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The first Higher Education Strategy for Northern Ireland was published on 24 April by the Higher Education Policy Branch of the Department for Employment and Learning. The Strategy, entitled Graduating to Success: A Higher Education Strategy for Northern Ireland, sends a clear message to the higher education sector in Northern Ireland that its teaching, learning, research and international activities should be ‘economically relevant’. The strategy will be supported by 16 projects in the first stage of implementation and by corresponding changes in the funding and evaluation systems. Activities that are in line with the strategy will be rewarded. For example, additional resources will be given to add 700 study places, all in STEM subjects, through to 2015, despite the observed stagnation in higher education enrolment. Besides, clear quantitative targets were spelt out in the strategy, to direct the universities’ knowledge transfer and commercialisation activities, as well as the offering of PhD places.
Concerning mobility and internationalisation, the targets are not as specific. The institutions are only expected to be ‘‘moving towards a doubling of activity compared with the 2010 baseline’’ by 2020. Without surprise, the focus is mainly oriented towards the increase of Northern Ireland’s share of the international student market and the additional income through partnerships with foreign institutions.
Department for Employment and Learning (Higher Education Strategy)