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Reforming the Higher Education Authority




It has been recently reported that the Government plans to introduce major changes to the regulation of third-level colleges. The proposed reform of the Higher Education Authority would mean that third-level colleges could face a series of stringent penalties for misconduct. Reports indicate that the potential legislative amendments would give the Higher Education Authority the power to:
  • carry out reviews into the performance or governance of third-level colleges with the co-operation of staff and full access to internal documents;
  • appoint an “observer” to sit on governing bodies of colleges where there are concerns;
  • withhold or request a refund of State grants in cases where they have been misused;
  • issue “non-financial penalties” such as admonishments taking into account any professional regulatory regimes or impose more stringent HR requirements;
  • remove higher-education institutions from a list of “designated” institutions under certain circumstances.
This would provide the Higher Education Authority with greater powers than it currently has. The Higher Education Authority is the statutory agency responsible for the funding of universities, institutes of technology and certain other higher education institutions. It also leads the strategic development of the Irish higher education and research system and is the advisory body to the Minister for Education and Skills in relation to the higher education sector. The Higher Education Authority Act, 1971 (“the Act”), established the Higher Education Authority and set out its functions.