‘We’re keeping the name’ — College brand to be unchanged despite NUI abolition

NUI Galway is unlikely to change its name despite yesterday’s announcement of the dissolution of the National University of Ireland, according to the university’s president Dr Jim Browne.

Dr Browne said yesterday the university is keen to keep the NUI brand as its degrees are recognised internationally. “The Minister has assured me that he will protect that,” he added.

Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe announced the demise of the umbrella group yesterday. Dr Browne has asked him to meet with NUI university heads to discuss the move. The NUI Galway president said the move was “not unexpected” as it had been outlined in both the McCarthy Report and the 2008 Budget, but he said the move would have no obvious benefits in terms of savings to the State.

“The signals it sends out about co-operation between universities isn’t a good one,” Dr Browne said. “We are not clear as to why this is being done. There is no saving of money involved. It is a very small organisation.”

In a statement yesterday Minister O’Keeffe acknowledged the important role the NUI has played in Irish education for more than a century.

“However the central role of the NUI was significantly reduced in the Universities Act, 1997, and the need to have a separate body undertaking what is now a limited set of functions has been outlived,” Minister O’Keeffe said. “The NUI's four constituent universities — University College Dublin, University College Cork, NUI Galway, and NUI Maynooth — have the same statutory status as the State's three other universities but a small number of administrative and academic functions are still carried out on their behalf by the NUI. Work will now be carried out on redistributing the remaining functions of the NUI and it is envisaged that many of them will be undertaken by the constituent universities.”

A bill to establish a new qualifications and quality assurance agency for the further and higher education sectors is now being drafted.

“I am simplifying the qualifications and quality assurance landscape by amalgamating existing agencies in that area,” the Minister said. “That pursuit of institutional coherence has led me to conclude that the NUI's role in higher education is no longer sustainable. This is consistent with the Government's public sector reform agenda.”

Some of the main implications of the change for the NUI universities will be the administration of awarding arrangements with other third level institutions. Most of these colleges have already been exploring possible future options for award-making and when the dissolution is completed these colleges will need to enter new awarding arrangements. One option for them will be to link with one of the former constituent universities.

Another area which will need to be examined is the NUI’s role in distributing funding for scholarships from bequests to the organisation, a function which will need to be continued by or on behalf of the constituent universities.

The NUI also has a role in the election of three members of Seanad Éireann. Minister O'Keeffe said he will address this issue by working closely with his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage, and Local Government John Gormley, in the context of wider plans for Seanad reform.

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