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Minister Harris publishes proposal on unifying third level system

30 May 2022 

Minister Harris publishes policy on the development of a unified third level education system


Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (Wednesday 25th March) published the Government’s policy proposals on unifying the third level system.


The vision is for a more unified system to align the further education and training, higher education and research and innovation sectors.


The proposals were also tabled at the first meeting of the Funding our Future Implementation Group, chaired by Minister Harris, Professor Anne Looney and Professor Tom Collins.


Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “One of my key priorities since becoming Minister is to create better pathways between further education and higher education.


“Today, we set out our policy on creating a unified system in line with our Funding the Future proposals. Reform must be at the centre of what we do. 


“I want a system, where irrespective of whether a learner enters into further or higher education or a research career, the system responds to their individual talents, ambitions and motivations, ensuring that their every step is a step forward.


“This will mean further and higher education working together to create joint third level programmes, higher education colleges ring-fencing more places for students in further education, increasing availability of FET and HE part-time and online programmes in skills priority disciplines.


“It will also mean developing targeted career advice and guidance including online tools with telephone and internet access to experienced guidance practitioners and the strengthening and promotion of a user friendly centralised careers portal.


“The student must be at the centre of all we do and this work will ensure their pathway is as smooth as possible. This will also help our economy address the significant skills shortages we face.


The funding and reform framework for higher education, Funding the Future, agreed by Government on 3rd May 2022, recognised the need for the creation of a unified, balanced and integrated knowledge and skills system as a key priority to enable a coherent and comprehensive range of learning opportunities.


The Policy Platform sets out five key objectives for this vision:

  1. To offer a wide range of more joined up learning and development opportunities and pathways to learners and researchers
  2. To develop more inclusive cultures to grow equality, diversity and inclusion
  3. To enable the system to adapt to change
  4. To create more unified regional systems
  5. To provide for the skills, knowledge and talent needs of individuals, the economy and society


There is an opportunity for stakeholders to have their say.  The first phase begins now with the opening of our online consultation platform where any individual or group can make a submission in response to a small number of open ended questions.


The second phase will take place through a series of targeted stakeholder engagements and dialogue, building on the information gathered in the first phase.


The online consultation opens today at and is available for response until the consultation closes on 29 July 2022.