Criticism of city council appointment to NUIG Governing Authority

Posted in Governance and administration on January 14th, 2016 by steve

Ireland“Fine Gael city councillor, Pearce Flannery has been elected to the Governing Authority at NUI Galway. He was elected at a meeting of the city council this week, replacing Councillor Peter Keane, whose 5-year term is up …” (more)

[Galway Bay FM, 13 January]

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Available Appointment: Member of Board in the Higher Education Sector

Posted in Governance and administration on March 6th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“The Minister for Education and Skills is seeking expressions of interest from suitably qualified candidates for consideration for appointment as Chairs and ordinary members to a number of Boards in the higher education sector. It is expected that the Minister will make a variety of appointments to Governing Bodies and Boards in the higher education sector in the coming 24 months …” (more)

[StateBoards.ie, 5 March]

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New Technological Universities Bill should provide for input from local authority reps: Education Committee Report

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 17th, 2014 by steve

“The governing bodies of soon-to-be-established Technological Universities (TUs) should include an elected member of each of the local authorities in the principal catchment area of the University, according to an Oireachtas Committee report …” (more, download)

[Houses of the Oireachtas, 17 April]

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The Higher Education and Research Bill 2014 – 4. Individual institutions: Governance

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 6th, 2014 by steve

The governance provisions of the bill are pretty dense, and their purpose is not altogether clear, as in many respects they simply restate the existing position – here as elsewhere, the bill rides two horses, seeking to restate the law and to reform it, and ending up not quite achieving either. However, there are a number of distinct proposals for change here:

Governing authority – chair. The bill introduces, for all higher education institutions, the same rule as is currently in force for universities, namely that the governing authority decides for itself whether its chair will be the chief officer or an independent chair (cl 16). I would imagine (though it is not awfully clear) that this choice is meant to be made afresh with each new governing authority – this needs to be clarified.

Governing authority – tenure. Tenure of all governing authority members is now stated to be 48 months, “one-time continuously renewable” (cl 15(4)). This is a considerable reduction from the current position, and it might be questioned whether this is long enough. (Senator Averil Power has already questioned whether this is long enough for the chair.) Is a one-size-fits-all rule really needed? A general reduction in terms is certainly possible without specifying in legislation the precise number of months that are to be served.

Chief officer – tenure. “The chief officer shall have tenure of 48 months, renewable once” (cl 23(3)). Again, a considerable reduction, and without much explanation. It is not enough to parrot that industry CEOs can usually expect such short terms – higher education institutions are a good deal slower to move than commercial firms, and correspondingly greater harm can be done by heads desperate to make their mark over a short period. More explanation needed!

Loss of institutional control. By cl 36(8), an institution that exceeds its budget for more than 24 months “will be placed under the direct financial control of the Higher Education and Research Grants Committee”. Given that most costs of Irish higher education institutions are staffing costs, there is a pretty clear threat here, especially given what is said later on redundancy.

Each of these proposed changes has its merits, but the overwhelming conclusion is that the true scale of the problem is not being taken seriously. Each institution is unique, and the balance of interests within it needs detailed attention – which is why the Universities Act 1997 s 16 (“Composition of governing authority”) ended up making separate provision for each of the institutions it covered. Broad aims such as reducing term limits need not be carried out in such a prescriptive way: local flexibility must be part of the mix.

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University Governance – Statutory Autonomy

Posted in Governance and administration on July 18th, 2013 by steve

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he will provide in tabular form the statutory limitations on the statutory autonomy of publicly funded universities …” (more)

[Dáil Éireann Written Answers, 17 July]

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University heads back shake-up of governing bodies

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on May 28th, 2012 by steve

“Major changes to the structures and powers of university boards have been backed by their presidents. The Higher Education Strategy report published early last year recommended a major overhaul of the size, make-up, and responsibilities of university governing authorities …” (more)

[Niall Murray, Irish Examiner, 28 May]

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The significance of governance

Posted in Governance and administration on February 20th, 2009 by steve

“… In fact, it could be argued that corporate governance is something that is not well established in higher education. Lest I am misunderstood, I should say first that I believe that, in my own university, it is functioning rather well. But in universities more generally, it would be hard to conclude that. Even on governing bodies, there is often a degree of tension caused by the different expectations of governance perceived by the various groups represented there. Also, the large size of most governing bodies doesn’t on the whole help, although this can be overcome by effective chairing …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 20 February]

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‘Independent’ governors don’t know what’s going on

Posted in Governance and administration on February 11th, 2009 by steve

“… Thanks to the requirement of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 that ‘at least half’ of the members of a governing body be ‘independent members’ – external to the university and uninvolved in its affairs – governors must sit in a hovercraft-on-a-mission, gazing at the horizon and approving strategic directives, with little understanding of the academic work of those teaching and researching in them. Can that possibly be risk-free? It is now an open secret that the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) knows there are problems in getting the members of university governing bodies to do the job properly. It has always been preposterous to put people in charge of universities without requiring them to demonstrate that they understand what they are to ‘supervise’, have the relevant skills, and are not too busy to do the job …” (more)

[Gillian Evans, Guardian, 10 February]

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