National News in Brief

Resignation letter of former HEA executive indicates strained working relationship with Department of Education The risk posed to the higher education system by inadequate levels of funding was among one of the concerns raised in the resignation letter of former Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Dr Graham Love.Dr Love wrote that his former role had not matched his expectations and that the “actual nature of the job militates against any realistic opportunity to deliver much-needed strategic development in the sector.” Speaking before the Public Account Committee earlier this month, Dr Love told the members that  strategic developments in the sector were difficult to deliver upon. He gave several reasons for this, telling the committee that “a lack of role clarity between the agency and the department” as well as “the difficulties posed by the lack of resolution to the funding crisis.” He spoke also of his disagreements with the Department of Education regarding the remit of the HEA. Tensions between the Department of Education and the HEA have been growing over the past few years; many inside the HEA believe the DoE is micromanaging them.Paul O’Toole, former Chief Executive of Solas, the state organisation responsible for Further Education and Training in Ireland, has taken over as interim chief executive. Presidential Elections and Blasphemy Referendum Michael D. Higgins has been re-elected President in the first count, with a landslide 55.8% of the vote. In his acceptance speech, he told the crowd that he would be “a President for all of the people”. The favourite to win from the beginning of the race, none of the other five candidates seemingly posed any threat. Peter Casey followed Higgins with 23%, trailed by Sean Gallagher on 6.4%, Liadh Ní Riada on 6.3%, Joan Freeman on 5.9% and Gavin Duffy placing last, with only 2.2%. Turnout was low, with only 44% of registered voters turning up to vote. The real surprise was in Peter Casey’s performance. Initially polling at around 2% in the weeks before the election, Casey jumped to a relatively impressive 23% finish. Casey drew a considerable amount of criticism during the campaign, after making disparaging comments about Travellers and what he labelled an overly politically correct culture.As expected, the referendum to remove blasphemy from the constitution passed with ease, with 64.85% voting to remove it, and 35.15% voting to retain, as reported by the Irish Times. Irish Universities Association launch “Save our Spark” campaign for better fundingDirector General of the Irish Universities Association Jim Miley launched the “Save Out Spark” campaign on 15th October, to raise awareness of the crisis in funding third level education in Ireland. The campaign was launched nationally by the seven constituent universities, Trinity College Dublin, UCD, DCU, UCC, NUI Galway, University of Limerick and NUI Maynooth. The IUA seek to encourage the government to address the underlying gap in the funding allocated to third level institutions following the “inaction” more than two years after the publication of the Cassells Report. The report recommended meaningful and immediate funding reform for higher education.In a statement released by the IUA, Miley said “If the higher education crisis is not addressed by Government urgently, then we risk a serious drop in quality or a shortfall in places for students in the future. Our universities are where the Irish spark burns brightest and the key to protecting that spark is securing better state funding. The Government simply can’t continue to ignore this crisis.”