News & Media

Minister Bruton must bear responsibility for lack of oversight of Universities

28 May 2017

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Health and Disability Services

Labour TD for Tipperary and Vice Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Alan Kelly has said Minister Bruton must bear responsibility for lack of oversight of Universities.

Deputy Kelly said:

"The recent Prime Time revelations regarding some universities in Ireland highlight the need for more regulatory oversight but responsibility for the current lack of oversight rests firmly with Minister Richard Bruton.

"In two significant areas he has failed to act to ensure greater compliance during his term as Minister for Education & Skills.

"The Higher Education Authority is the main statutory body tasked with regulating the university sector yet the Authority has been short 8 members for the past four months. In November 2016 the Chair of the HEA wrote to Minister Bruton advising that there would be 8 vacancies by January yet no appointments were made.

"I raised the matter in a PQ to the Minister on the 7th of March and was informed that the appointment process was under way. Three months later, no appointments have been made.

"The HEA does not currently have the statutory minimum number of academic members yet the Minister continues to ignore his legislative obligations.

"Secondly, the Minister and his Department have continually delayed the publication of the Universities (Amendment) Bill despite the fact that the heads of the Bill were brought to cabinet by my former colleague Ruairi Quinn in 2012. 

"The Bill as proposed specifically aims to ensure compliance with government guidelines on remuneration, allowances, pensions and staffing numbers in the University sector but yet again the Minister appears to have little interest in seeking its enactment by the Oireachtas.

"If the Minister is in any way concerned about the lack of oversight as evidenced by the Prime Time investigation then he must fill the many vacancies that exist on the HEA and enact the Universities (Amendment) Bill without delay."