SENATORS RUANE AND HIGGINS WIN CRUCIAL AMENDMENT TO GOVERNMENT’S HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY BILL
Independent Senators Lynn Ruane and Alice-Mary Higgins of the Civil Engagement Group have welcomed the passage of their amendments in the Seanad to the Higher Education Authority Bill which will guarantee student union representation on academic governing authorities.
The amendments, which were accepted by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science will provide that student members of academic governing authorities must be student union representatives.
Previously the Bill would have provided that only student members would be entitled to sit on governing authorities and did not specify that they must be elected student union representatives. The Senators amendments will ensure that student union representatives will continue to have a legal right to sit on governing authorities.
This issue has been a key concern for student unions such as the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU).
Speaking after the amendment had been agreed, Senator Ruane said: “Equity in governance is fundamental to the proper functioning of our third-level sector. I am glad that the Minister has recognised this and accepted our amendments today. Education is a transformative force in our society, but we cannot have situations where key stakeholders are excluded from the co-creation of these transformative spaces. It is really welcome that a legal guarantee has been put in place for student union representatives on governing authorities.”
Senator Higgins said: “Student union representation is fundamental to good governance in academia. It is a welcome acknowledgement from the Minister that this must be guaranteed in law and these amendments will make sure that student unions continue to provide the essential voice for students they represent on governing authorities.”
“What could have been a really regressive step back from the guarantees found in the Universities Act 1997 and the Technological Universities Act 2018 has now become both a firm legal provision for student union representation and an example of how the Seanad can work with Government to improve legislation.”
The Civil Engagement Group proposed over 100 amendments to the Bill also addressing issues of equality, academic precarity, sustainability and academic freedom, among many other issues.