Minister Harris confirms Government approval for legislation to reform higher education sector and modernise the role of the Higher Education Authority
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today (Tuesday) confirmed Government approval to publish the Higher Education Authority Bill to reform the oversight and regulation of the Higher Education Institutions and modernise the regulatory role of the Higher Education Authority.
The legislation will seek to provide a comprehensive governance, performance and accountability framework to safeguard Exchequer investment in the sector and ensure accountability in the system. The legislation will also include provisions for strategic planning for tertiary education, engagement with students, equity of access and participation in the higher education sector, lifelong learning and the collection of data for advice, planning and research. It will also aim to promote and safeguard the interests of students and advance equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education.
Speaking earlier this month, Minister Harris said: “This is a really important piece of legislation, which reflects the significance of our higher education system and the need to modernise and improve the governance.
“This legislation will introduce a co-governance model. Institutions will remain autonomous but it will ensure the investment the Government is making in the sector is safeguarded and there is accountability for that funding.
“I look forward to progressing this through the Houses of the Oireachtas and making this the law in 2022.”
The legislation will mean each Higher Education Institution has primary responsibility for governance but there will be a clear accountability and reporting requirement to the Higher Education Authority.
Where performance or other failures are not adequately and transparently dealt with at the institutional level there are remedies available to the HEA under this legislation in order to protect students, public funds and the reputation of the sector.
The legislation also provides specific legal powers to the HEA to attach mandatory conditions of funding to public funding.
In addition, the size and composition of the governing will be amended under this legislation. Currently some governing bodies can have up to 40 members.
The sectoral legislation will be amended to provide for 17 member governing bodies in universities, institutes of technology and technological universities comprised of the Chairperson, eight other external members; two students, Chief Officer and five other internal members .
Three of the external members will be nominated by the Minister and five of the external members will be appointed by the governing body and all will be appointed based on the competencies required on the governing body.
The legislation includes functions for the HEA in planning, promoting, supporting and funding excellent research in the higher education system across all disciplines in accordance with national research policy.
The Bill will be published shortly.