Written answers

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Further and Higher Education

Photo of Pauline TullyPauline Tully (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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21. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the actions he has taken to ensure that the voice of persons with disabilities are heard in further and higher educational institutions by ensuring representation on university and college boards of management; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36832/21]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Firstly, I would like to assure the Deputy that equity of participation in further and higher education continues to be a national priority for the Government and for my Department. I am very pleased to see that a progress review of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education which was published in December 2018 showed considerable progress amongst those with disabilities. The target of 8% that was set for the lifetime of the Plan was exceeded with a new target of 12% set for 2021. Current data shows the percentage of full-time new entrants in higher education with a disability is 12.3% (2019/2020).

The process for the appointment of Governing Authority members of the Universities, Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities is set out in the Universities Act, 1997; the Institutes of Technology Acts 1992-2006 and the Technological Universities Act 2018 respectively.

As set out in the Universities Act and the Technological Universities Act I, as Minister, am not involved in the process of appointments to the Governing Authorities of Universities or TUs, other than to provide the requisite number of Ministerial nominees as set out in the respective legislation. With regard to the Ministerial nominees onto Governing Authorities, my Department undertakes an open recruitment process and liaises with the relevant institution to identify any gaps in particular competencies or experiences that would be beneficial to the Governing Authority. The position with regard to the further education colleges is that it is the relevant Educational Training Board that is responsible for the appointment of the boards of management.

As part of the reform of the Higher Education Authority Act, it is planned to amend the Universities Act, 1997, the Technological Universities Act, 2018 and the Institutes of Technology Acts 1992 to 2006 to provide that universities, technological universities and institutes of technology will be required to consult with relevant persons and bodies when developing their strategic development plan and equality policy. This consultation will include students, employees and any other appropriate bodies or persons thus ensuring that the perspective and views of people with disabilities are encompassed within strategic development plans and equality policies. It is also envisaged that the legislation with revise the membership and appointment processes to Governing Authorities, including to achieve smaller, competency based Governing Authorities that have regard to the diversity of communities served.

The reformed legislation also includes a provision that the HEA can issue policies, codes and guidelines to designated higher education institutions, including any policies, codes and guidelines related to disability issues. The institutions will be required to report to the HEA on a regular basis on the implementation of these policies, codes and guidelines.


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