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University of Limerick president calls for long term sustainable funding of higher education

A new funding model for Irish universities is urgently needed, according to University of Limerick President Kerstin Mey.

“The relevance and resilience of the Higher Education sector has never been more evident,” the President stated at the first in-person bestowing event at UL in two years.
Professor Mey described UL and the wider sector’s “swift and determined” response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and said the lessons acquired could now be used to transform tertiary education.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has catalysed a tremendous transition to virtual and hybrid learning for the whole global higher education sector,” Professor Mey told graduates at the first of five carefully prepared UL Conferrings 2022 ceremonies this week. While this change has posed challenges to existing methods of acquiring, imparting, and measuring knowledge and skills, it has also created new opportunities for learning and participation, for exchanging insights and viewpoints across geographic and institutional barriers.

“We must take these chances to improve tertiary education now to ensure the sector’s resilience and ability to meet future challenges.

“We welcome the new Technological University of the Shannon Midlands Midwest and look forward to working with TUSMM and Mary Immaculate College. However, constructing more universities is futile unless existing higher education institutions are adequately funded to operate as social change engines.

In order to compete with many of our worldwide university partners, Irish universities lack enough finance.

The resources are needed to support the extraordinary talent already present in Irish universities, as well as to welcome significantly more students every year over the next decade as a result of demographic growth and increased access to higher education.

“At UL, we have always strived to increase access and provide routes so that everyone who qualifies can attend university – but what happens when we simply don’t have enough room or resources to satisfy the demands of our ever-changing student body or to progress research?

A fundamental resource for the shared prosperity of Ireland is talent. And we must foster talent. Higher education and advanced research are critical to advancing inclusion, diversity, and equality in our society.

“Reforming university education to accommodate lifelong learning and advanced inquiry requires a new funding model, more investment in research infrastructure, capacity and capability building, and a new finance model.
Professor Mey congratulated the new UL graduates on finishing “a hugely significant portion of your life-long learning journey” on a “red letter day for University of Limerick and a day we recognise in celebration of your academic success”.

“You performed academically while we endured some of our most difficult days. The fact that you are all graduating today shows perseverance, determination, and character.

“Be proud of your success. You may be proud of yourself and your achievements,” she added.

He described the grads as “our latest class of UL ambassadors”.

“You have finally been rewarded for your efforts. This institution’s graduates have one of the highest employment rates in the country.

“To that end, we must continue to strengthen our employer ties, which are crucial in designing future-focused academic programmes for students, parents and guardians, and businesses.

“UL will continue to strive for excellence in teaching, research, and innovation. We will develop and recruit the brightest personnel and students from all backgrounds, both in Ireland and abroad, to Limerick and the Mid-West.

“We are committed to the region. We are part of a local and global community that we are committed to growing through our plans for the UL City Centre Campus in Limerick.

The value of academic achievements is protected aggressively by our Higher Education Institutes by adhering to the highest international standards. “We will not allow any lowering of educational standards to ensure that your degree is an irrefutable indication of ability, attainment, and academic integrity,” she continued.

A total of 1,700 students will graduate from the colleges of Education and Health Sciences, Business, Science and Engineering, and Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences this week.

Over 700 students are expected to attend the on-campus ceremonies, which have been designed to minimise infection risk.

UL Conferrings 2022 are only for graduates who have been asked to have an antigen test the morning of graduation and not attend if they have signs of COVID-19.

To allow for social separation during the ceremonies, the University Concert Hall has been limited to one-third occupancy.