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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.

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.

HERC main research themes:
  • Lifelong learning, professional development and higher education;
  • International and comparative studies in post-compulsory education and training;
  • Ageing and wellbeing, learning in later life;
  • Higher education and regional engagement;
  • Policy studies in adult, lifelong and higher education learning;
  • Access, inclusion and universal design in post-compulsory education and training.
Quotes about HERC:

“An inspiring, productive, creative team and network of international research associates have put HERC and DCU on the map of the community of higher education researchers and policy analysts” /Hans G. Schuetze, Emeritus Professor, former Director of Centre for Policy Studies in Higher Education & Training, University of British Columbia, Canada/.

“HERC is invaluable as a resource for researching, understanding and debating Irish higher education, and for seeing it not in isolation but in a broad international context” /John Field,Emeritus Professor, former VP Research, University of Stirling, UK/.

“HERC plays a key role in holding higher education to account in terms of persistent inequality and continuing challenges in interdisciplinary knowledge creation” /Anne Ryan, Professor of Adult and Community Education, National University of Ireland Maynooth, Ireland/.

“The HERC team is forging creative links between European and Asian researchers, educators and policy-makers in lifelong learning” /Karen Evans, Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL Institute of Education, UK/.

"HERC is a unique and important enabler of research around higher education and lifelong learning. It creates a space for inter-institutional collaboration and reflection on the role of the university in responding to unprecedented local and global challenges” /Dr Séamus Ó Tuama, Director, ACE (Adult Continuing Education), UCC, Ireland/.


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.