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Minister Harris welcomes Oireachtas approval of HEA Bill to reform higher education sector and modernise the role of the Higher Education Authority

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has today welcomed Oireachtas approval of the Higher Education Authority Bill 2022, which is a crucial part of the Government’s agenda for the higher education sector.

The Bill will now be sent to the President to be signed into law.

This legislation will significantly reform governance legislation for higher education. While each higher education institution will retain primary responsibility for governance but also provides a clear accountability and reporting requirement to the Higher Education Authority. It will also promote and safeguard the interests of students and advance equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said:

"The higher education sector has been transformed since the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971 was first put in place 50 years ago.


"In 1971, there were approximately 20,000 students in higher education and this has increased to over 200,000 students in the present day. Higher education has become more accessible to all sectors of society, and more adaptable to meeting the State’s social, economic, and labour market needs.


“We must constantly adapt to ensure we have a higher education system that is fair, equitable and accessible, and one that delivers value for money to the taxpayer.


“We have worked across the sector to perfect this Bill and I am really pleased it has now passed through the Oireachtas."


The HEA Bill will allow for:


  • Strengthened powers for the Higher Education Authority including performance frameworks for state-funded Higher Education Institutions;
  • The HEA to set conditions for funding third level institutions and the application of remedial measures if there is non-compliance;
  • proper accountability and governance in the higher education sector;
  • the reconstitution of governing bodies to strengthen institutional governance;
  • amendments to the Student Support Act to provide for the administration of scholarships for disadvantaged students and
  • amendments to the Industrial Training Act 1967 to permit statutory apprenticeships in the areas of agriculture, horticulture, or fishing.


Under the HEA Bill, legislation will be amended to provide for 19 member governing bodies in universities, institutes of technology and technological universities comprised of the Chairperson, nine other external members; three students, Chief Officer and five other internal members.

Three of the external members will be nominated by the Minister and seven of the external members will be appointed by the governing body and all will be appointed based on the competencies required on the governing body.

The bill will achieve the correct balance of institutional autonomy and accountability. It is noted that the Bill respects the academic freedom of the institutions. 

The legislation includes functions for the HEA in planning, promoting, supporting and funding excellent research in the higher education system across all disciplines in accordance with national research policy.