Minister Howlin welcomes High Court decision to refuse an application for an injunction over the awarding of a contract for the Grangegorman DIT campus

Posted in Legal issues on December 1st, 2015 by steve

Ireland“Minister Howlin welcomes High Court decision to refuse an application for an injunction over the awarding of a contract for the Grangegorman DIT campus. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, today (1 December 2015) welcomed the High Court decision …” (more)

[Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, 1 December]

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Minister Howlin publishes Bill to give effect to the provisions of the Lansdowne Road Agreement

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on October 9th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“Brendan Howlin, TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, today (9 October 2015) announced that he has published the Bill to give effect to the provisions of the Lansdowne Road Agreement. The Bill will amend the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) legislation …” (more)

[PER, 9 October]

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Minister Howlin announces reforms to Ireland’s Public Sector Standards Regime

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on June 18th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin TD, announced today (Thursday 18 June 2015) that the Government has approved the priority drafting of a Bill to provide for a statutory framework governing public sector disclosure of interests and related matters on a consolidated basis …” (more)

[Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, 18 June]

[It appears that these proposals are meant to include the universities: the draft scheme defines “public body” to include “a higher education institution in receipt of public funds”.]

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Public sector talks continue on key reforms sought by Government

Posted in Governance and administration on May 27th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“Talks were continuing on Tuesday night between Government representatives and trade unions on a draft agreement which public service staff would have to accept in return for pay restoration. The talks which have been under way for a fortnight dealt largely with remaining non-pay issues …” (more)

[Martin Wall, Irish Times, 26 May]

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Face-to-face negotiations on public pay begin

Posted in Governance and administration on May 19th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“The first face-to-face negotiations in the public sector pay talks got under way in Dublin this afternoon. The negotiations involve more than 19 public sector unions and officials from the Department of Public Expenditure …” (more)

[RTÉ News, 19 May]

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Ruairi Quinn: Deal to equalise payscale ‘in near future’

Posted in Governance and administration on April 23rd, 2014 by steve

“A deal on the gradual restoration of paycuts imposed on more than 2,000 young teachers in 2011 is expected in the coming weeks. Acknowledging concerns that there were three separate payscales for teachers doing the same job …” (more)

[Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner, 23 April]

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Ruairi Quinn: Controversial pay cuts for young teachers to be reversed

Posted in Governance and administration on April 22nd, 2014 by steve

“Pay cuts imposed on young teachers in 2011 are to be slowly restored …” (more)

[Katherine Donnelly, Independent, 22 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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Union warns of further action in Tyndall dispute

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on January 22nd, 2014 by steve

“SIPTU has warned of further industrial action at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork if progress is not made on pay rates for staff. SIPTU organizer Bill Mulcahy said the staff are University College Cork staff, and should be on UCC rates …” (more)

[RTÉ News, 22 January]

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Staff to picket Tyndall in pay dispute

Posted in Governance and administration on January 21st, 2014 by steve

“SIPTU will mount pickets at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork this morning over what it describes as a disparity of up to 20% in pay between its members and staff at University College Cork …” (more)

[Stephen Rogers, Irish Examiner, 21 January]

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Staff to picket UCC’s Tyndall Institute tomorrow over pay dispute

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on January 20th, 2014 by steve

“SIPTU members will place a picket at the Tyndall National Institute at University College Cork (UCC) tomorrow morning over a pay dispute …” (more)

[BusinessETC, 20 January]

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Killing Freedom of Information in Ireland

Posted in Legal issues on November 10th, 2013 by steve

“We’ve had sight of new amendments to the FOI Bill 2013 proposed by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. We will be blunt: if passed, Freedom of Information is dead …” (more)

[Gavin Sheridan, The Story, 8 November]

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Change one thing: Create a decent grant system to give Ireland’s third-level students a chance

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on October 8th, 2013 by steve

“The student maintenance grant is a lifeline for thousands attending college. The one change I want is a reliable and decent grant system that would make third-level accessible to all …” (more)

[Joe O’Connor, Irish Times, 8 October]

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The budget puzzle: how many cuts to education, and how big?

Posted in Governance and administration on October 8th, 2013 by steve

“A menu of possible savings has been doing the rounds. How might any choices from that menu affect students after Budget 2014 next week, when Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn decides where the axe will fall? …” (more)

[Louise Holden, Irish Times, 8 October]

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Teachers not able to switch union as strike action looms

Posted in Governance and administration on September 26th, 2013 by steve

“Teachers will not be allowed to switch unions to avoid being part of the dispute with the Government over pay …” (more)

[Katherine Donnelly and Martin Frawley, Independent, 26 September]

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The ball is in your court, Quinn tells teachers’ union

Posted in Governance and administration on September 25th, 2013 by steve

“There was no possibility of a renegotiation of the Haddington Road agreement and it was now for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland to decide what it would do, the Minister for Education and Skills has said …” (more)

[Dick Ahlstrom, Irish Times, 25 September]

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Cost of public sector sick leave falls 10%

Posted in Governance and administration on September 25th, 2013 by steve

“The cost of sick leave across the public service has dropped by 10% in just three years — except in the civil service, where it has increased by more than 13% …” (more)

[Stephen Rogers, Irish Examiner, 25 September]

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‘Greying’ public sector needs new recruits, unions warn

Posted in Governance and administration on July 26th, 2013 by steve

“The Government is insisting there is scope for new recruits to freshen up the public sector as new figures reveal the average public sector worker is 46 – and almost half are aged over 50 …” (more)

[Fiach Kelly, Independent, 26 July]

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Third Level Funding – Grant Reduction

Posted in Governance and administration on June 12th, 2013 by steve

Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the €20 million reduction in grants to universities and other institutes of higher education included in the 2013 revised estimates volume published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is external to the €44 million additional savings required by his Department this year; the rationale behind this reduction of grants to universities and institutes of higher education; and if he will make a statement on the matter …” (more)

[Dáil Éireann Written Answers, 11 June]

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Labour Relations Commission may seek more time to resolve Croke Park row

Posted in Governance and administration on May 4th, 2013 by steve

“The Labour Relations Commission (LRC) is expected to seek more time from the Government in its attempt to determine whether an agreed resolution can be found to proposals to reduce the public service pay and pensions bill by €1 billion …” (more)

[Martin Wall, Irish Times, 4 May]

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