Constitution of HECA

Mission Statement

HECA’s mission is to act as a nationally and internationally recognised association of independent, private higher education providers offering accredited, quality, innovative and flexible programmes, together with pastoral care, in a diverse learning environment following international best practice in pedagogy and quality assurance.

Purpose and Philosophy

HECA is an association of respected, independent, private providers of quality higher level education. HECA membership is open to colleges that agree to meet and abide by stringent academic and operational regulatory criteria. HECA provides a forum to discuss common key issues, concerns and opportunities within the private higher education sector, to implement solutions, alliances, and academic bonding arrangements, to share ideas, form collaborations and to instigate mutually beneficial initiatives.

HECA acts as a lobby and support group to represent members’ common academic and commercial interests. HECA provides a united voice to government, regulatory and legislative circles and promotes awareness of the significance of the private higher education sector. HECA seeks representation on key government committees and boards that legislate for and influence the direction of third level education in Ireland

By virtue of membership, HECA members acknowledge their obligation to protect the interests of the full body of members, not to avail of information acquired by them as HECA members to the detriment of other HECA members, and accept that they are bound to act in a fashion that will not damage or compromise the interests of other HECA members.

HECA provides opportunities for its members to participate in occasional conferences organised by HECA’s board and its sub-committees. Such conferences provide a platform for member colleges to promote themselves, to examine key issues influencing their sector, and to contribute to the development of higher education in Ireland.

HECA is dedicated to ensuring an ethos of quality among its members and in setting and maintaining world class standards in its member institutions.

In member colleges, this ethos will be manifest in and extend to all aspects of:

  • The quality of programmes provided
  • The quality of programme delivery
  • The quality and fairness of assessment and student feedback
  • The quality of student support
  • The quality of facilities and educational resources available to all students

The quality of student opportunity, that is the provision of opportunity to progress to higher qualifications.

The quality of student protection: this refers to the protection of students’ financial outlay, i.e. the bonding of students’ fees. This will be secured by way of academic bonding arrangements whereby students continue their study in another member college in the event of closure of the original college of enrolment, or financial bonding of programmes whereby students receive fee refunds in the event of closure of the original college of enrolment.

Each member college will have quality policies and procedures approved by the various accrediting bodies whose programmes they deliver. Members will treat their fee payment students as clients and will provide a high level of client care.

HECA Membership Criteria
  1. HECA members must be current providers of a programme or programmes at Level 7 and/or above on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications, (INFQ), which are validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland, (QQI), formerly known as Higher Education and Training Awards Council, (HETAC). Membership may also be open to Universities or other Higher Education Providers with statutory powers and/or state recognition in their own jurisdiction if, and only if, a substantial number of their major awards and qualifications are aligned with Level 7 and/or above on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications.
  2. HECA members must be academically and/or financially bonded colleges with academic or financial bonding arrangements in place for the protection of their students.
  3. Applications for membership are reviewed by the full HECA Board and are granted on the basis of a 75% majority vote of all Board members. The decision is binding.
  4. Applicant colleges are subject to a Pre-Application Process Visit from two existing HECA members, together with the Executive Director.
  5. Applicant colleges must submit financial accounts, a current tax clearance certificate, together with a current letter of good financial standing from colleges’ auditors/accountants which will be reviewed by a HECA Sub-Committee.
  6. All members must submit a College Profile updated on an annual basis; profile template to be supplied by HECA. All members must agree to uphold the HECA Constitution.
  7. All members must pay their membership fees in a timely manner. At renewal, members are required:
    • To confirm that bonding arrangements are in place
    • To furnish a current letter of good financial standing from their auditors/accountants
    • To furnish an updated College Profile
    • Membership cannot be renewed if membership fees are outstanding.
HECA Board Meetings – Timing and Venues

Meetings of the HECA Board will be held monthly unless otherwise agreed by the members

Meeting will be rotated through member college venues by agreement, in advance, so that equity in travel times will be achieved.

HECA Board Officers

The Board will appoint a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Treasurer and Executive Director.

The role of Chairperson will be rotated annually. The tenure of the Chairperson will terminate following the annual HECA conference, usually at the end of April each year.

The person holding the position of Vice-Chairperson shall hold the position of Chairperson once the incumbent Chairperson’s tenure expires. The holders of the positions of Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson/s will be determined by a vote of the HECA Board members. Any member/s seeking election to the position of Vice-Chairperson must submit his/her nomination not less than 3 days, nor more than 21 days, before the date appointed for a meeting to elect a Vice Chairperson, together with names of his/her Proposer and Seconder.

The Treasurer will take charge of all financial matters relating to the Board and will be responsible to the Board for its proper management and will provide a report on the Board’s financial status when and as required by the Chairperson.

The role of the Executive Director will be to advise the Board on relevant matters of interest in the educational arena and to undertake such tasks as deemed necessary by the Chairperson in consultation with the other Board members. The Executive Director will also have a role in ensuring the compliance of members with regard to the payment of membership fees and submission of relevant documentation as determined by HECA Membership Criteria.

Protocol

Board Meetings will be held under formal committee protocol.

The Chairperson of the HECA Board will hold the position of authority in committee for the duration of his or her tenure. He or she will conduct HECA Meetings in an orderly fashion and will direct members to perform various tasks and/or provide feedback relating to agenda items, as required.

The Chairperson will set out the Agenda for each meeting and will invite input from members. The Chairperson will have the authority to decide what Agenda items will be included or excluded, except where an Agenda item is excluded that a member feels is deserving of inclusion. In such cases, the member may raise the matter under “any other business” for the purposes of a vote being taken on the item’s inclusion at the next meeting. If a majority is in favour of inclusion, the Chairperson’s decision to exclude the item will be overruled. If, in the opinion of the majority of the Board members present, the Agenda item is urgent, it may be discussed at the meeting at which it is raised.

Formal minutes will be recorded and circulated for each meeting by the Executive Director. The reading of minutes and matters arising from them will form primary agenda items for subsequent meetings.

Guests may be invited to attend a Board meeting and contribute to an Agenda item or to advise the Board on a specific matter of interest or concern.

Voting Rights

Each member, regardless of the size of the college they represent, taken under any measure, shall have one representative on the Board. Board members shall have one vote each with the Chairperson having a casting vote in the event of a tie in voting by Board members.

Unless otherwise agreed, a majority in favour will carry the vote on normal agenda items except for decisions on new membership. In this case, a 75% majority is required.

Funding

HECA members shall pay such annual subscription fees as are determined by majority of the Board.

The HECA Board will seek sponsorship for its various activities and projects. Where funding of this nature is not available for such activities and projects, HECA Colleges will contribute on a pro-rata basis to the project being funded, based on the size of the member college and/or likely benefits to be derived from the project by the HECA members concerned. The adoption of such projects and allocation of their funding shall be unanimously approved by the Board members present at the meeting concerned.

HECA will seek Government/European funding for those of its activities that would be construed as contributing to the overall development of education in Ireland.

Compliance

Members must comply with the rules and regulations governing ongoing membership of HECA as stated in HECA’s Membership Criteria and HECA’s Purpose and Philosophy.

Disciplinary, Grievance and Appeal Procedures

A HECA member with a grievance against another HECA member may bring the matter to the attention of HECA by submitting a written complaint, (via letter, fax or email). This written complaint should be addressed to the Executive Director, Board, or Chairperson of the Board. If the complaint is not to be brought to the attention of the Board, this should be stated in the letter.

Upon receipt of a complaint, whether from a member or any other party regarding the behaviour or practice of a member, the Executive Director/Board/Chairperson shall contact the member concerned advising that a complaint has been received. In cases where the Board considers the matter to be serious enough to merit suspension of membership, the Board will notify the member of such suspension. The Board will institute a three person Disciplinary Committee, at least two of whom must be Board members. The third person can be a non-member with expertise in the matter under investigation. Alternatively, the third person may be a Board member. The Disciplinary Committee will investigate the complaint by meeting with the complainant to examine the nature of the complaint in more detail. In the interests of natural justice, the member against whom the complaint has been made will be advised of the setting up of a Disciplinary Committee and will be asked to submit his/her response in writing within one week and will be invited to meet the Disciplinary Committee to discuss his/her response should he/she wish to do so. The member will also be entitled to have his/her legal advisors make representations on his/her behalf.

Once the above procedures have been followed, the Disciplinary Committee will review the submissions made by both sides and make its findings known to the Board. The Board will then resolve by a majority to continue, suspend, terminate and/or make recommendations to the member involved. Both parties will be informed as to whether or not the complaint has been upheld.

In cases where suspension of membership is deemed appropriate, suspension of membership will be for a specified period of time and may, at the discretion of the Board, mean that the member’s college cannot participate in any of the events organised by HECA during the suspension period or enjoy any other benefits of membership. Any fees owed to HECA during the suspension period will be deemed due as if the suspension had not occurred.

Conclusion

HECA members have a holistic approach to higher education and celebrate the diversity of their students and staff.