Minister Mitchell O’Connor welcomes introduction of self-awarding powers for institutes of technology

Posted in Governance and administration on January 2nd, 2020 by steve

Ireland“The Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD today (1 January 2020) announced the granting of award making powers, with exception of doctoral awards, to all institutes of technology. In welcoming this announcement, the Minister said: ‘This is a significant step for the sector. The measures introduced today establishes all institutes of technology as autonomous awarding bodies, placing them on an equal footing with other designated awarding bodies such as the universities and the RCSI …'” (more)

[Department of Education and Skills, 1 January]

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Institutes of Technology Gain New Award-Giving Powers in Win for Autonomy

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on January 2nd, 2020 by steve

Ireland“The government today granted institutes of technology award-giving powers, in what amounts to a win for the autonomy of regional colleges. Institutes of technology will now be able to independently grant their students degrees, giving them equal rights to universities. The institutes won’t, however, be able to grant doctoral awards …” (more)

[Cormac Watson, University Times, 1 January]

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2019 Report from Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’ Connor

Posted in Governance and administration on January 1st, 2020 by steve

Ireland“We have had a very productive year in the Dept of Education and I worked hard with my senior officials and education stakeholders including the most important stakeholders of all: students, in 2019. The ‘student’ is at the epicentre of my agenda …” (more)

[Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, 31 December]

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USI lobby for lower health insurance costs for international students

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Legal issues on December 17th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) are encouraging their members to lobby Senators to make amendments to the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2019 that would prevent international students from facing significant rises in the cost of health insurance during their time in Ireland …” (more)

[Finn Purdy, Trinity News, 17 December]

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Royal College of Surgeons becomes State’s ninth university

Posted in Governance and administration on December 11th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) has been formally authorised to use the title of ‘university’ for the first time in 235 years. The institution is to describe itself as ‘RCSI university of medicine and health sciences’ in future …” (more)

[Carl O’Brien, Irish Times, 10 December]

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Ministers McHugh and Mitchell O’Connor announce Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) granted ‘university’ title

Posted in Governance and administration on December 10th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh TD and Minister of State with responsibility for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD today (10 December 2019) announced that the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) has been authorised to use the title of university in Ireland …” (more)

[Department of Education and Skills, 10 December]

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Exam Mills

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on November 18th, 2019 by steve

IrelandDrivetime‘s John Cooke talks to students in UL about exam mills, and Deirdre Stritch, programme manager with QQI, talks to Mary about the new rules that have been introduced to clamp down on academic cheating …” (mp3)

[RTÉ – Drivetime, 18 November]

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Crackdown on third level essay writing services begins in wake of anti-cheating laws

Posted in Legal issues, Teaching on November 15th, 2019 by steve

Ireland“A legal crackdown on the growing number of services writing essays or other assignments for third-level students is under way. New anti-cheating laws came into effect last week making it an offence either to provide or advertise cheating services or to publish adverts promoting such services …” (more)

[Katherine Donnelly, Independent, 15 November]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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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]

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‘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]

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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]

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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]

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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

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