The Universities Act 1997 constituted and established certain colleges and universities as universities under the legislation. It provided for the incorporation of educational institutions as parts of universities or as universities in their own right. It provided for the governance of universities in receipt of monies from the State.
The Universities Act applies to the below universities and other universities as may be established under it or so long as they are institutes of higher education in receipt of public money under the Higher Education Authority Act 1971. Certain provisions do not apply to Trinity College.
It constituted the governing authorities and Academic Councils and provided for their powers and functions. It also made provision in relation to strategic planning, financial scrutiny and reporting. It amended certain charters.
Trinity College is defined as the College of the wholly and undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin established by Charter 3rd March 1592. This is deemed to include the University of Dublin save where the context otherwise requires.
The University of Dublin means the university established by Charter and Letters Patent incorporating Trinity College, further provided for by letters patent of 24th July 1857.
The National University of Ireland is constituted and founded by charter in pursuance of the Irish Universities Act 1908. A constituent college refers to the three constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland, the University College Cork, University College Dublin and University College Galway.
The constituent colleges of the National University of Ireland become universities and each college has been known by its constituent name that the universities remain constituent universities of the National University of Ireland. The constituent colleges of the university are accordingly each a university and are to be interpreted accordingly.
The University of Limerick was established by the University of Limerick Act 1989. Dublin City University was established by the Dublin City University Act 1989.
Incorporation and Establishment
If the Authority considers that an educational institution or part of an institution should form part of the university, the Minister for Education may by order made with the consent of the Minister for Finance the institution concerned and the governing body provide that the institution shall become a part of the university and the making of the order and be so incorporated. The order must be laid before both houses of the Oireachtas and approved by them.
The government may appoint a body whose membership is recommended by the HEA which must include national and international experts and employees of universities to which the legislation applies to advise the Authority as to whether having regard to the objects and functions of the university an educational institution should be so established.
On the advice of the body and recommendation of the Authority, the government may by order provide that the institution shall be constituted as a university. The order must be approved by both houses of the Oireachtas. On establishment, the university is a body corporate with a separate legal identity.
Objectives of University
The objects of a university shall include
- advancement of knowledge through teaching scholarly research and scientific investigation, promotion of learning in a student body and in society generally.
- promotion of the culture and social life of society while fostering and respecting diversity of the university traditions,
- fostering a capacity for independent critical thinking amongst its students,
- promoting the official languages of the State with special regard to the preservation, promotion and use of the Irish language,
- promotion of the distinct cultures of Ireland.
- supporting and contributing to the realisation of national, economic and social development
- education, training and retraining high level professional, technical and managerial personnel
- promoting the highest standards in and quality of teaching research,
- examining outcomes of its research
- facilitating life-long learning and the provision of adult and continuing education
- promoting gender balance and equality of opportunity among students and employees.
The university is to do all things necessary and expedient in accordance with the legislation and its charter to further the objects and development of the university.
Without limiting this it shall
- provide courses of study, conduct examination and award degrees and other qualifications
- promote and facilitate research
- establish by incorporation or participate in the establishment of trading research or other corporations as it thinks fit for the purpose of promoting or assisting or in relation with the functions of the university.
- collaborate with educational, business, professional, trade union, Irish language, cultural, artistic, community and other interests further its objects.
- maintain, manage and administer property and assets
- collaborate with graduates convocations of graduates and associations representing graduates inside and outside the state.
Values and Principles
A university in performing its function shall have the right and responsibility to preserve and promote the traditional principles of academic freedom and the conduct of its internal and external affairs. It is to be entitled to regulate its affairs in accordance with its independent ethos and traditions and traditional principles of academic freedom.
In so doing, it shall have regard to promotion and preservation of equality of opportunity, effective and efficient use of resources and its obligations as to public accountability. Where there is a doubt as to interpretation the legislation is to be interpreted so as to promote the ethos and tradition and principles of the university.
A member of the academic staff of the university shall have freedom within the law in his teaching, research and other activities either inside or outside the university to question and test received wisdom to put forward new ideas and to express controversial and unpopular opinions and not be disadvantaged or subject to less favourable treatment by the university for the exercise of that freedom.
The university may in accordance with procedures specified in the statutes or regulations appoint persons to be employees, as he thinks fit having regard to the efficient use of its available resources, the requirement of accountability in the use of public monies, the policy in relation to pay and conditions in the public service as determined by the government and guidelines issued by the Minister. A governing authority may delegate functions to the chief officer relating to the appointment of employees and selection procedures.
Remuneration, fees, allowances and expenses are to be approved by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The university may depart from the levels of remuneration fees, allowances and expenses approved, where it is satisfied that it is necessary to meet the objects of the university but may only do so within the framework agreed between the universities and the HEA.
The university may suspend or dismiss any employee, but only in accordance with procedures and subject to conditions specified in the statute, following consultation through normal industrial relation structures operating in the university with recognised staff associations or trade unions, which procedures may provide for delegation of powers relating to suspension or dismissal to the chief officer and shall provide for the tenure of officers.
There are provisions for the continuation of and the terms of superannuation scheme, rights entitlements in respect of tenure, remuneration, fees, allowances and superannuation enjoyed on the commencement of the legislation by employees. In the case of superannuation, former employees shall not by virtue of the operation of the legislation, have less beneficial provisions than those thereto enjoyed.
A governing authority must establish procedures for resolution of disputes which arise in the university other than the disputes which are to be dealt with through normal industrial relation structures operating in the university or certain appeal matters below regarding Academic Council matters.
Procedures shall be established following consultation with trade unions and staff associations representing employees and with student unions or other student representative bodies. They shall provide for consideration of issues and disputes by an independent person, if appropriate one of whom in the case of a constituent university of the NUI, shall be a nominee of the chancellor of the National University of Ireland.
The purpose of the 2015 Act is to give effect to Government decisions to support the Government’s internationalisation policy through provision for an authorisation to describe an education provider as a university for particular purposes outside the State; to amend the Student Support Act 2011 and to refuse access to certain information through amendment of the Education Act 1998.
Authorisation is required for a provider to describe itself as a university outside the State for specified purposes. There are qualifying conditions that relate to an education provider that wishes to apply for authorisation to describe themselves as a university outside the State for specified purposes.
The conditions ensure that only an education provider who is authorised by or under an enactment to make awards to at least doctoral degree level in the State. The awards must be recognised within the National Framework of Qualifications. These strict criteria have been included to ensure that a provider authorised to use the title for the specified purposes is offering education at a level comparable to that offered by universities and that is recognised to be such under the National Framework. In practice, these criteria mean that a qualifying provider would be subject to external quality assurance by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).
The 2015 Act excludes education providers that make awards through delegated authority from QQI as provided for in the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012. An education provider that is granted a university authorisation cannot describe or cause itself to be described as a university otherwise than for the specified purposes outside the State.
There are powers for the Minister to grant or refuse an authorisation on the grounds of whether the provider satisfies the requirements set out. These are that the Minister must be satisfied that the education provider is
- authorised under an enactment to make awards to at least doctoral degree level in the State and that those awards are recognised within the National Framework of Qualifications and that
- at least 40% of the total student body registered in Ireland must be from outside the Member States (i.e. is non EU students) and must be lawfully in the State to receive education and training.
The second requirement, having regard to the need for a diversified system in which institutions focus on their core strengths is to ensure that an applicant provider who may be authorised to describe themselves as a university has internationalisation as its core mission.
The Minister must inform a provider if there is a refusal to grant authorisation and to set out the reasons for the refusal and for a provider to make an appeal to an Appeals Board which must be set up by the Minister within a specified period.
The Minister may apply to the High Court for an injunction to restrain an education provider who has no authorisation or whose university authorisation has been withdrawn from describing itself or causing itself to be described as a university for any purpose.
The authorisation may be reviewed and provides for an tÚdarás to request information, which must be provided by the provider, and to review an authorised provider to ensure that the university authorisation is not being used in the State or for purposes other than the specified purposes. Where it considers that there is improper use of the authorisation then they must inform the Minister who may direct the provider to cease such use, to which direction the provider must comply.
An authorisation may be withdrawn from a provider by the Minister. This may follow a review by an tÚdarás of the provider’s compliance to a direction from the Minister and where an tÚdarás considers that the provider is not complying with the direction or has ceased to meet the requirements set out and has advised the Minister of this or where this otherwise comes to the notice of the Minister.
The Minister must advise the provider of his intention to withdraw authorisation and allow representations from the provider within a specified period. The Minister may then proceed to withdraw authorisation and a provider may appeal against that decision to an Appeals Board appointed by the Minister.
The 2015 Act sets out the mechanism for the appointment, size and composition of an Appeals Board. It is independent in its functions to hear appeals. The fees, allowances, expenses and support to the Board are also provided for.
The Appeals Board may consider an appeal specifies the period for the determination and their power to affirm the Minister’s refusal or withdrawal of authorisation or to quash the decision and direct reconsideration of the decision by the Minister. Where the Minister’s decision is affirmed, the Act set out how the Appeals Board must notify the provider of their determination and the date from which the withdrawal will take effect. If the Appeals Board quashes the decision then the Minister must reconsider his decision within the specified period