The government today passed legislation officially establishing the new Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the new Department last month that Provost Patrick Prendergast hailed as a move with “the potential to be a new beginning for the third level sector after a decade treading water”.
In a press statement today, the newly appointed Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said: “This new Department offers new and exciting opportunities. My priorities in establishing this new Department will be to ensure it is an economic driver but also a Department which drives social inclusion.”
“We must remove the barriers in accessing further and higher education, and recognise fully the importance of the role of further and community education. It is my ambition that every person should have the opportunity to access third level education.”
He added that education, research, innovation and science are “fundamental” to the Irish economy, saying: “Science and research have never been more important than in this Covid-19 era. We must support this vital community and enhance it.”
“I am really looking forward to the challenge of this new Department and in ensuring it is one that offers people the opportunity of education and a gateway to the workforce, and in supporting the brightest and best in Research, Innovation and Science to future proof our economy.”
Harris has said that the new Department will have an “economic focus”, indicating that the creation of technological universities would be high on his list of priorities.
Minister Harris has also referenced the student accommodation crisis since his appointment, saying that the third-level sector has been “too reliant” on privately-owned accommodation for students.