboration on higher education could contribute to “peace and prosperity” between the North and the Republic which has been recently placed under increasing pressure due to Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, writes Rachel Cunningham.
Responding to this recommendation,Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, commented: “My Department has been working with colleagues in Northern Ireland to develop proposals to improve collaboration across the island of Ireland.
“During my trip to Belfast and Derry last month, I discussed opportunities to strengthen North-South research collaboration with the leadership teams in Queens University Belfast and University of Ulster.
“Both the New Decade, New Approach and the programme for government have been very clear on the importance of enhanced cross border collaboration. The Taoiseach’s announcement of the Shared Island Initiative is also very significant in terms of contributing to additional progress in further and higher education, both North and South.
“As part of its Shared Island mission, the Programme for Government includes plans to ‘develop and deepen all aspects of north-south cooperation’, with research activity explicitly highlighted. In pursuit of these strategic objectives, a North-South Research Programme was approved by the Government in June 2021 to be administered by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), with €40m in financial support from the Shared Island Fund.”
The minister described the facilitation of greater student mobility on a North-South and East-West basis as, “central to the signing the Memorandum of Understanding on the Common Travel Area insofar as education is concerned.”
He continued: “This has maintained the current fees status and access to student finance systems, as it was prior to Brexit. However, I am of the view that we need to look at the recent trends more closely and I have asked my officials to conduct a review of student mobility on the island of Ireland.
“Student mobility promotes interpersonal relationships, which will further embed peace and understanding. It would also help to develop and enhance the networks and relationships that are so important for research collaboration.
“Reflecting the Irish Government’s commitments, I am working closely with stakeholders, North and South, to ensure that our education systems will continue to enhance the personal and professional ambitions to the many students they serve.”
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