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About the HEA

A high performing higher education system is an essential requirement in the development of creative, entrepreneurial people and the creation of new knowledge to support social, cultural and economic development. 

The HEA leads the strategic development of the Irish higher education and research system with the objective of creating a coherent system of diverse institutions with distinct missions, which is responsive to the social, cultural and economic development of Ireland and its people and supports the achievement of national objectives.

The HEA has a statutory responsibility, at central government level, for the effective governance and regulation of higher education institutions and the higher education system.

In exercising our mandate the HEA works to ensure that –

·        we have due regard to institutional autonomy and academic freedom;

·        institutional strategies are aligned with national strategic objectives,

·        agreed objectives (detailed in compacts with institutions) are delivered through effective performance-management at institutional and system-levels.

Objectives span the enhancement of teaching and learning, the promotion of equity of access to higher education, the enhancement of institutions’ responsiveness to the needs of wider society, research capacity-building, and the internationalisation of Irish higher education. The HEA leads in developing the evidence-base which underpins strategic planning and strategy implementation at institutional, regional and national level.


In support of our mandate the HEA exercises functions in respect of -

·        Funding

·        Accountability

·        The quality of outcomes

·        Policy research and advice to the Minister

·        Data analytics and knowledge management

·        Advocacy and communicating higher education

·        Co-ordination of interaction between public bodies and the higher education system.


The HEA is accountable to the Minister for Education and Skills, through his Department, for the achievement of national outcomes for the higher education sector. the HEA has conducted a service level agreement with the DES. Taken overall, the HEA exercises a central oversight role in the higher education system and is the lead agency in the creation of a co-ordinated system of higher education institutions with clear and diverse roles appropriate to their strengths and national needs; it acts as a catalyst for change in the higher education system, requiring higher levels of performance while demonstrating an appropriate level of accountability,consistent with institutional autonomy and academic freedom.


HEA organisational chart

June 2014

Service Level agreement with DES


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