On the 13th of July, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, welcomed government approval to publish legislation to establish his department as a major ministry.
According to Minister Harris, the Cabinet has approved the new Department which will now be proposed to Dáil and Seanad Éireann. Minister Harris said his “priorities in establishing this new department will be to ensure it is an economic driver but also a department which drives social inclusion.” The legislation is expected to be passed in the month of July as a priority for the new Irish government.
This comes two weeks after the reveal of the Taoiseach’s new Cabinet and Seanad which included a new Department of Higher Education. Since then, Harris has issued statements via his twitter, media platforms and the government’s website stressing the economic role of higher education.
The Irish Federation of University Teachers’ (IFUT) Deputy General Secretary, Frank Jones, told to The College Tribune that they are yet to meet the minister and are “very much looking forward to doing so in the near future”. Mr. Jones also added that his federation “don’t have any reason to believe that Minister Harris is only interested in the economical aspects for this Department” and that they are hopeful that Harris’ experience and success from the Department of Health will stand to all in the Department for Higher and Further Education.
Mr. Jones added that when the IFUT secures a meeting with Harris, they will raise issues such as underfunding and “the further damage done as a result of COVID-19 including the insecurity and precarity of employment facing many in the sector, particularly those in their early careers”. The IFUT’s Deputy General Secretary also mentioned that they will advise the Minister on different approaches that universities are taking to ensure a safe return for all staff and students.
Harris aims to remove barriers from education and make it accessible for all, “I am really looking forward to the challenge of this new Department and in ensuring it is one that offers people the opportunity of education and a gateway to the workforce, and in supporting the brightest and best in Research, Innovation and Science to future proof our economy.”
Irish Institutes of Technology are coming together to form universities for multiple reasons, one of which is economic. This trend is expected to continue under Minister Harris. As recently as last month Munster Technological University was established when Cork IT and Tralee IT combined following the footsteps of the Technological University of Dublin last year.
Ahmed Jouda – Reporter