The much talked about HEA report that recommends a merger between UCD and TCD was given clearance for publication on Friday last, healing November 16. The report was compiled by a group of experts chaired by Frans van Vught of the European Commission.

As part of the report the group state, “the Panel believes that the optimal higher education system for Ireland should consist of a small number of large, fit for purpose autonomous institutions with the critical mass necessary to determine achievable and flexible missions.  The larger institutions that will result from the merger proposals described below will lead to a significant rationalisation of the sector and allow for a similarly significant rationalisation of offerings and missions.  At the same time the new institutions will have the strength and financial resources to expand capacity, address problems of low demand and duplication, and foster innovation.  Excellence will be stimulated by focusing on strengths relative to local and international needs.  The proposed changes will also ensure that centres of excellence are spread more widely across the country, reflecting regional needs and expertise.”

Regarding the proposed merger between UCD and Trinity the report says “the Panel believes that Ireland does not have the capacity to sustain more than one major research-focused university of international standing. While it appreciates the significant cultural and historical implications of this proposal, and does not make it lightly, the Panel has concluded that this goal can only be achieved through the creation of a new university by the merger of Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, incorporating the Marino Institute of Education. Bringing such strong institutions together will lead to the creation of a major global player. Their ability to use the resulting savings from rationalisations to strengthen existing areas of excellence and release resources to invest in supporting new ones will further enhance the new institution’s capacity and status.”

It is estimated that this new university would have an enrolment of 40,000 students and a budget of €639 million including research grants and contracts valued at €167 million.

The report continues, “The Panel is strongly of the view that anything less than a full merger will likely lead to protracted and unproductive discussions that cannot create the depth and strength of a single institution, and a major opportunity will have been lost to the country and the wider university community.”

Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, has already distanced himself from the report, which was finalised in July. He has said that a merger between UCD and TCD is “neither feasible nor desirable.”