The Government has now published its Legislation Programme: Current Session (here), with very few surprises after the Organisation and Current Issues document of barely a month ago (here), as discussed in Eoin O’Dell’s blog. As was already public, the Technological Universities Bill (debated before the election) has now been restored to the order paper; presumably the plan is to push on with it much as before, though the need to placate some independent TDs (notably John Halligan of Waterford) may lead to a re-think of its most controversial aspect – that ITs can only upgrade to Technological Universities if they have first undergone a merger. In practical terms this means that the TU4Dublin (Dublin IT, IT Blanchardstown, IT Tallaght) will very probably appear quite soon, though all else is still to be fought over.
That aside, there is no 3rd-level-specific legislation on the ‘urgent’ list; none has been labelled ‘Priority Legislation for Publication This Session’. Other proposals are mentioned but are still bubbling under, and are evidently not regarded as compelling for now:
- Higher Education (Reform) Bill: To modernise the legislative framework underpinning the governance and functions of the Higher Education Authority and the governance structures of the universities. Status: ‘Heads are currently being drafted’.
- Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill: To amend the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012 to address some issues that have arisen regarding the scope of QQI’s responsibilities in relation to recognition of awards and regulation of private and voluntary providers, to ensure adequate protection of enrolled learners where providers discontinue a programme, and to give greater authority to Institutes of Technology to award Level 9 qualifications. Status: ‘Work is underway in Department’.
- Universities (Amendment) Bill: To ensure compliance with government guidelines on remuneration, allowances, pensions and staffing numbers in the University sector. ‘Heads approved in October 2012. Drafting underway’. (This last has been hanging around for some years now without being progressed; I remain of the view that its only function is as a scarecrow for universities tempted to breach financial guidelines, and that there is no serious plan to enact it.)
Onwards and upwards …