The Higher Education Authority is the statutory planning and policy development body for higher education and research in Ireland. The HEA has wide advisory powers throughout the whole of the third-level education sector. In addition, it is the funding authority for anumber of designated higher education institutions, which include universities, institutes of technology and a number of colleges.
The Mission Statement of the HEA is "To foster the development of a higher education sector which is accessible to all potential students and which is recognised internationally for the high quality of teaching, learning and research and which has the capacity to address the changing needs and challenges in our society".
The Principal Functions of the HEA are
- To further the development of higher education.
- To maintain a continuous review of the demand and need for higher education.
- To assist in the coordination of state investment in higher education and to prepare proposals for such investment.
- To allocate among universities, institutes of technology and colleges the grants voted by the Oireachtas.
- To promote the attainment of equality of opportunity in higher education and democratisation of higher education.
Meetings of the Higher Education Authority members are normally held every second month. The Authority's Executive reports to it in regard to the administrative and advisory functions arising from:
a) Recurrent funding of the universities, institutes of technology and designated higer education and research institutions and the processing of annual budgets and estimates.
b) The Capital building and equipment programme for higher education and research institutions. The planning and provision of physical facilities, such as new buildings, capital equipment, adaptation of buildings and related matters, form part of this work.
c) Research into the needs of the country for higher education and the demand from students for higher education. Contact is maintained with a wide range of state agencies and the social partners with a view, amongst other matters, to promoting an appreciation of the value of higher education and research.
The HEA is also the Irish contact point for a number of EU programmes. the most important of which is Erasmus+. The Higher Education Authority's support for scholarship and basic research is central in meeting the obligations and opportunities for the higher education system. in the past five years, the HEA's involvement in this area has grown to such an extent that the HEA is now the most significant source of support for third level research in the country.
Increasingly the higher education sector is becoming the key player underpinning the national innovation system. The HEA is committed to ensuring that this role is strengthened in the future.The HEA also oversees the budgeting, accounting and financial reporting of universities. It has issued a "framework for Financial management and Reporting for Irish Universities" based on best accounting practice and with a view to achieving consistency, comprehensive accounting and transparency across the sector. Apart from control of salaries, the universities have autonomy of operation within the overall budgetary framework.