Higher Education and the Education Act 1996
Higher education is dealt with under its own title here. This section merely examines the location of higher education in the NES and its treatment in the plenary legislation on education.
Higher education, not unexpectedly is the highest level in the five-tiered NES. The EA1996 defines higher education not by its hierarchical position in education or by its content and purpose, but as education which is provided in a higher educational institution; a higher education institution is defined as one that provides education leading to a diploma, degree or similar qualification. There are difficulties with this definition that will be explored in another part of this document.
Section 70 of the Education Act 1996, states that the Minister may provide higher education in higher educational institutions in accordance with any written law relating to higher education and shall be responsible for the general direction thereof. The two main legislation on higher education are Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (the UUCA) and the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996.
Whilst it does not deal with the provision of higher education, the Education Act 1996 in s.71 prohibits the establishment or operation of a higher educational institutions except those established in accordance with any written law.
Notwithstanding the above, the Minister may, under s. 34 of the EA1996, establish and maintain the following educational institutions, some of which clearly fall within the realm of higher education:
- colleges, other than colleges with the status of University or University College established or deemed to be established under the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 [Act 30];
- special schools;
- polytechnics; and
- any other educational institution, the establishment or maintenance of which is not provided for under this Act or the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971.
Teacher education, dealt with under Chapter 9 of the Education Act 1996, is another area that is covered by the Education Act 1996 which would also clearly fall within the definition higher education.
The Special Position of Teacher Education
Teachers are a key input in the educational process, and an adequate supply of skilled teachers is always an important policy consideration for most governments. Not unexpectedly therefore, teacher supply, which includes the training of teachers is a matter that is almost entirely within the control of the Ministry of Education.
Under s. 43 of the Act, no teacher training institute may be established or maintained without the approval of the Minister. An institute of teacher education is defined by the Act to mean an educational institution providing teacher education leading to the award of a certificate, a diploma, a teaching degree or the equivalent thereof, or any other qualification as prescribed.
The statutory powers of the Minister over teacher education and institutes of teacher education are as extensive as the powers the Minster has over private higher education institutions under the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996.
Amendments to the Education Act 1996 introduced through the Education (Amendment) Act 2015 (Act A1490) adds a new category of educational institution for pupils completing lower secondary education – the vocational college, defined as an educational institution established and fully maintained by the Minister. A Vocational College Standard Curriculum prescribed by the Minister is to be used by all vocational colleges.
A draft of the curriculum may be seen here;