New Higher Education Authority board given added business focus

Minister Richard Bruton names former head of Royal College of Surgeons as chairman

 Minister for Education Richard Bruton said high quality education and training was key to boosting the higher education sector. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said high quality education and training was key to boosting the higher education sector. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

The former chief executive of the Royal College of Surgeons has been appointed chair of Higher Education Authority (HEA) by Minister for Education Richard Bruton.

It is one of a series of business and management-focused appointments which Mr Bruton has made at a time when funding has emerged as the biggest issue facing the third level sector.

Michael Horgan, who led the Royal College of Surgeons for five years until 2009, will appear before the Oireachtas education committee prior to his appointment being confirmed.

Mr Horgan helped transform the medical school to a highly successful international education institution which is reliant mostly on private funding. He is due to serve as chair for five years.

Non-academic members include Tony Donohoe, the head of education, social and innovation policy at the employer’s group IBEC; and Judith Eaton, president of the US-based Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Darina Kneafsey, founder of the business consultancy firm Quilly Ltd, has also been appointed to the board, along with Pól Ó’Móráin, a member of the Irish Export Trade Council and partner in EnterpriseLab, London.

Academic members include Prof Orla Feely, vice president for research, innovation and impact in UCD, and Sinéad O’Flanagan, senior lecturer in management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Other academic appointments include Dr Lynn Ramsey, head of teaching and learning at Letterkenny Institute of Technology; Dr John Wall, head of school of lifelong learning and education at Waterford Institute of Technology; and Sharon Feeney, head of learning development at DIT’s college of business.

Minister Bruton said high quality education and training was key to boosting the higher education sector.

“I want to ensure that the higher education system equips people with the knowledge and skills necessary to live fulfilled and rewarding lives, and to meet the social and economic challenges facing Ireland. ”

He said the implementation performance frameworks and financial compacts between the HEA and colleges underpinned a “changed relationship” between the State and the higher education system.

This, he said provided for a new level of accountability for public funding against national objectives for the public funded higher education system.

“Now, I want to examine the potential for new funding models to ensure that we can deliver results in areas such as disadvantage, skills and research,” he said.

“In addition, I will be mapping out a multi-year vision for the future of this crucial sector which will see the development of a new systems performance framework for higher education for the period to 2021.”

Mr Bruton said he examine measurement instruments for key areas that will include increasing access for underrepresented groups, online learning, responsiveness to emerging skills needs, new apprenticeship models and a renewed focus on improving the quality of the students’ learning outcomes.

“The knowledge and capability which these appointments will bring to the Board will ensure that we can deliver on these national objectives,” he said.

All of the nominees for the positions were selected by the Minister having come through the process ran by the Public Appointments Service.