The Government has launched a consultation process on the reform of the legislation covering the Higher Education Authority (HEA), which is responsible for the funding and oversight of the higher education sector.
The Higher Education Act is 50 years old, and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris (pictured) said it was important that “robust and refreshed” legislation for the sector was in place.
"As demand for higher education continues to grow, we need to ensure that the higher education system is managed efficiently and effectively to deliver on these goals," he added.
Coinciding with the announcement, the minister also published an update on plans to reform the law in the area.
This report said the higher education sector had been transformed since the HEA legislation was first put in place, with the HEA’s role expanding, “often on the basis of implied rather than explicit legal powers”.
Emphasis on governance
Beyond the original small number of universities provided for in the 1971 legislation, the HEA’s responsibilities now extend to an expanded number of universities, new technological universities and institutes of technology.
The department said the new legislation would put an emphasis on strong internal governance by the higher education institutions within a clear performance and governance framework.
The reforms will give the HEA the necessary statutory basis for its functions, including working with institutions to implement Government policy and providing for general oversight to ensure accountability and value for money, while retaining the institutions' autonomy.
The deadline for submissions is Friday 5 March.