Strategic pressures on Irish universities run in strange and conflicting directions. Sometimes the universities are assumed to be in competition with one another, sometimes they are assumed to be co-operating with one another in pursuit of a common goal. Over time this has led to a rather confused patchwork of networks and alliances, which is hard to make sense of from any rational point of view. This page lists a variety of alliances; it is not always clear which ones have some life left in them.

While the last few years have seen a great deal of activity in this area, motives are somewhat mixed, being partly no doubt driven by a wish to achieve benefits through co-operation, but partly no doubt by a wish to stave off the imposition of closer co-operation or even merger of institutions.

The Atlantic University Alliance (AUA) (formed June 1999) is a consortium of NUI Galway, the University of Limerick and University College Cork (website).

The Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance (DRHEA) (formed May 2009) is a strategic alliance of the Higher Education sector in the wider Dublin area, that is Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth, DIT, IADT, ITB, and ITT (website).

The Innovation Alliance (March 2009) is a partnership between Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin (website).

The Irish Universities Association is the representative body of the Heads of the seven Irish universities (formed in September 2005, as successor to the Conference of Heads of Irish Universities or CHIU) (website¦wikipedia).

The National University of Ireland (formed 1908), which comprises four constituent universities as well as a number of other third-level institutions (website¦wikipedia), does not in practice operate as an alliance. Its abolition was proposed by a recent government, though opposed by the NUI itself, and this plan now seems to have been abandoned.

The NUI Galway – University of Limerick Strategic Alliance (formed February 2010) covers various areas of common activity. See Background to the Alliance.

The Shannon Consortium provides an integrated approach to third level within their region, linking the efforts of Limerick IT, IT Tralee, University of Limerick, and Mary Immaculate College Limerick. See their website here.

Universities Ireland (July 2003) promotes co-operation and collaboration among universities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (website¦wikipedia).

The 3U Partnership (formed June 2012), between Dublin City University, NUI Maynooth and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (website).

See also: Going clubbing (Ferdinand von Prondzynski, 4 May 2011); Third level alliances need to start producing the goods (Dick Ahlstrom, Irish Times, 2 July 2012)