THE Government has reversed a decision to abolish the National University of Ireland, which has over 250,000 graduates in Ireland and worldwide, the Irish Independent has learned.
The original decision to scrap the NUI was announced in January of last year by the then Minister Batt O'Keeffe. However, the new minister, Ruairi Quinn, has moved swiftly to reverse it.
Mr Quinn intends to give the NUI some new roles, while it will continue to issue degrees and other awards and appoint external examiners to its constituent universities -- UCD, UCC, NUI Maynooth and Galway.
It will also continue to give degrees to graduates from the five recognised NUI colleges -- Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, National College of Art and Design, Shannon College of Hotel Management, the Institute of Public Administration and the Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy.
The change of heart means that the NUI 'brand' will continue to be known internationally, which supporters say is helpful when graduates are forced to emigrate to work abroad.
The move will also be welcomed by Irish-language groups as the NUI still requires Irish as a matriculation subject for entry to undergraduate courses.
The NUI constituency returns three members of Seanad Eireann as does the University of Dublin (TCD), but this arrangement is likely to change if the Seanad remains in existence as graduates from other third-level colleges do not have a vote.
Abolition of the NUI had been recommended by the McCarthy "Bord Snip Nua" report, which claimed it would save €3m a year. But the figure was rejected by the university, which pointed out that a significant part of the expenditure would simply be passed on to member institutions.
In 2009, the net cost of running the NUI was €1.36m and it remitted €530,000 in income tax and levies to the Exchequer.
Mr O'Keeffe said the central role of the NUI had been reduced in the Universities Act 1997 and the need to have a separate body undertaking what was now a limited set of functions had been outlived.
He said that many of the remaining functions would be absorbed into a new qualifications and quality-assurance agency. However, it is understood a number of legal and technical problems came to light in the past year and that the abolition of the NUI was not as simple as it had seemed.