GMIT President and THEA welcome Cabinet approval to progress TU Bill to next stage
Changes to the bill expected to be considered at committee stage on 15 November
GMIT President Dr Fergal Barry and THEA, the Technological Higher Education Association, welcome the approval by Cabinet (yesterday 7 Nov) of insertions and amendments to the Technological Universities Bill.
Dr Barry says: “The Cabinet’s approval to progress to the next stage of the legislative process marks a further step towards positioning Ireland’s Higher Education System and the Institutes of Technology in line with higher education systems that have successfully undergone reform in other countries.”
Dr Joseph Ryan, CEO of THEA, says: “The approval by Cabinet of these amendments to the Technological Universities Bill marks a significant step on the path to the realization of an even more exciting and diversified higher education landscape in this country.”
Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor said: “I am delighted that we can now proceed to progress the revised Technological Universities Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas. I look forward to debating and engaging with Deputies and Senators on this very important piece of legislation for the Higher Education sector.
“I am sure we will produce through the legislative process what will be seen as a very significant milestone in the evolution of the Higher Education sector and the Institutes of Technology sector in particular. The legislation when enacted will underpin the development of a new type of Higher Education institution, focusing on the combined strengths of our excellent Institutes of Technology to develop into top class Technological Universities”.
The Government had previously approved the key insertions and amendments to the Technological Universities Bill in July. The insertions and amendments were developed following a consultation process with stakeholders including the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, IMPACT, the Union of Students in Ireland and the Technological Higher Education Association. These amendments relate to terms and conditions of service for staff, strengthening the regional remit of a Technological University, membership of governing bodies and amendments to the application process for Technological University designation.
It is also intended that an insertion will be made at Report Stage of the Bill to allow the Minister for Education and Skills to appoint an investigator to a publicly funded Higher Education institution to investigate and report on issues related to governance and management of the institution. The relevant provisions will be introduced at Report Stage for which Cabinet approval will also be sought. The drafting of these specific amendments are being finalised between Department officials and the Attorney General’s Office.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor said “The advancement of the Bill to early enactment by the end of the year if possible, will pave the way for consortia that are ready to make applications for designation to apply and be assessed in 2018.
“This will be a very significant and advantageous step for the Higher Education sector and will have major benefits for the sector, students, the community and regional development. It will constitute a step change for the new institutions when established in terms of their critical mass, reach and influence regionally, nationally and internationally”.
Technological Universities Bill 2015
The legislative process for the Technological Bill 2015 commenced in January 2014 and had had passed Committee Stage when the 31st Dáil was dissolved in February 2016. On taking up office in May 2016, Minister Richard Bruton decided, having reviewed the progress of the Bill, that there were a significant number of matters raised in relation to the content of the Bill at both Committee and Report Stage and consultation with stakeholders was required.
The Minister indicated that following the finalisation of the consultation process, he would then advance the legislation having determined a position in relation to any matters raised as part of the consultation process. The Government Legislative Programme, published on 17 January 2017, lists the Technological Universities Bill on the Dáil Order Paper at Committee Stage.
Government approval for drafting of insertions and amendments to the Technological Bill 2015 (as passed at Committee Stage) was received in July 2017.
Detailed drafting of the insertions and amendments to the Bill were progressed by the Department of Education and Skills with the assistance of the Office of the Parliamentary Draftsman in relation to issues such as the application process for Technological University designation which will no longer require a pre-application merger stage, terms and conditions of service for staff, the process of appointing a first president of a Technological University and the strengthening of the regional remit of a Technological University in terms of the provisions relating to its functions and strategic development plan as well as in the eligibility criteria for a Technological University.
Status of Technological University Consortia
There are currently four consortia engaged with the process to become designated as Technological Universities. These are TU4Dublin (Dublin Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Tallaght, Institute of Technology Blanchardstown), Technological University for the South-East (TUSE – consisting of Waterford Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Carlow), Munster Technological University (MTU – consisting of Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology Tralee) and the Connaught Ulster Alliance (CUA – consisting of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Sligo and Letterkenny Institute of Technology).