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Speakers & Panelists

Speakers & Panelists

Sean O'Reilly

Sean O'Reilly currently works as Data Analyst with the Technological Higher Education Association, having acted as project manager for the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) from the national pilot in 2013 until 2018. In the recently established data analysis / analytics role, Sean works to build and communicate sectoral data sets to facilitate informed decision-making

William Beausang

William Beausang joined the Department of Education Skills as Head of the Higher and Further Education and Training Division.  Previously he worked in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with responsibility for Central Expenditure Policy and prior to that was Head of the Government Reform Unit in DPER with responsibility for the delivery of the government’s openness, transparency and accountability agenda.  Between April 2005 and June 2011 William was as Assistant Secretary in the Banking and Financial Services Division of the Department of Finance.  He has a Masters in Economic Science Degree from UCD and completed the Graduate Programme in Economics at the University of Tilburg.   

Colm Downes

Colm Downes is the Access Programme Manager with the IUA managing the development of the DARE and HEAR schemes on behalf of participating HEIs. Following their introduction in 2009, over 25,000 students with disabilities and those from under-represented socio-economic groups have been admitted to higher education through the schemes. Colm’s is currently working with stakeholders to develop access routes to Higher Education for holders of Further Education Awards and those seeking to take up Part-time/Flexible study.

Dr Terry Maguire

Dr Terry Maguire is the Director of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, Ireland.  She has worked in higher education in Scotland focusing on flexible and online learning. Before taking up her current post in the National Forum she held the post as Head of lifelong Learning in Institute of Technology Tallaght.

Claire McGee

Claire McGee is Ibec's senior executive for innovation and education policy. Claire's role is to promote the business priorities in the development of Ireland’s 21st century education and training system. On the innovation agenda, Claire’s focus is to boost Ireland’s capacity for innovation and create links between R&D intensive indigenous and multinational companies with government, funding agencies and researchers, with an emphasis on promoting greater investment in R&D and greater industry-education engagement to develop the necessary skills of the future.  Prior to this role Claire was as a policy executive with the Irish Dairy Industries Association. A UCC graduate, Claire was previously a research officer with Teagasc, on an EU funded Framework Project. 

Dr Áine Ní Shé

Dr Áine Ní Shé is currently Registrar & Vice-President for Academic Affairs (Acting) at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). In this role, she has Institute-wide responsibility for academic affairs and for services supportive of the academic programme, to include library, academic administration, arts office, sports office, and a range of student services. Áine is also a member of the Institute’s Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team and represents CIT on the National Athena SWAN Committee. Áine joined CIT as a Mathematics lecturer in 2001, and was appointed Head of Department of Mathematics in 2012. She was a member of the Governing Body of Cork Institute of Technology from 2005 to 2010, and currently sits on the Board of Directors of Cork Opera House.

Róisín O'Connell

Róisín is Head of Communications for the Technological Higher Education Association. She has more than twenty years of experience in communications and public relations in both in-house and consultant agency roles. She has worked across public and private sector organisations in various sectors including education, health, financial services, information technology and the arts. Róisín established the communications function within THEA and is responsible for the coordination and delivery of outbound and sectoral messaging across all media. Róisín has been working across the THEA membership to coordinate the delivery of a significant research project around perceptions of technological higher education. The research was conducted by Red C Research.

Dr Derek O’Byrne

Dr Derek O’Byrne is Vice President of Academic Affairs and Registrar at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). He is a member of the national transition steering group and has chaired the THEA committee supporting the reform of higher education admission processes. He is the originator of the ‘right student right programme’ initiative at WIT, aimed at supporting prospective entrants to third level make better and more informed career choices, by empowering them to ask the right questions. He has written on the need to broaden our understanding of access and retention and to recognise the importance of mobility for students within and between programmes of study.

Dr John O’Connor

Dr John O’Connor is Head of Qualifications and Skills Policy at QQI where he has responsibility for promoting the integrity of the National Framework of Qualifications. John represents Ireland on a number of EU qualifications and skills policy advisory groups and is a member of the UNESCO expert group on the contribution of qualifications systems to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. John spent eighteen years teaching in higher education, he holds a PhD in Education from University College Dublin.

Nessa White

Nessa is the General Secretary of Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI). She is a graduate of DCU with a masters in Strategic HR. She has vast experience at a senior level across both the health and education sectors and has worked in ETBI for the past 10 years. Nessa was appointed as the ETBI General Secretary in May 2018.

Dr Jennifer Brennan

Dr. Jennifer Brennan is Director of Research, Development and Innovation at the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA). Prior to joining THEA, Jennifer was Ireland’s National Contact Point for the European the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) funding programme. She represents Ireland’s interests in the MSCA programme as National Delegate to the MSCA Programme Committee. Jennifer has a background in research and has worked in academia in the UK, USA and Ireland. She is particularly interested in researcher career development, gender in research, and responsible research & innovation and is the Deputy Chair of the National Forum on Research Integrity.

Conor Moss

Group Director- Business Engagement, Skills and Employability- Sheffield Hallam University

Conor is an experienced academic with 20 years’ experience across Further and higher Education. He started his academic career specialising in strategic management, leadership and organisational development. He has extensive experience developing successful educational partnerships with both the private and public sectors. In September 2018 he was appointed as Group Director- Business Engagement, Skills and Employability and is currently leading the implementation of a new service and strategy with a particular focus on graduate employability and employer focused curriculum.

He is passionate about working with employer and education partners to provide learners access to higher-level skills, regardless of academic background or career stage. He leads the development of SHU’s Work-Based Learning Framework which has supported rapid growth in Degree Apprenticeships, for which Conor has strategic oversight. He holds several Board positions including Sheffield City Region LEP Skills, Barnsley College and University Vocational Awards Council.

Conor is a Senior Fellow of the HEA and a Fellow of the Learning Performance Institute.

Valerie Harvey

Valerie Harvey has worked in the Higher Education Authority for 15 years.  In that time Valerie has worked in roles covering higher education funding, policy and strategic planning, system development and statistics.  Over the last three years, Valerie has led the development and implementation of a new Graduate Outcomes Survey for Irish higher education.

Andrew Browlnee

Andrew Brownlee is Executive Director for Strategy and Knowledge with SOLAS, overseeing functions responsible for setting strategy, allocating funding, monitoring performance and promoting active inclusion across the further education and training system. As part of this work, Andrew chairs the PLC Programme Improvement Advisory Committee and the FET-HE Sub-Group of the overall Transitions Reform Steering Group, where the evolving synergies between further education and training and higher education is a key consideration, together with potential for future development of these relationships. He joined SOLAS from the Higher Education Authority, where he was Head of System Funding and also previously served as Director of Research, Development and Innovation at Institutes of Technology Ireland (IOTI). Prior to that he had a long career in management consulting with Fitzpatrick Associates, PA Consulting and PwC where he specialized in strategy development and change management in education.

Deirdre Creedon

Deirdre has worked in Cork Institute of Technology since 1996, initially taking up project management roles for EU funded programmes such as New Opportunities for Women (NOW) and Integra. She took up the role of Access Officer in 2003 and in this time, she has grown the Access Service in CIT from a one-person operation to a team of more than 15 people, providing pre-entry, entry and post entry supports for students who are under-represented in higher education.

Deirdre has developed many programmes that encourage and facilitate entry to CIT by marginalised groups. Deirdre is a strong believe in collaboration, working very closely with key stakeholders in the design and delivery of support programmes. One example of this is her work on the Cork Colleges Progression Scheme which enables students who are studying level 5 and level 6 programmes in participating FE Colleges an opportunity to progress into CIT on reduced points.

Deirdre is a very active member of the Cork Learning Cities initiative. She was a key player in the organisation of the UNESCO International Conference in Learning Cities, held in Cork in 2017. She continues to represent CIT on the Cork Learning Cities Steering Group.

Helen Ryan

‘Originally from Waterford, Helen came to Cork to UCC to study for a Psychology degree. With a particular interest in behavioural psychology she was involved in postgraduate work in the areas of terrorism, policing and serial killings. Helen commenced teaching Criminology in Cork College of Commerce in 1987 and became Deputy Principal of the college in 2000. She moved to Terence MacSwiney Community College, a DEIS CETB school on the north side of the city from 2004- 2010 as Principal and then returned to the College of Commerce as Principal. Helen believe strongly in inclusion and works hard in to college to enable progressions to HE and forge industry links for all students.

Dr Jim Murray

Dr Jim Murray is a historian by training, and has worked previously as an archivist in the UK’s National Archives (1990-95); in university administration in Dublin City University (1995-2003); and in the areas of quality assurance and qualifications in the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (2003-11). He is currently Deputy CEO and Director of Academic Affairs in THEA, the representative and advocacy body for Ireland’s technological higher education institutions.

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