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Higher Education Research Centre

About HERC


Background & Context

In 2010 HERC became Ireland’s first university based research centre to focus explicitly on issues of higher education and lifelong learning. Located in the office of DCU’s Vice-President for Academic Affairs and Registrar, HERC grew out of the interdisciplinary research network LEARN (Learning Education and Academic Research Network).

In 2016, HERC became a formally affiliated Research Centre of DCU's newly established Institute of Education.

Context: Given the impact of higher education and lifelong learning on society, the economy and individuals, it is vital to develop independent and evidence-based research to help inform policy and practice. Currently, the global focus on knowledge societies and knowledge economies places complex and often competing demands on higher education.

Some of the key needs and trends to be addressed include:

  • Higher level knowledge and skills across the population over the lifecourse;
  • Unequal access to post-compulsory education in terms of age, socio economic status and sex; 
  • Research that is relevant to the challenges of innovation, policy and practice in post-compulsory education and training; 
  • Greater accessibility and openness on the part of public institutions, including universities, to proactively serve the needs of the wider community; 
  • Accountability in relation to the quality of teaching and learning, and associated student experience and successful outcomes; 
  • Declining public investment and the associated blurring of the public and private via the growth of private higher education institutions and the market orientation of public institutions. 

Aims & Method

HERC aims to: 

  • undertake interdisciplinary research in the broad arena of post-compulsory education and training
  • contribute to the development of evidence based higher education policy and practice in Ireland.
  • encourage the dissemination of research findings to the policy community, employers, voluntary organisations and the broader public.
  • promote collaborative research partnerships in Ireland and with international higher education research centres.

Method of Working: As an inter-disciplinary centre HERC works closely with colleagues from a range of disciplines across DCU, and in collaboration with partners in Irish and international institutions. Members of HERC contribute to the development of their respective disciplines, playing active roles in learned societies at national and international levels, including:

  • AcSS (Academy for Social Sciences )
  • AISHE (All Ireland Society for Higher Education)
  • ECHER (Early Career Higher Education Researchers' Network)
  • EUCEN (European Universities Continuing Education Network)
  • ESA (European Sociological Association)
  • ESAI (Educational Studies Association of Ireland)
  • ECER (European Conference on Educational Research)
  • IDRC (Inclusive Design Research Centre)
  • ICALT (International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies)
  • ISA (International Sociological Association)
  • HER (Higher Education Reform Network)
  • NFETL (National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning)
  • PASCAL (Place and Adult Learning)
  • RIA (Royal Irish Academy Committee for Social Sciences)
  • SRHE (Society for Research in Higher Education)
  • UNU RCE (United Nations University Regional Centres of Expertise)

Seminar Series: Through its policy and research seminar series, Higher Education in Challenging Times, HERC connects with relevant major policy agencies including the HEA (Higher Education Authority) UNESCO, EC and OECD. More information about HERC's seminar series can be found here and HERC's projects can be found here.