Irish higher education: employment control moderated

Without much noise, the Irish Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, with the agreement of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, has introduced some fundamental changes to the not-much-loved ’employment control framework’. Under the revised framework, universities will still  have what the document calls a ‘ceiling’ for posts funded by the recurrent grant, but beneath that ceiling institutions will now be able to act independently. Furthermore, they will be allowed to recruit to permanent posts, which is a particularly important change; under the original framework academic career structures had been seriously undermined.

Posts funded from other sources (including research grants and contracts) can also be filled, and now without authorisation and without any ceiling; but only on a fixed term basis and with full cost recovery.

Of further significance is the fact that promotions, within numerical limitations, will now also be possible again.

The ’employment control framework’ in its original form was doing very serious damage to Irish higher education. It undermined institutional autonomy, it destroyed career progression, it made it difficult and occasionally impossible to organise large scale research projects, it compromised the ability of institutions to plan teaching programmes; in short, it was a disaster. The new revised framework is still not entirely unproblematical, but most of the objectionable aspects of the original have now been removed. This is a welcome development for the higher education system.

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4 Comments on “Irish higher education: employment control moderated”

  1. Liam Delaney Says:

    Agree that this document is far more reasonable and the last version should never have seen the light of day. Hopefully, it can form the basis for a real discussion that will help the universities keep up activity subject to the financial constraints at play. Well done in the role you played Ferdinand as I think the sheet outcry about this contributed to the old one being binned.

  2. Ned Costello Says:

    The revisions to the Framework are indeed welcome and are very extensive. In addition to the points summarised by Ferdinand, there are other important changes. For example, the key role played by the universities in raising private income and reducing their dependence on the Exchequer is fully acknowledged. Also, the transitional provisions in respect of the 20% contribution to pension for non externally funded research staff are much improved. However, the entire area of research funding is one which needs to be watched, especially in the context of the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. It might also be noted that the categorisation of the three staff components is different than before and is now more logical as it clearly distinguishes between public and private funding – previously these were mixed up in categories two and three. Finally, in tone and nuance, the document reads differently, being much less stentorian and authoritarian in tone.

    The changes to the text reflect concerns which were put directly to the Minister and Department by the IUA Council. The dialogue which ensued was very constructive and, in my view, showed that engaged consultation can lead to better policy making – and better policy.

    • Thanks for the further elaboration, Ned. I suspect that this undoubted improvement owes something both to the foreground noise and the background negotiations; the latter might not have worked so well without the pressure of the former…

  3. Ned Costello Says:

    Good engineering always requires careful management of the SNR, Ferdinand.

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