Monday 16 September 2019

Minister snubs key education reform plan

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has ignored top-level advice to cut the size of a key education group.

He recently appointed seven new members to the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which maintains the number on the board at 19.

This contravenes a key recommendation from the Hunt Report, which said the board should be reduced to 12.

The Department of Education-commissioned Hunt Report set out a strategy for major reform of the higher education system up to 2030.

The report called for revision of the HEA itself in particular areas, including the structure of the board. It added that the board "should have no more than 12 members", including at least two from outside Ireland.

A spokesperson for Mr Quinn said the appointments were made within the existing legislative provisions, which set out the number of board positions to be filled.

However, Mr Quinn did not need new legislation to limit the number of board members to 12. The legislation underpinning the HEA is clear that 19 is the maximum number required, and not the minimum.

It states that there should be "a chairman and not more than 18 ordinary members".

Fianna Fail education spokesman Brendan Smith accused the minister of "losing an opportunity" to implement a key recommendation of the Hunt Report. Mr Smith said that, with 19 members, the HEA board was "too unwieldy". The cut recommended by Hunt was not so much about saving money as making the board more efficient. The HEA chair gets an annual fee of €11,970, while members receive €7,695 each. On top of that the total paid in expenses to members last year was €16,063.

They new members are: Dr Bahram Bekhradnia, head of the Higher Education Policy Institute, England; Paddy Cosgrave, organiser of the Dublin Web Summit; Siobhan Harkin, research manager, Waterford Institute of Technology; Dr Jim Mountjoy, founder of software development company Euristix and deputy director of Science Foundation Ireland; Anthony Staines, professor of health systems, Dublin City University; Dr Brian Thornes, chief executive officer of Dublin-based medical devices company X-Bolt Orthopaedics; and Gordon Ryan, head of development and business operations at IT Sligo.


They join sitting members: chairman John Hennessy, also chairman of Ericsson Ireland; Brendan Byrne of, Donegal County Council; Dr Mary Canning, former lead education specialist at the World Bank; Professor Maeve Conrick, University College Dublin; John Dolan, Disability Federation of Ireland; Eamonn Grennan, IT Sligo; Professor Eileen Harkin-Jones, Queen's University Belfast; Professor Ellen Hazelkorn, Dublin Institute of Technology; Kathleen Lough, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology; Dr Maria Meehan, University College Dublin; Gary Redmond, president, Union of Students in Ireland; and Professor Marijk van der Wende, Amsterdam University College .

Irish Independent

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