Dáil Éireann - Volume 674 - 11 February, 2009

Written Answers. - Departmental Funding.

Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount invested each year to date in the programme for research in third level institutions; the level of investment to be allocated in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5182/09]

Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the amount invested each year to date in the strategic innovation fund; the level of investment to be allocated in 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5183/09]

Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the number of projects which have been funded each year to date under the programme for research in third level institutions and the Strategic Innovation Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5184/09]

Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science the breakdown of the third level institutions funded under the programme for research in third level institutions and the Strategic Innovation Fund each year to date; the amount allocated in each case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5185/09]

Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Education and Science if a progress review has been undertaken in relation to the programme for research in third level institutions or the Strategic Innovation Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5186/09]

  Deputy Batt O’Keeffe: I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 287, inclusive, together.

The Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) was introduced in 1998 and projects with a total value of €865 million have been approved to date under the four cycles of the programme. A call for proposals in relation to the fifth cycle of the programme, which I announced in January with funding of €300 million, has issued. The PRTLI is the most significant research programme supported by the Department. It supports the building of strategic institutional research capacity, enabling the establishment of research centres and facilities, and joint research programmes and national initiatives.

The objectives of the programme are:

To enable a strategic and planned approach by third-level institutions to the long-term development of their research capabilities, consistent with their existing and developing research strengths and capabilities and national goals.

To promote the development of high quality research capabilities in third-level institutions, so as to enhance the quality and relevance of graduate output and skills.

[621] Within the framework of these objectives, to provide support for outstandingly talented individual researchers and teams within institutions and the encouragement of co-operation between researchers both within the institutions and between institutions having particular regard to the desirability of encouraging inter-institutional co-operation within the two parts of the binary system and within Ireland, the EU and internationally.

In 2004 an international Assessment Committee undertook a comprehensive review of the PRTLI. The impact assessment concluded that the programme had very positive impacts on institutional strategic planning, inter-institutional co-operation and on the quality of research being produced in Ireland. It endorsed the essential link between research and teaching and learning, and considered the programme to be ambitious and far-sighted and vital to underpinning the development of the research system in higher education. Preparations are underway for a further impact assessment of the programme to be conducted this year.

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), which was introduced in 2006, is a major catalyst in bringing about substantial change and quality improvement in our higher education institutions, and promoting system-wide collaboration that draws on all institutions collective strengths. The strength of the Irish higher education system, which consists of a relatively large number of institutions with diverse missions, will only be fully realised through institutional collaboration. Projects approved under the Fund are aimed at institutional reform, enhancing teaching and learning, improving access and life long learning and enabling the development of fourth level activity.

SIF was designed:

To enhance the delivery of core activities of education and research, through effective and creative institutional and inter-institutional collaboration and including, where necessary, appropriate internal restructuring and rationalisation efforts;

To support enabling measures to prepare for the expansion and development of post-graduate education (including expansion and development of graduate schools), including both intra- and inter-institutional collaboration;

To support innovation and quality improvement in teaching and learning, including enhanced teaching methods, programme restructuring, modularisation and e-learning; and

To support access, retention and progression both at individual institutional level and through inter-institutional, sectoral and inter-sectoral collaboration.

In accordance with the terms of the National Development Plan, the impact of the SIF will be reviewed in 2010 to inform the assessment of policy in this area. The detailed project and institutional information sought by the Deputy is being compiled and will be supplied to the Deputy shortly.