IFUT Submission on Proposed Legislative Reform of the Higher Education Authority Act 1971

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on November 8th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“The Higher Education Commission consultation is a missed opportunity to address all key issues in the sector. The current Government process and consultation aims to update the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971, which sets out the functions of the HEA and provided for its governance. The Act provides for the funding and overall financial monitoring of designated institutions of higher education by the HEA …” (more)

[IFUT, 7 November]

Tags: , ,

Trinity Asks Government for Exemption to Higher Education Reforms

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on November 7th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Trinity has appealed for an exemption to controversial government proposals for higher education, asking for time to implement ‘similar reforms’ itself rather than allow the state to make sweeping changes to its governance structures, The University Times has learned …” (more)

[Cormac Watson, University Times, 6 November]

Tags: , , , ,

Why Was Board Bypassed on a Submission With Direct Implications for its Future?

Posted in Governance and administration on October 21st, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Last week, this newspaper reported that the College had submitted a proposal regarding important university reforms to the government without the approval of the Board, the highest decision-making body in Trinity. The threat of government encroachment into Irish universities has hovered over the sector for years, and recent revelations about proposed reforms to the Higher Education Authority Act confirmed that change is indeed afoot for the College’s current governance structures …” (more)

[University Times, 20 October]

Tags: , ,

Trinity Bypassed Board on Last-Day Response to Higher Education Reforms

Posted in Governance and administration on October 15th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Members of the College Board were not consulted on Trinity’s last-ditch submission to the government regarding proposed reforms that could see the governance structures of the College reshaped radically, The University Times has learned …” (more)

[Emer Moreau, University Times, 15 October]

Tags: , ,

Bill threatens autonomy of universities

Posted in Governance and administration on October 3rd, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – The proposed changes to university governance by the Higher Education Authority Bill will severely damage the academic authority of the Irish universities. The proposed modifications to the Universities Act of 1997 are particularly to be deplored …” (more)

[Sarah Alyn Stacey, Irish Times, 3 October]

Tags: , ,

Trinity’s Administration Isn’t Perfect, But the Alternative Could be Far Worse

Posted in Governance and administration on September 30th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“For many in higher education, fears around autonomy and government interference have lingered for years. Small wonder: by now, third-level institutes have had their cards marked on several occasions by a government that seems determined to exercise greater control over the administration of the sector …” (more)

[University Times, 29 September]

Tags: ,

Higher Education Minister proposes changes to Trinity governance

Posted in Governance and administration on September 24th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“The Government has proposed to reduce the membership of Trinity’s ruling body, the university board, from 27 to 15 in an act which some Trinity academics say would diminish College’s autonomy. The proposals come from Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor and were discussed at a board meeting on September 11th. In addition to reducing the number of governors, the proposals look to change the structure of Trinity’s governance …” (more)

[Jessica Hobbs Pifer, Trinity News, 24 September]

Tags: , , ,

Trinity academics oppose plans to change board structure

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on September 24th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Senior academics at Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College Dublin, have railed against plans to reduce their influence on its board of governors, it can be revealed. In what is being described as a battle between academics and bureaucrats, Provost Paddy Prendergast is facing strong resistance and opposition to plans to reduce the board from 27 members to 15, amid major concerns from academics that the independence of the college is under threat …” (more)

[Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner, 24 September]

Tags: , ,

‘Philistine’ Government Hindering Irish Research, Says Fianna Fáil

Posted in Research on September 16th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Fianna Fáil has criticised Fine Gael’s ‘short-sighted and philistine’ approach to research funding in Ireland, after the country won just one of 400 grants from the European Research Council. Fianna Fáil spokesperson on science, technology, research and development James Lawless said the government’s approach is hindering research in Ireland …” (more)

[Sárán Fogarty, University Times, 16 September]

Tags: , , , , , ,

Govt Short-Sightedness Causing Crisis in Research and Development

Posted in Research on September 15th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Science, Technology, Research and Development, James Lawless, has said the short-sighted approach taken by Fine Gael in only funding research with expedient commercial outputs has greatly hampered the research and development ecosystem in Ireland …” (more)

[Fianna Fáil, 15 September]

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Universities and hiring policies

Posted in Legal issues on September 2nd, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) is very surprised and concerned at reports (News, August 27th) that Maynooth University is suing University College Dublin, disputing the latter’s right to hire an academic …” (more)

[Frank Jones, Irish Times, 2 September]

Tags: , , ,

Poaching of university staff – a brief note

Posted in Legal issues on August 29th, 2019 by steve

IrelandMaynooth University have sued University College Dublin, saying that one of their professors was persuaded by UCD to move to that institution. MU are not trying to prevent the move, but they insist that UCD have acted illegally, and want the High Court to issue a declaration to that effect. Certainly persuading academic staff to change their employer is not as such illegal, but legally speaking there is more to this.

First, MU point to an agreement of 2006, between the chief officers of the seven universities, designed to cool down any developing transfer market. Each undertook to ensure that recruitment would be ‘open and transparent and on the basis of international best practice’, to be mindful of each other’s areas of strategic importance, and to look for possibilities for collaboration.

Second, Irish legislation requires that university appointments procedures be set out ‘in a statute or regulation’ (Universities Act 1997, s 25(1)); and UCD’s statutes and regulations, at least as published online, don’t seem to allow for simply approaching some likely lad/lass and offering a professorship – appointments must usually either be by internal promotion or by open competition (see here, here and here). Having said that, the circumstances aren’t entirely clear – if this case falls into some exception in the current regulations, then no doubt UCD will point this out in short order.

Both arguments are serious, though neither seems absolutely watertight. The 2006 wording is in many respects vague, which makes it hard to demonstrate breach of the agreement, and may even suggest that it doesn’t constitute a legal contract. Its duration is vague too – and it certainly doesn’t say it binds in perpetuity. Non-compliance with the 1997 Act may be easier to demonstrate, though some may wonder about MU’s standing to complain of this – Why should they have a legal interest in UCD’s employment strategy? And if the problem is the lack of a regulation to cover this situation, UCD could resolve that for the future very easily, by writing one. So as a matter of strict law, UCD may have relatively little to worry about.

But winning the legal battle may lose them the war. If UCD are under no legal restraint in poaching staff from other Irish institutions, and can shrug off any obligation to respect ‘international best practice’ as non-binding, then yet another front opens up in the struggles each Irish university must engage in. It is hard to see how the DES will be happy with that. Quite unlike policy in a certain neighbouring jurisdiction, Irish national policy tends to stress the need for third level institutions to complement and support one another; Ireland competes with the world, but not so much with itself.

The DES have already signaled that they do not want this matter before the courts. With the ministers openly calling for ideas to include in revised university legislation, and ostentatiously planning to beef up the powers of the regulator, this is not the time to be trumpeting a current freedom to act in a way that might be considered uncollegial. So universities must settle their quarrels between themselves, or have them settled by others – peace has to break out.

But on what terms?

The Blogmeister

Tags: , , ,

Mary O’Rourke: ‘Fund universities and colleges – for the sake of all our futures’

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Governance and administration on August 25th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“August means so many different things to so many people. For those of a literary bent, one can point to the delicious long-ago novel by Edna O’Brien, August is a Wicked Month. Of course, to many it is the month of holidays, particularly schoolchildren who this week are facing the familiar feeling of going back to school after weeks of freedom …” (more)

[Independent, 25 August]

Tags: , , , , , ,

Third Level Education Funding

Posted in Governance and administration on August 15th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State with Special Responsibility for High Education, talks to Mary about third level education funding and the need for financial reform of the higher education sector …” (mp3)

[RTÉ – Drivetime, 15 August]

Tags: , , ,

Education Minister: Composition of Government makes it difficult to make fundamental changes to third level education

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Governance and administration on August 13th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Minister for Education Joe McHugh has defended the government’s delay in implementing the Cassells report saying that it is ‘very difficult to get business through parliament because of the weakness of this government’. ‘I think it will take a new composition government to bring a big fundamental change around this’, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland …” (more)

[Breakingnews.ie, 13 August]

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Provost: New Government Oversight a ‘Risk’ to University Autonomy

Posted in Governance and administration on August 6th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Provost Patrick Prendergast has warned that new government legislation on higher education could jeopardise the autonomy of universities – a move he said could ‘damage’ the sector. In an interview with the Irish Times during a recent trip to Africa, Prendergast said universities highly value their independence …” (more)

[Donal MacNamee, University Times, 6 August]

Tags: , , , , ,

Department reluctant to cede power over higher education

Posted in Governance and administration on August 6th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Born on the eve of 1971, myself and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Act are the same age. In the near five decades since, I have lost most of my hair, my waist has thickened, and I sometimes forget things. But I have reinvented myself many times, investing in my education and skills, moving from private to not-for-profit to public sector …” (more)

[Graham Love, Irish Times, 6 August]

Tags: , , , ,

Minister for Health publishes new Bill to reform the Research Ethics landscape

Posted in Legal issues, Research on July 30th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has today published the General Scheme of the National Research Ethics Committees Bill confirming plans to develop a streamlined, regulated and fit-for-purpose model for the ethical review of health research projects. The Bill will modernise the current system, will support more consistent and more efficient decisions for research studies and will mean better results for patients …” (more)

[Department of Health, 30 July]

Tags: , , ,

HEA welcomes the announcement by Minister Mitchell O’Connor in relation to reform of the HEA Act, 1971

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on July 25th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“The Higher Education Authority (HEA) welcomes the announcement by the Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, of the latest steps towards reform of legislation governing the HEA and its oversight of the higher education and research system …” (more)

[Malcolm Byrne, HEA, 25 July]

Tags: , ,

Third-level institutions guilty of misconduct or poor performance risk funding

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on July 25th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Third-level institutions guilty of misconduct or poor performance could see grants withheld under the first proposed changes to the current legislation in almost 50 years. In an effort to reform the powers of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the proposed legislation could see the introduction of a range of sanctions and penalties for higher-level institutes in a bid to secure public accountability …” (more)

[Jess Casey, Irish Examiner, 25 July]

Tags: , , ,