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Institute for Research on Higher Education: Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania


In July 2012, the executive doctoral class of 2013 from the University of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Management Program in the Graduate School of Education conducted an in-depth comparative study of higher education in Ireland. The international study, an important component of the executive doctoral program, was structured to model research that we completed on the relationship between public policy and performance in five U.S. states: Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Texas and Washington ( This research provided the foundation for the students’ research. Students examined four performance areas related to Irish higher education: 1) preparation and participation for post-secondary education; 2) completion of certificates and degrees; 3) affordability for students and families; and 4) research. Students were divided into teams to collect and analyze data on these performance areas within the broader historical, political, economic, and social context of Ireland.

After an intense period of preparation, students spent a week interviewing higher education administrators and faculty at seven Irish universities and Institutes of Technology. These interviews were supplemented with interviews with the Higher Education Authority and a review of relevant documents and data related to Irish higher education. To better understand the context of Irish higher education, students also attended lectures entitled: The Rise and Fall of the Celtic Tiger, the Irish Potato Famine, and Teaching and Learning in Ireland.

Teams of doctoral students were organized according to the performance areas. Each team conducted research and presented a final report based on its data collection and analysis to Irish leaders and delegations from the five U.S. states at an Irish/U.S. Higher Education Roundtable. Students also presented their findings to the Minister of Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn.

This report reflects the lessons learned from the student research and the Roundtable discussion.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Originally published by IRHE at Penn GSE © 2013. Reproduced with permission.



Date Posted: 02 November 2018