Colleges should be free to 'hire and fire'

 

THIRD-LEVEL colleges should be able to “hire and fire” academic staff, Higher Education Authority chairman John Hennessy has said.

In an address likely to enrage many academics, Mr Hennessy, a former head of Ericsson Ireland, said higher education needs to move closer to the values and practices of the private sector.

He also sharply criticised working practices, contractual terms and tenure arrangements across higher education. Colleges, he said, should have greater control over human resource policies and practices in their institutions.

He said if the higher education system was to compete globally it must place increased focus on the “labour market future needs together with emphasis on Ireland’s future economic and social development”.

When these were identified, higher education institutions should adapt their structures to meet those needs, he said.

Mr Hennessy’s address, at the Association of University Administrators’ annual conference in UCD, is seen as a highly significant one reflecting Government thinking on the higher education sector.

His comments come as the Government moves to implement the Hunt report on higher education and the Croke Park agreement on public service modernisation.

These initiatives are to impose tighter control of the sector and more performance management. But some academics are certain to oppose any undermining of cherished academic freedom.

Appointed in January, Mr Hennessy’s appointment as chairman of the authority was unusual given his private sector background.

Mr Hennessy said his experience in the private sector had taught him about the key importance of competitiveness. He also said all students should experience arts and humanities subjects in their first year of college.