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Ireland’s High-Level Group on International Education, a 24-member committee comprised of representatives from Irish government agencies and higher education institutions and organisations, released this month its report to the Tánaiste (the Irish deputy prime minister) and the Minister for Education and Skills. Entitled Investing in Global Relationships, the document has been officially endorsed by the government and lays out a vision for Ireland’s international education strategy for next five years, with a focus on ten “strategic actions”. Progress in these strategic areas is expected to support the primary objective of Ireland’s internationalisation effort, which is to foster the recognition of the country as a “world leader in the delivery of high-quality international education by providing a unique experience and long-term value to students”.
Ireland’s approach to an international education strategy includes both quantitative and qualitative dimensions, and envisions actions on three main levels—national, institutional, and specifically within the “English-language sector”. The country has set ambitious targets for 2015. Examples include increasing the overall numbers of international students by 50%; expanding the proportion of international students undertaking advanced research and enrolling in taught postgraduate courses by to 15% and 20%, respectively; building up the number of English-language students by 25% (to 120 000); and improving “the economic impact of international education by some EUR 300 million, to approximately EUR 1.2 billion in total”. To achieve these goals, Ireland sees the need, among other things, to enhance its international collaborative and partnership activities; redevelop the Education Ireland brand and strengthen overseas marketing efforts; assuring quality; and strengthen its “visa, immigration and labour access policies”.
Intrinsic strengths in the Irish context, including the largely positive international image of the country as a whole and the attractiveness of its English-language environment, should contribute to Ireland’s efforts to enhance its international position. However, Ireland has suffered profoundly from the economic crisis of the last two years. Whether the country will manage to pull together (and sustain) the resources needed to implement this ambitious plan remains an open question.