Institutes of technology: world class education

Ireland’s fourteen institutes of technology offer students a vast range of academic and practical programmes. This article explores why Ireland’s IT’s offer a great starting point for careers in the sciences and technology.

In 2006, Ireland was the largest exporter of computer software in the world. This achievement was no accident. It was the result of sound industrial and education policies pursued for a number of decades. One of the key factors contributing to this performance and to the wider growth in the Irish economy has been the strength and quality of the Irish education system in general, the higher education system in particular.

The number of students participating in higher education in Ireland has increased significantly in recent decades with about 60% of our students who complete second level education proceeding to full-time third level studies. This is one of the highest participation rates in the world. The last thirty years have seen higher education transformed from an elite pursuit for the few to a mass activity for the many and now, some argue, to a universal entitlement for all.

Ireland has fourteen institutes of technology. Since their foundation forty years ago the institutes of technology have focused on the needs of learners, business, industry and communities at both a regional and national level. As well as educating school leavers to graduate and postgraduate levels, the institutes of technology play a pivotal role in delivering upon the national objective of up-skilling citizens whether they study on a part-time or full-time basis. Because of their quality, dynamism and flexibility the institutes of technology are rightly regarded as the major success story in higher education.

The institutes recognise that there is a distinct link between educational attainment and prospects for employment and unemployment. In Ireland, 80% of those that are unemployed do not have a third level education, even though this cohort only accounts for 65% of the total labour force. Furthermore, as the labour market has deteriorated, unemployment rates tended to increase earlier for those with low levels of educational attainment, while unemployment rates for those with third level degrees are nowhere near as high.

Therefore the institutes continually strive to provide flexibility to learners, removing any potential barriers to upskilling, while maintaining relevance to employers.

The development of the ‘smart’ or innovation-based economy is the key challenge facing Ireland, even within the largely uncharted territory of global financial difficulties, coupled with domestic financial and economic challenges. A strong science, engineering and technology base, matched by an evolution in the capacity of our enterprise sector to create knowledge, to innovate and to exploit new knowledge across global markets is critical to Ireland’s future.

In alignment with the national strategy of providing a strong science-based economy institutes of technology offer a wide range of science, engineering and technology based courses. Institutes offer programmes ranging from Certificate up to PhD (level 6 - level 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications, NFQ). Courses are offered on both a part and full time basis and a significant portion of the offerings are available in a blended manner, i.e. a mixture of face-to-face and web-based teaching. Graduates from these courses are employed in multinational and indigenous companies in industries like the medical devices, ICT and the pharmaceutical industry. As a result of the flexibility offered by the institutes a significant number of science, engineering and technology based companies collaborate with institutes to ensure the continued professional development of their staff.

For more information on the range of courses available in the institutes please visit www.ioti.ie

Provided by Institutes of Technology Ireland

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