Higher education strategies for Northern Ireland

The Department has developed a higher education strategy and widening participation strategy for Northern Ireland.

Graduating to Success

Development of the first higher education strategy for Northern Ireland

Following a development process led by Sir Graeme Davies, former Vice Chancellor of the University of London, the then Minister for Employment and Learning published the first higher education strategy for Northern Ireland, Graduating to Success, in April 2012.

Graduating to Success sets out a long term vision of a higher education sector which is vibrant and of international calibre; which pursues excellence in teaching and research; which plays a pivotal role in the development of a modern, sustainable knowledge-based economy; which supports a confident, shared society; and which recognises and values diversity.

The strategy is based around four guiding principles:

  • responsiveness – making higher education more responsive to the needs of the economy
  • quality – ensuring a higher quality learning experience
  • accessibility – ensuring a more accessible higher education sector
  • flexibility – developing a more flexible lifelong learning environment

Access to Success

Widening participation strategy

Access to Success, the strategy for widening participation in higher education, seeks to build upon that work by ensuring that talented individuals are given every opportunity to benefit from the higher education that is right for them, irrespective of their personal or social background. This strategy also complements the Success Through Skills and the Further Education Means Business strategies and reinforces the Department’s integrated approach to providing skills, supporting people and promoting jobs.

Implementation of the higher education strategies

Following the publication of Graduating to Success and the subsequent publication of Access to Success, the Department put in place integrated oversight and programme management arrangements in order to support efficient implementation of the two strategies.

Under the implementation arrangements for the two strategies, six of the 11 key actions flowing from Access to Success form four distinct projects which, when added to those flowing from Graduating to Success, resulted in a total of 20 projects to be implemented (two of the projects were subsequently amalgamated resulting in 19 projects currently being implemented).

A partnership approach is being taken in order to implement the strategies, adopting implementation structures with representatives from all of the key stakeholders with an involvement or interest in the higher education in Northern Ireland in order to deliver the longer-term visions outlined in the strategies.

Higher education strategy programme management office

The higher education strategy programme management office is responsible for coordinating the overall implementation programme, and the associated programme management structures, to ensure successful delivery of the projects flowing from Access to Success and Graduating to Success strategies.

The Department put in place programme management structures to facilitate the delivery of the projects flowing from the two strategies in order to support the implementation:

  • an Implementation Committee, comprised of senior officials from government and stakeholders in the higher education, business and community sectors, oversees the implementation of the strategies
  • a Programme Steering Group, comprising relevant Departmental Directors and accountable to the Implementation Committee, is responsible for driving forward implementation
  • a Project Management Board, comprising the Programme Director as Chair along with the Project Managers and members of the Programme Management Office, meets on a regular basis to report on and discuss progress and to identify risks, delays and issues.  

Each project is led by a Project Manager, responsible for forming project teams to take the work forward. The project teams include representatives from a range of organisations who bring their expertise to contribute to implementation of the project.

Higher education strategy e-zine

The higher education strategy e-zine is designed to keep key stakeholders and interested parties up-to-date on the progress which has been made in implementing the projects of the ‘Graduating to Success’, the higher education strategy for Northern Ireland, and ‘Access to Success’, the integrated regional strategy for widening participation in higher education. 

Graduating to Success” was published in April 2012. It provides a long term vision for the higher education sector in Northern Ireland and sets out in detail the direction for higher education policy up to 2020.

Access to Success” was published in September 2012, complementing “Graduating to Success”. It supports the aim that any eligible individual in Northern Ireland should be able to gain access to the Higher Education that is right for them, irrespective of their personal or social background.

If you think the e-zine would be of interest to any of your colleagues please forward it on. They can subscribe to the mailing list for future issues following the link at the end of the e-zine.

Other strategies

Many of the Departments' strategies relate to more than one division. While the higher education division is responsible for the Graduating to Success and Access to Success strategies, it is involved in other strategies such as:


Back to top