2nd July 2019

Mr. Joe McHugh TD
Minister for Education and Skills
Department of Education and Skills
Marlborough Street
Dublin 1.

Dear Minister,

It is my privilege to submit a copy of the HEA’s annual report and audited accounts for 2018 to you, for your consideration.
Last year we reported in the third Higher Education System Performance 2014-17 report that the higher education system responded during challenging economic times both in meeting the demand for increased student places and in meeting the increased skills needs of a recovering economy. During 2018 the HEA commenced the process of agreeing new performance compacts with the Higher Education Institutions following publication of the Department’s new System Performance Framework in January 2018. I am pleased to inform you that the HE system has continued to respond to the demand for increased higher education places. As noted in our System Performance Report 2017/18 which you will recently have received overall enrolments grew by 8% between 2014/15 and 2017/18. While the HEA acknowledges the provision of additional recurrent funding to meet demographic growth and planned infrastructural investment under the National Development Plan 2018-27, the level of state investment has not kept pace with the overall growth in student numbers.
Other key achievements during 2018 included;

    • The establishment of Ireland’s first Technological University in Dublin following the enactment of TU legislation in March 2018.
    • Publication of a mid-term review of implementation of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education. The HEA worked with the Department in implementing the three strands of the Programme for Access to Higher Education (PATH) fund.
    • Agreement between the HEA and SFI on a Memorandum of Understanding and between the HEA and QQI who agreed their second Memorandum of Understanding.
    • The HEA oversaw implementation of the Springboard + 2018 Programme which provided over 8000 higher education places, an increase of 25% over 2017.
    • Following consultation with key stakeholders, the HEA published in November a four year Strategic Plan.

The HEA welcomed the announcement of Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D. of a review of the HEA Act last July. We will engage with you and Minister Mitchell O’Connor on this development and the delivery of a number of key initiatives including;

    • Delivery by the HE sector of six high-level objectives set out in the new System Performance Framework 2018-20.
    • Implementation of the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative and other recommendations of the Gender Task Force established by Minister Mitchell O’Connor.
    • Implementation of the HEA’s Strategic Plan and that of the Irish Research Council which will shortly be finalised.
    • Continued implementation of key initiatives such as the Springboard + Programme and the PATH fund.
    • Continued reform of the HE landscape including the establishment of new technological universities and the further development of centres of Initial Teacher Education.

In accordance with the 2016 Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies I wish to report to you on the Authority’s compliance with the code, and specifically on the following matters:

    • There were no events of commercial significance during the reporting period. However, the Authority is conscious of, and responding fully to, the changed economic climate, in particular by seeking efficiency gains in its own operations.
    • There were no off-balance sheet financial transactions.
    • I affirm that all appropriate procedures for financial reporting, internal audit, travel, procurement and asset disposals have been carried out.
    • On behalf of the Higher Education Authority I acknowledge our responsibility for ensuring that an effective system of internal financial control is maintained and operated. A statement on the system of Internal Controls is included with the HEA’s audited financial accounts for 2018 together with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s certificate are attached.
    • The HEA has adopted in 2018 a revised code of business conduct for Members of the Authority and for its employees.
    • The HEA complies with government remuneration guidelines in respect of the CEO and its employees.
    • Members’ fees are in accordance with rates sanctioned by the Department as are salaries and allowances paid to staff. The HEA applies the One Person, One Salary circular issued by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
    • The HEA has no post balance sheet events to report.
    • The HEA complies with the requirements of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Spending Code.
    • The HEA has put in place procedures for the making of protected disclosures in accordance with S. 21 (1) of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. An annual report as provided for under S. 22 (1) of the Act has been published.
    • The HEA is compliant with Government travel policy in all respects.
    • The HEA has complied with its obligations under tax law.
    • The HEA is not currently in dispute with other state bodies
    • The HEA is taking all necessary steps to ensure compliance with the 2016 Code of Practice.
    • The HEA has no subsidiary operating under its remit.

The Board approved the Governance Statement and Board Members’ Report.

The HEA would be happy to provide any further clarification you require in relation to any of the above.

I would like to thank your predecessor as Minister for Education and Skills, Mr Richard Bruton T.D. for his engagement with the HEA during his time as Minister.

I would also like to thank Mr Michael Kerrigan who stepped down from the Board during 2018 following completion of his term as President of USI.

The HEA would like to thank Dr Graham Love for his work as CEO to October 2018 and Mr Paul O’Toole who took on the role as CEO pending the recruitment of a new CEO in 2019.

Our thanks also go to the leadership and staff of all the higher education bodies, including the HEA itself, for their continued commitment and dedication to the national strategies.

Together with the Authority and its executive, I look forward to continuing to work with you and your Department in our continued implementation of the Department’s new Action Plan for Education and Strategic Plan and the System Performance Framework and other major national strategies.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Horgan