Thursday, 2 April 2015
Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 7, to delete lines 29 to 37 and substitute the following:As Members will be aware, the purpose of sections 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Bill is to provide for the authorisation by the Minister of the use of the description "university" by a high quality education provider for specified purposes outside the State, which is referred to as university authorisation. The purpose of the proposed amendments is to amend section 5, which sets out provisions relating to the hearing of an appeal against a decision of the Minister either to refuse to grant university authorisation under section 2 or to withdraw university authorisation under section 4. The Bill currently provides that the Minister having regard to certain criteria would upon receipt of an appeal appoint three to five persons to an appeals board. However, the purpose of the appeals board is to hear an appeal against a decision of the Minister and, therefore, the appointment of the appeals board by the Minister could bring into question the independence of an appeals board appointed in this manner.
5.(1) The Minister shall, within 7 days of receipt of a notice of appeal under section 2(11)or section 4(9), request nominations from Quality and Qualifications Ireland for persons to appoint to an Appeals Board.
(2) As soon as practicable, and in any event not later than 42 days after the Minister’s request under subsection (1), Quality and Qualifications Ireland shall nominate the following persons for appointment:(a) 2 persons having a special interest or expertise in, or knowledge of, matters relating to higher education, one of whom shall be the chairperson of and one of
whom shall be an ordinary member of the Appeals Board; and
(b) one person to be an ordinary member of the Appeals Board who is either a practising solicitor with not less than 10 years’ experience or a practising barrister with not less than 10 years’ experience.(3) (a) An employee or member of Quality and Qualifications Ireland shall not be appointed under subsection (2)(a).(b) A solicitor or barrister who is in the full-time service of the State shall not be appointed under subsection (2)(b).(4) The Minister shall appoint the persons nominated under subsection (2)to an Appeals Board for the purposes of hearing the appeal which is the subject of the notice of appeal under subsection (1).".
Amendment No. 2, therefore, provides that the Minister shall upon receipt of an appeal request the nomination by Quality and Qualifications Ireland of three persons to be appointed to the appeals board, two of whom shall be experts in matters relating to higher education and one of whom shall be either a solicitor or barrister. This will ensure that appeals are not only fair but are seen to be fair.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 provide greater clarity about how an appeals board would conduct an appeal and provide for the establishment of procedures by an appeals board, the provision of written submissions by parties to the appeal and the holding of hearings where necessary.
The purpose of amendment No. 5 is to provide that appeals will be determined by an appeals board as soon as is practicable after its consideration of an appeal. The Bill currently provides that appeals will be determined within 60 days of the service of a notice of an appeal on the Minister. This is considered to be too tight a deadline given the issues the appeals board will be required to consider in hearing an appeal.
Amendment No. 6 is a technical amendment that sets out a definition for Quality and Qualifications Ireland.
The aim of the amendments is basically to ensure that the appeals system is independent of the Minister and is seen to be independent.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 8, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
"(6) An Appeal Board—(a) shall establish procedures to be followed regarding the making of submissions to the Board and the form of those submissions, and
(b) may establish procedures to be followed regarding—(i) the holding of a hearing,(7) For the purposes of an appeal for which the Appeals Board is appointed, the Board shall request written submissions from the education provider making the appeal and the Minister and the provider and the Minister shall furnish the submissions to the Board within the time period specified in the request.".
(ii) the examination by the Board of parties to an appeal,
(iii) requests for information for the purposes of an appeal and for the provision of such information, and
(iv) any other matter which the Board considers appropriate for the proper performance of its functions.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 8, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:"(8) If a hearing is held under subsection (6)—
(a) each of the parties to the appeal is entitled to be heard at the hearing, and
(b) the Appeals Board may adjourn the hearing of a matter at any stage in the proceedings until a date specified by the Board.(9) A decision of a majority of the members of an Appeals Board shall suffice for any purpose.".
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, lines 12 and 13, to delete "determine an appeal within 60 days of the service of a notice of appeal on the Minister under section 2(11)or section 4(9)as the case may be" and substitute the following:"determine an appeal as soon as practicable after the Board has completed its consideration of the appeal".
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 8, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:"(13) In this section, "Quality and Qualifications Ireland" means the Qualifications and Quality Assurance Authority of Ireland.".