College’s Senators at Odds Over Proposals to Scrap Trinity Seats

Posted in Governance and administration on December 21st, 2018 by steve

Ireland“The College’s Senators are at cross purposes over proposals that would see the amalgamation of the Trinity and National University of Ireland (NUI) panels in the Seanad …” (more)

[Eleanor O’Mahony, University Times, 20 December]

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Trinity inaugurates Dr Sean Barrett as new Pro Chancellor

Posted in Governance and administration on December 18th, 2018 by steve

Ireland“Economist and former Senator, Dr Sean Barrett, has been inaugurated as the new Pro-Chancellor of Trinity at a ceremony held in the Provost’s House last week. Barrett previously worked as a senior lecturer at Trinity’s Economics Department. He is also a fellow of Trinity, and was elected to the Dublin University constituency of Seanad Éireann, where he served until 2016 …” (more)

[Peter Kelly, Trinity News, 18 December]

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Who is Lynn Ruane? One of the Seanad’s new faces

Posted in Governance and administration on April 28th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“President of Trinity College Students’ Union, Lynn Ruane, has been elected to the university’s third Seanad seat. Ruane was declared victorious on the 15th count, beating incumbent senator Sean Barrett by 116 votes …” (more)

[Jane O’Faherty, Independent, 28 April]

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Lynn Ruane Defeats Barrett on Fifteenth Count to Secure Third TCD Panel Seat

Posted in Governance and administration on April 27th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“In a hotly contested race, current President of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), Lynn Ruane, has been elected in the University of Dublin constituency of Seanad Éireann. Ruane secured the third and final seat on the 15th count with 3,344 votes, beating her nearest rival, incumbent Senator Sean Barrett, by just 116 votes …” (more)

[Charlotte Ryan, University Times, 27 April]

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Rankings are the Latest Assault on the University

Posted in Governance and administration on March 16th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Rankings are the latest assault on the university. They represent the desire to focus on increased managerialism and a focus on administrators and institutional self-aggrandizement, as opposed to the people who are at the core of the university – the students …” (more)

[Sean Barrett, University Times, 15 March]

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Higher Education Forum Discusses Fears for Independence of Irish Universities

Posted in Governance and administration on April 18th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“A forum organised by the Trinity College Fellows was held in Trinity last night on the recent and forthcoming developments in Irish higher education. Under the auspices of Are Irish Universities committed to Enlightenment ideals? …” (more)

[Dominic McGrath and Kieran McNulty, University Times, 17 April]

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Languages and university entry

Posted in Teaching on March 10th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – Three months after first reports emerged that the National University of Ireland was considering removing the requirement to present a foreign language for matriculation purposes, our politicians seem to have heard about it …” (more)

[Barry Hennessy, Irish Times, 10 March]

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Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 – IV – Staff, Pensions, Innovation and IP

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on February 6th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“This is the fourth and final post in a series on Senator Seán Barrett’s Private Members’ Bill, the Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was discussed last week in the Seanad (earlier posts are here, here and here) …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 6 February]

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Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 – III – Funding & remuneration

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on February 5th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“This is the third in a series of posts on Senator Seán Barrett‘s Private Members’ Bill, the Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was discussed last week in the Seanad …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 5 February]

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Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 – II – Tenure

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on February 4th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“This is the second in a series of posts on Senator Seán Barrett‘s Private Members’ Bill, the Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015, which was discussed last week in the Seanad …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 4 February]

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Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 – I – Introduction

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on February 4th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“Senator Seán Barrett, in conjunction with Senator Feargal Quinn and Senator David Norris, introduced the Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015 as a Private Members’ Bill in the Seanad, and it was debated last week …” (more)

[Eoin O’Dell, Cearta, 3 February]

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Universities (Development and Innovation) (Amendment) Bill 2015: Second Stage

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on January 30th, 2015 by steve

IrelandSean Barrett (Independent):: I move: ‘That the Bill be now read a Second Time.’ I welcome the Minister. I thank the Bills Office, the Leader’s office, the Cathaoirleach’s office and my research assistants, Dr Charles Larkin and Ms Ursula Ní Choill, for their help in preparing the Bill. We are dealing with the role of the university and the contribution it will make in the future to the development of Ireland …” (more)

[Seanad debates, 28 January]

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Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Report Stage

Posted in Governance and administration on November 12th, 2014 by steve

IrelandSean Barrett (Independent): … This is a strange Bill which it is widely believed has been drafted to assist the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, although the name of that institution is not and was not mentioned on the last occasion. The danger in not mentioning in the Bill the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland is that it makes possible for the Bill to be used by a different body without the former’s standards and reputation …” (more)

[Seanad debates, 12 November]

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Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Second Stage

Posted in Legal issues on September 24th, 2014 by steve

Diarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail): I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, to the House. Amendment No. 1, in the name of Senator Barrett, is related to amendment No. 11, and they may be discussed together, by agreement …” (more)

[Seanad debates, 23 September]

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Sean Barrett and University Reform

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 24th, 2014 by steve

“Occasionally I post guest posts from friends. This is one, from Senator Sean Barrett on his recent universities bill. Prof Stephen Hedley of the UCC Law School has written the following comments on my bill …” (more)

[Sean Barrett, Brian M Lucey, 23 April]

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The Higher Education and Research Bill 2014 – 2. The third level sector and government

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 5th, 2014 by steve

Someone looking for a clear statement of what the Irish third level sector is, and a description of its relation to government, will not find it in the statute book. The HEA Act 1971 gives a few hints, including (in the amended s 1) a definition of “institution of higher education”, but this may be starting in the wrong place; the HEA was never meant to govern the sector, but rather to act as a buffer between the various government departments and the various third-level institutions.

The Barrett bill seeks to recognise and define the sector more thoroughly. By cl 3, the sector will consist of Category I institutions (universities), Category II institutions (ITs) and category III institutions (technological universities). There will also be a category of specialised institutions (such as the RIA), over which the HEA will have “a special regulatory and advisory role” (cl 5). The “aim, objective and functions” of the sector will for the first time be expressly spelled out (cl 10), with the sector’s mission stated as “to promote free research and academic and artistic education, to provide higher education based on research, and to educate students to serve their country and humanity”.

As to the sector’s relations with government, two significant changes are envisaged:

  • A new body, the Higher Education and Research Grants Committee, will inherit from the HEA “[a]ll powers related to the resource allocation process for higher education and research” (cl 4). In other words, the HEA will cede its money powers to this new committee. The committee’s membership provision is complicated; highlights are that, of the 12 members, half are to be appointed by the DES and half by PER; 4 must be “active lecturing and research staff at Universities” when appointed; the others will be selected on the basis of other strengths. (Is “Universities” really what was meant? What will the ITs make of that?).
  • Government powers to restructure the sector are re-stated and to a certain extent enhanced. These are a power over mergers (cl 7, mirroring Universities Act 1997 s 8); a power to recognise new institutions (cls 8 and 21-22, mirroring Universities Act 1997 ss 9 and 23 ); and a power to authorise changes of institutional name (cl 9, mirroring Universities Act 1997 s 10). The provision on recognition of technological universities (cl 42) is surprisingly specific, even down to specifying the chair of the expert commission to consider each application (the Chancellor of Oxford – Chris Patten? really?) and the 12 foreign universities that are to contribute members (The choice of institutions might not satisfy everyone).

Trying to define a coherent third-level sector, and to say definitively what it is for, is a dangerous strategy. If our leaders promise government that the sector is x, we will all be in the wrong if is turns out to be not-x. Promise government that the sector will benefit Ireland in a particular way, and we will find itself audited on that precise point and punished when considered to fall short. Perhaps the idea that third level is for anything in particular is a snare and a delusion. Senator Fidelma Healy Eames hit on something when she commented:

What is the rationale for placing all universities, institutes of technology and the new technological universities under one single regulatory structure? There is widespread suspicion that such efforts constitute the homogenisation of third level. Moreover, without an assessment of existing models one runs the risk of undermining diversity in the third level sector. That diversity inspires competition and innovation. It is not good if we are all the same – diversity is critical.

Senator Barrett has quietly acknowledged this, by noting the dangers of a “purely instrumentalist approach” which implies that the role of universities is solely defined by the needs of others, and by seeking to build institutional autonomy and freedom into the very definition of the third sector (see especially cl 10(c) and (f), and cl 13). How much of this will survive the ongoing legislative process remains to be seen.

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The Higher Education and Research Bill 2014 – 1. Introduction

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 4th, 2014 by steve

Current legislation on higher education in Ireland is a mess. The Higher Education Authority Act 1971 is over 40 years old, and despite being amended several times over is well past its sell-by date. The Universities Act 1997 is not in quite such dire shape (imho), but certainly needs revision. The ITs are still mostly governed by the Regional Technical Colleges Act 1992, the Institutes of Technology Act 2006 and a mix of amending Acts. The contemplated technological universities, which will be neither ITs nor universities, will require new legislation all of their own; their draft heads of legislation suggest that it will be lengthy. And all this is before we get on to individual pieces of legislation for individual institutions, of which there are a number.

Against this background, Senator Barrett’s bill has two stated sets of objectives.

The first set of objectives is to modernise the legislation, in various specific respects. Senator Barrett himself summarises the bill’s goals as follows:

  1. Create a more modern approach to public expenditure management for funding higher education.
  2. Place all universities, institutes of technology and the new technological universities under one single regulatory structure.
  3. Address the problems created by the Cahill v. Dublin City University case [2009] IESC 80 with respect to academic tenure.
  4. Create a clearer definition of academic tenure and academic freedom.

How these objectives are reflected in the legislation, and to what extent these are the goals we should be pursuing, will be discussed throughout these blogposts.

The second stated set of objectives is to consolidate and simplify the legislation. This is more problematic, as at first glance Senator Barrett’s draft bill does nothing of the sort. It does not abolish much previous legislation, and certainly would not avoid continued reference to any of the Acts mentioned above. Certain provisions of the bill are said to “supersede” the Universities Act 1997 and the Institutes of Technology Act 2006 (cl 3(5)), but those Acts themselves will remain. The abolition provisions (cl 3(2) and (3)) would sweep away a few obsolete statutes, but by-and-large the bill would leave the law on third level a good deal more complicated than it finds it. Anyone inclined to support the bill on the ground that it would simplify the law should therefore be very careful, that they are not being sold a false bill of goods. However, all may not be as it seems, for reasons which will soon appear. The bill cannot fairly be judged on its own, but rather as part of an ongoing process, of which it may turn out to be an important part.

Proposed by Senator Barrett and recently discussed in the Seanad, it is a private members’ bill. It is being mooted at a time when the government is contemplating both a Technological Universities Bill (to introduce a new type of third-level institution) and a Higher Education Governance Bill. In that context, Senator Barrett’s bill is viewed as a useful contribution to the debate on university reform – which may be why Jim D’Arcy (FG Seanad spokesperson on Education) has now stated that the bill will be supported to committee stage. So while it is very unlikely that this bill will reach the statute book in its current form, and it may not get there at all, nonetheless it is for now the public focus of university reform. For that reason alone it deserves close attention.

In this series of blogposts, I will review the main provisions of the Barrett bill, under the following headings:

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Higher Education and Research (Consolidation and Improvement) Bill 2014: Second Stage

Posted in Governance and administration on April 3rd, 2014 by steve

“Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time. Senator Sean D Barrett: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit, Deputy Ciarán Cannon. Unfortunately, the last time we were seated together was at the funeral of former Deputy Nicky McFadden in Athlone last week. It is a pleasure to welcome the Minister of State and thank those who helped in preparing this Bill, including Dr Charles Clarke, Ms Ursula Ní Choill, the staff of the Bills Office, the Cathaoirleach, the Leader and their assistants …” (more)

[Seanad Éireann, 2 April]

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Higher Education and Research (Consolidation and Improvement) Bill 2014: First Stage

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 1st, 2014 by steve

Senator Sean D Barrett: I move: That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to consolidate the Irish higher education and research sector so as to ensure a more efficient, responsible and effective structure for delivering quality education, research and knowledge resources to the Irish people …” (more)

[Seanad Éireann, 1 April]

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Government accused of ‘invasion’ of university Seanad seats

Posted in Governance and administration on March 12th, 2014 by steve

“Senator David Norris says intention clear in remarks made by Minister Phil Hogan, while Senator Seán Barrett accuses Taoiseach of ‘revenge’ on Independents …” (more)

[Marie O’Halloran, Irish Times, 12 March]

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