Higher ed­u­ca­tion chief urged not to quit

HEA chief re­signed amid frus­tra­tion over ‘risk’ posed by third-level un­der­fund­ing Au­thor­ity’s chair­man urged to re­con­sider as 18 months was too short a time in post

The Irish Times - - Home News - CARL O’BRIEN Ed­u­ca­tion Ed­i­tor

The chair­man of the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Au­thor­ity tried to con­vince its chief ex­ec­u­tive to re­verse his de­ci­sion to re­sign over is­sues such as the risks posed to col­leges from un­der­fund­ing, new records show.

Dr Gra­ham Love an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion from the reg­u­la­tory body for the third-level sec­tor last Au­gust, a year and a half af­ter tak­ing up the role.

Records re­leased un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act show Dr Love emailed his res­ig­na­tion to the chair­man of the au­thor­ity and ex­pressed frus­tra­tion over the lim­its of the role to help re­form the sec­tor.

“Af­ter much con­sid­er­a­tion, I have formed a view that the role has not matched my ex­pec­ta­tions and the ac­tual na­ture of the job mil­i­tates against any re­al­is­tic op­por­tu­nity to de­liver much-needed strate­gic de­vel­op­ment in the sec­tor,” Dr Love wrote.

“A num­ber of se­ri­ous con­cerns have led me to this con­clu­sion, in­clud­ing the lack of role clar­ity be­tween the HEA and the Dept of Ed­u­ca­tion & Skills, the level of risk posed to the higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem by the fail­ure to re­solve the over­all fund­ing is­sue, the na­ture of the board/ex­ec­u­tive re­la­tion­ship in the HEA and the dom­i­nance of the com­pli­ance/ reg­u­la­tory agenda.”

In re­sponse, the au­thor­ity’s chair­man, Michael Hor­gan, urged him to re­con­sider his de­ci­sion on the ba­sis that 18 months was too short a time to ef­fect any mean­ing­ful change.

“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,” Mr Hor­gan wrote.

Mr Hor­gan said new se­nior man­age­ment ap­point­ments would help ease the bur­den, al­low­ing more time to fo­cus on strate­gic is­sues.

“As their re­cruiter, you also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to them,” he wrote.

The chair­man added that most of the big is­sues that were raised in the Dáil Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee – such as mis­spending and mis­man­age­ment by uni­ver­si­ties – have their ori­gins in col­leges’ own gov­er­nance rather than com­pli­ance with code of con­duct.

“This should al­low us in­flu­ence and guide the higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions now with­out in­ter­fer­ing with their au­ton­omy; while also re­duc­ing de­mands on your time for in­ter­ven­tion.”

Mr Hor­gan said the board was “one of the best he had ever served on” with a com­bi­na­tion of “skills, ex­pe­ri­ence, good char­ac­ter and a will­ing­ness to lis­ten, chal­lenge and act”.

Gra­ham Love ex­pressed frus­tra­tion over the lim­its of the role to help re­form the sec­tor

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