Cabinet is expected to approve university governance bills on Tuesday, which would increase centralized oversight and give a regulator the power to fine colleges for breaking the rules.
The laws, to be introduced by Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, aim to reshape the relationship between government and institutions for the first time since the 1970s.
The bill would transform the Higher Education Authority (HEA) from a funding body into a regulatory body with the power to punish universities through fines or withholding of funding. It is expected to be enacted later this year.
Government sources said the HEA was established in the 1970s to channel funds to a handful of institutions serving some 20,000 students. However, since then there has been a huge expansion in the number of colleges, which now have a student population of around 200,000. The higher education budget is nearly 1.9 billion euros this year.
Distrust of “control”
The proposed bill would have three main components – a reduction in the number of college governing bodies; provision for data sharing between colleges and authority; and increased powers for the authority to regulate colleges.
Government sources say they are keen to protect the autonomy of higher education institutions, but as the institutions’ main funder, they need more oversight.
Universities are wary, with one representative body recently raising concerns about the emphasis on “control” in proposed legislation.
Cabinet is also due to discuss the minimum unit price for alcohol, which is expected to be introduced in September despite opposition from the beverage industry. The measure aims to reduce the damage caused by alcohol by setting a minimum price of 10 cents per gram.
The cheapest bottle of wine would cost € 7.75 whereas previously it could cost less than € 5. A 700ml bottle of supermarket gin or vodka costing between € 13-14 would cost € 20.71 in the system. A 440 ml can of blond beer would cost at least € 1.32.
Minimum price legislation was approved in 2018 but was not implemented as the last administration intended to introduce it at the same time as Northern Ireland. However, Stormont has indicated that he will not be moving forward in the near future and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is due to present a memo on the matter to Cabinet on Tuesday.
There has been significant lobbying against the move, with Drinks Industry Ireland warning that prices in the state could be double those in the North. Some border politicians have expressed concern about the possible impact of this on businesses in their constituencies.
However, Minister of State for Public Health Frank Feighan said the measure would have implications for cheap alcohol sold in supermarkets rather than pub prices and is expected to affect “only a limited amount of product. alcoholics ”.