A bill aimed at modernising how the higher-education sector is overseen is expected to be published shortly, after Government approval.
The legislation will reform the governance of the educational institutions, and the role of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which is responsible for the funding and oversight of the sector.
Simon Harris (Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, pictured) described the Higher Education Authority Bill as an important piece of legislation, reflecting the significance of the higher-education system, and the need to modernise and improve its governance.
Institutions will remain autonomous, according to the minister, but he added that the legislation would ensure that the investment the Government was making in the sector was safeguarded, and that there was accountability for that funding.
The bill 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.
Under the bill, each institution will be primarily responsible for its own governance, but there will be a “clear accountability and reporting requirement” to the HEA.
The HEA will be able to take action in cases where institutions do not deal adequately with performance or other failures.
The legislation also provides specific legal powers to the HEA to attach mandatory conditions to public funding.
In addition, the size and composition of governing bodies will be streamlined, with the bill providing for 17-member bodies in universities, institutes of technology, and technological universities.