Controversial third-level hiring rules amended

 

THE GOVERNMENT has agreed to amend controversial new rules on higher education recruitment.

The rules had been labelled “Stalinist” and damaging to Ireland’s research interests by senior academics.

The “employment control framework” introduced by the last government in its final days, restricted employment in the sector, even to research posts funded from non-exchequer sources.

An amended framework published yesterday removes the onus on colleges to notify the Higher Education Authority of appointments which are funded from external sources.

It also gives colleges additional flexibility on promotional posts; these can now proceed provided the overall balance between grades is maintained across the college.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin have both approved the revised framework. The changes have been given a guarded welcome by the Irish Federation of University Teachers.

Yesterday, the education authority also confirmed staff numbers in higher education have declined by 7 per cent (1,361 posts) since the restrictions on recruitment were introduced in 2009. Annual savings of €30 million have been achieved at a time when student numbers surged by 15 per cent.

Last night, Mike Jennings of the university teachers’ federation noted that of about 3,300 planned annual public sector staff cuts, almost half have been achieved in the third-level sector. Any further cuts will threaten the viability and status of Irish third-level education, he warned.

Higher Education Authority chief executive Tom Boland said yesterday: “While everyone would prefer that controls on staffing were not necessary, the framework provides reasonable flexibility to the higher education institutions to manage their staffing requirements.”