Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, said that students had faced an “extraordinarily difficult” time which has has a “massive impact on their wellbeing”. 

“We will get back to a more normal, more interactive experience”

The group will be tasked with identifying, refining and implementing strategies to enhance learner engagement and wellbeing and will include representatives from colleges, further education and training partners and representatives of community education.

“The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is acutely aware of the additional challenges faced by all students as a result of Covid-19 and we are engaging regularly with the sector to understand the student experience as the academic year progresses,” a spokesperson for the department told The PIE News

Further and higher education providers are operating primarily online in Ireland, with most activities delivered remotely during this academic year.

“I want students and learners right across third level education to know that it won’t be the way it is now forever,” said Harris.  

“We will get back to a more normal, more interactive experience but in the meantime, if you are finding it difficult, please reach out and seek assistance.”

The Progressive College Network’s chairman David Russell noted that the commitment from the government only extends to third level/university students. 

“I would call on the government to include ELE students in any strategy. These individuals are making a sizeable contribution to the Irish economy and approximately one third go on to study at third level/university in Ireland,” he told The PIE. 

As well as launching the new group, a spokesperson from the department told The PIE that it is running a number of initiatives to promote Ireland as a study destination. 

Education in Ireland, run by Enterprise Ireland, is “using online and virtual promotional tools such as virtual education fairs” to engage with prospective students, the spokesperson said. 

“As a result of COVID 19, we understand that the number of students who choose to study abroad will decrease worldwide, and we are in the process of developing a new International Education Strategy for Ireland, which will look at new measures we can put in place to ensure that Ireland continues to be considered as a centre of excellence for international students to choose to study in.”

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