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Leadership programme to support Ireland’s top HE leaders goes from strength to strength

26 Mar 2024 | Advance HE The IUA Executive Leaders Programme enters its fourth year.

An annual leadership programme for executive leaders in Ireland’s universities is entering its fourth year of delivery, enhancing the leadership and strategic development skills of a fourth cohort of leaders in higher education. 

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) appointed Advance HE to deliver the new IUA Executive Leaders Programme for aspiring and current executive leaders across its eight member universities in 2020. The programme is about to begin its fourth year having seen 48 participants through three cohorts. 

The programme is the first of its kind in Ireland. It is modelled on Advance HE’s prestigious Top Management Programme for Higher Education (TMP HE), about to begin its 53rd cohort since it launched in 2001. Participants on the IUA Executive Leaders Programme explore a range of leadership and sector challenges common to universities around the world, but firmly set in the Irish higher education context.  

Advance HE Executive Director (Delivery, Knowledge and Quality), Tracy Bell-Reeves, said, “We are delighted that the IUA Executive Leaders Programme continues to grow in strength and is now a key component developing and enhancing the leadership teams in Irish universities.  

“Drawing on our experience of developing and delivering similar programmes in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, including the highly respected TMP globally, Advance HE continually evaluates the elements of this programme to effectively deliver it for IUA members. 

“What’s really exciting is that the IUA and its members now have a pipeline of alumni leaders within the sector and can start to consider how the learning from the programme is brought back into the institutions and connected between cohorts.” 

Tony McMahon, Associate Director HR & EDI with the IUA said, “The positive feedback both from participants, and from the programme facilitators on previous iterations of the programme, meant that we were very keen to invest in the programme again this year.  

“The value of the networks formed through the programme and the inter-disciplinary profile of participants is particularly noted, and in consultation with Advance HE, we have made some amendments to enhance the programme’s impact this year and to strengthen the alumni network.   

“We are looking forward to another very successful collaboration with Advance HE on the programme this year.” 


Feedback from participants on the Executive Leaders Programme indicates they developed an enhanced understanding of the Irish higher education system and their role within it, while also building peer networks of support and learning. They highlight strategic thinking, systems change, adaptive leadership and understanding the external environment as key learning outcomes, with group activities, collaborative work and networking being particularly valuable. 

This programme has provided me with invaluable perspectives on and tools for the development of my leadership style and practice. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to reflect, learn, interact and network with the expert team delivering the programme, as well as colleagues across the Irish third level sector.”

Sandra Joyce, University of Limerick 

All too often the Irish Universities are in 'competition' with each other. This course showed us all how much we have in common, how much we can learn from each other, how much we can be supported by each other. A real skill to generate so much trust within the group and a gift to get to know a great group of committed professionals.”

Laura Mahoney, DCU 

The programme connected me with colleagues from across the universities, helping me both step back from, and zoom further into, the challenges and opportunities I face, all of which was catalysed by the excellent facilitation and content.”

 Michael Sinnott, UCD 

Our stories were told and our value in our institutions and society was to the fore throughout. This was achieved with excellent facilitation and speakers, allowing for every participant to shine their light, without diminishing individual expertise or confidence in who we are and what we represent, on a professional and personal level.”

Regina Uí Chollatáin, UCD 

Excellent programme that really freshened up my approach to leadership, influencing, persuading and managing teams. It provided a tremendous opportunity to take a step back and consider how to navigate complexities and manage change. There was terrific networking with colleagues across the sector.”

Alison O’Connell, UCC 

Participants from the third cohort of the IUA Senior Leadership Development Programme
Participants from the third cohort of the IUA Executive Leaders Programme

Advance HE is familiar to many in higher education in Ireland, with 18 member institutions and 367 Fellows. Thirteen institutions hold 20 Athena Swan awards between them which recognise initiatives to promote gender equality in higher education.  

The Irish Universities Association is the representative body of Ireland's eight research intensive, enterprise engaged, public universities. Member universities are Dublin City University, NUI Galway, Maynooth University, University College Cork, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, Technological University Dublin, and the University of Limerick. 

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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