Preface by Mari Kiviniemi and Martine Reicherts

Higher education institutions (HEIs) play a critical role in providing the high-level skills the modern economy needs, assisting talented people to transition into employment, generating and disseminating knowledge, driving innovation, and working together with business, government and civil society to promote economic and social development. However, to reach their full potential, HEIs must adapt their organisational approaches, and better integrate research activities, teaching methods and external engagement practices.

Priorities for change include integrating new teaching methods into the curriculum; developing new activities to stimulate entrepreneurial mindsets; providing support to start-ups; strengthening knowledge exchange and collaboration with business and the wider world, and taking a more international approach to HEI activities. Governments can support the evolution of more innovative and entrepreneurial HEIs by adapting the incentives and support structures within their education systems to be more relevant, and through specific public programmes at national and regional levels that support new approaches in HEIs in areas such as teaching and learning, knowledge exchange and start-up support.

Pioneering initiatives are emerging in a number of HEIs. They need to be broader, more systematic and taken forward by HEI leaders in collaboration with key stakeholders. This is the aim of HEInnovate, a joint initiative by the European Commission and the OECD. HEInnovate is a guiding framework that provides inspiration and assistance for governments and HEIs to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. It includes an online self-assessment tool ( covering the seven dimensions of the innovative and entrepreneurial HEI. This enables HEIs to organise a participatory stock-taking exercise to review achievements and identify areas for improvement. Available in all EU Member State languages, it includes good practice case studies and workshop materials. Beyond supporting individual HEIs, the European Commission and the OECD implement country reviews in partnership with governments to advance change at higher education system level. Ireland was one of the first countries to participate in the HEInnovate country reviews.

Irish HEIs offer many examples of good practice, based on a strong and growing engagement with industry and local communities. This report provides insights into the approaches taken to establish new learning environments, strong interdisciplinary education and research, and effective knowledge exchange. It also identifies important areas for further improvement at government and HEI level. We believe that this report offers valuable lessons for policy makers, HEI leaders and staff, and other stakeholders in Ireland and beyond.


Mari Kiviniemi

OECD Deputy Secretary-General


Martine Reicherts

Director General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission