Posted tagged ‘’employment control framework’’

Irish higher education: employment control moderated

June 21, 2011

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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Ireland: no news is bad news?

May 13, 2011

Three days ago the Irish government launched its jobs initiative. In the document the government stated that, on the following day (i.e. Wednesday, May 11), the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform would announce a relaxing of the requirements of the so-called ’employment control framework’. This is now Friday, May 13, and no such announcement has taken place; or if it has, it has been done in secret.

The ’employment control framework’ has had a more negative and destructive effect on Irish higher education than almost any other recent government measure, and it is important that the new administration shows its awareness of the damage it is causing by moving fast to reform or (preferably) remove it. The failure to follow through on what was promised earlier in the week is not encouraging.

It is my impression that the new Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD, means to be supportive and constructive in his role. He should push his colleagues in government to move swiftly to kill this totally unnecessary and damaging regulatory scheme.

The ’employment control framework’: change afoot?

May 11, 2011

The following statement was contained in yesterday’s announcement by the Irish government on its ‘jobs initiative’.

Third Level Education

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform is announcing tomorrow a relaxation of the numbers ceiling applying to non-Exchequer funded posts in the Higher Education sector, in order to further facilitate the maximum possible employment creation potential of that sector, while also encouraging institutions to seek to diversify their sources of funding away from the Exchequer.
It is envisaged that similar type arrangements will also apply to contract posts involved in research activity in non-commercial State agencies.

This suggests that some of the more ludicrous aspects of the ’employment control framework;’ will now be abandoned. We await more information.

Ireland: so what *has* happened to the ’employment control framework’?

April 28, 2011

After the anger generated in the Irish university community over the second phase of the government’s ’employment control framework’ (under which staff recruitment and promotions in higher education are heavily restricted by the state), it might be asked what has happened to the whole thing. There had been some hints from the new Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn TD, that there might be a re-think, but since then there has been only silence. We do not know for sure whether there have been talks between the Irish Universities Association and the government, but we must assume that this is so.

But whether the government might be having second thoughts is far from clear. Yesterday the Minister, addressing the annual conference of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, ‘firmly ruled out lifting the public service moratorium on filling promotional posts in schools, such as those of assistant principals and year heads.’ This is a reference to the related restrictions that apply to the public service more generally; but the Minister’s unwillingness to allow any flexibility in this scheme does not suggest an easy solution for higher education will be possible.

And that, I believe, would be a major mistake, and would undermine the capacity of universities to contribute to new economic growth. It is important to keep up the pressure in this matter.

The onward march – for now – of the ’employment control framework’

March 25, 2011

In Ireland the Higher Education Authority has now formally published the new version of the ’employment control framework’ on its website, and has also issued a set of explanations and statements which produce a very benign interpretation of the terms of the ECF. For example, the statement suggests that promotions are not prohibited by the ECF provided the distribution of junior and senior posts does not change from a December 2010 baseline. The latter statement is welcome, though it would have to be said that it directly contradicts a clear statement in the ECF itself – that there can be no promotions. The reference to the distribution of grades in the ECF applies not to promotions but to the filling of vacancies (see pages 6-7 of the ECF).

The HEA also says in the statement that authorisation will not be required for any appointments; again this is clearly contradicted in the ECF itself (see e.g. first paragraph of section 8 of the ECF).

It is no doubt welcome that the HEA (which cannot in any case be blamed for the ECF) is proposing to apply a reasonable interpretation of the framework. But in the end that will be subject to government instructions and pressures. It seems to me that the position has not changed: the ECF must be revoked.

The legal route to terminating the ’employment control framework’?

March 23, 2011

Readers of this blog will by now be well familiar with the Irish ’employment control framework’, the state-imposed mechanism for restricting the capacity of universities to hire and promote staff, even within budget. Following the publication of the new framework, the influential Trinity College Dublin law professor Eoin O’Dell published a compelling legal analysis in his blog pointing to the various flaws in the way in which the framework was adopted, and in the proposed enforcement of it.

Based on this analysis, TCD Provost candidate Colm Kearney has indicated that, if elected to the post, he would move immediately to restrain the implementation of the ECF by seeking a court injunction. I can see the attraction, at least in principle, of this approach, but I would not myself advocate it immediately, because winning any such litigation may prompt a political backlash with further and more restrictive legislation following it. In any case, litigation in Ireland is notoriously costly and often not exactly speedy. I would prefer the continuation of a strong and united front of people across higher education attacking the framework; I believe there is a good chance that this campaign will succeed and that the ECF will be revoked.

Dealing with the Employment Control Framework ‘debacle’

March 18, 2011

The degree of misjudgment evident in the ’employment control framework’ as issued to the Irish universities has now also been revealed in a leaked internal memorandum in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, published today in the Irish Times. The memo was written by Martin Shanagher, Assistant Secretary in the Department. It refers to the ‘debacle with the ECF’ and points out the various flaws in the framework and the errors made in the process of drafting and communicating it. The writer remarks that ‘much needs to be learned about how to conduct our affairs’.

Martin Shanagher heads the Science, Technology and Intellectual Property Division in the 
Department and has been closely involved with the government’s science research agenda. The views he expresses in the leaked memo focus not unnaturally on the damage the ECF may inflict on that agenda, by demotivating the contributors to Ireland’s research efforts, making it difficult for them to staff the projects and adding unnecessary costs. He is also concerned that his Department was not properly consulted or informed about the new ECF, despite the obvious impact on the Department’s programmes.

From all this it is clear that the ECF is not only a totally unnecessary and also very damaging assault on higher education, it is also the product of uncoordinated planning and some alarming ignorance of the implications of what was being announced.

It may however be worth saying that what is wrong with the ECF is not that there are some flaws with the framework. The whole idea is fundamentally misguided and critically undermines the national quest to emerge from the recession. This mad scheme cannot be tweaked or corrected; it must be reversed entirely.