HEA chair pleaded with CEO not to quit

■ Love told 18 months in role was not enough time to ‘ef­fect change’

Irish Examiner - - News - Ken Foxe

The chair­man of the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Au­thor­ity (HEA) had pleaded with the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the or­gan­i­sa­tion not to re­sign af­ter he had stepped down just 18 months into the job.

HEA chief ex­ec­u­tive Gra­ham Love had an­nounced his de­par­ture from the job last sum­mer, say­ing the role had not “matched [his] ex­pec­ta­tions” while also rais­ing se­ri­ous con­cerns over how third-level ed­u­ca­tion was man­aged.

It has emerged, now, that the chair­man of the au­thor­ity, Michael Hor­gan, had urged him to re­con­sider his de­ci­sion say­ing a year and a half was not enough time to “ef­fect any mean­ing­ful change” when work­ing in the pub­lic ser­vice.

Mr Hor­gan had writ­ten: “I doubt five years is even enough. You have learned a great deal since your ap­point­ment both about lead­er­ship as well as man­ag­ing staff, politi­cians, civil ser­vants and the board.

“It would be a shame to waste that learn­ing.”

The cor­re­spon­dence re­lat­ing to Mr Love’s res­ig­na­tion has been re­leased fol­low­ing an FOI re­quest.

Ac­cess to emails about his de­ci­sion had orig­i­nally been re­fused on the ba­sis their re­lease could have a “sig­nif­i­cant, ad­verse ef­fect” on the man­age­ment of the HEA.

How­ever, many of the records have now been re­leased fol­low­ing an ap­peal through trans­parency group Right to Know.

They show how at­tempts were made to get Mr Love to change his mind about what proved an em­bar­rass­ing res­ig­na­tion for the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

In his email, Mr Hor­gan said many of the is­sues in­volv­ing poor prac­tice by higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions (HEIs) were a re­sult of a fail­ure of “gov­er­nance”.

He said: “This should al­low us in­flu­ence and guide the HEIs now with­out in­ter­fer­ing with their au­ton­omy; while also re­duc­ing de­mands on your time for in­ter­ven­tion.”

Mr Hor­gan also urged Mr Love to con­sider the fact that a num­ber of se­nior man­age­ment ap­point­ments had just been made to the au­thor­ity.

He said th­ese would help “sig­nif­i­cantly” in shar­ing the work­load and “eas­ing the bur­den”.

“They will also be in a po­si­tion to take over and lead some of the more ad­min­is­tra­tive tasks,” he said. “As their re­cruiter, you also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to them.”

Mr Hor­gan said the cur­rent board of the HEA was “one of the best [he had] ever served on”. He said: “It has a com­bi­na­tion of skills, ex­pe­ri­ence, good char­ac­ter and a will­ing­ness to lis­ten, chal­lenge and act. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, this is a very rare com­bi­na­tion in pub­lic bod­ies.”

Mr Hor­gan said Mr Love had the full con­fi­dence of the en­tire board and he was sure they would also want him to stay on to al­low “a more re­al­is­tic time­frame to make the kind of con­tri­bu­tion to Ir­ish higher ed­u­ca­tion that you know you can”.

In re­sponse to the email, Mr Love said that he was not go­ing to change his mind. “I ap­pre­ci­ate this but the de­ci­sion is made.”

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