Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 04 July, 2006

Written Answers. - University Recognition.

Mr. S. Ryan asked the Minister for Education and Science the measures which are in place to protect the reputation of the university sector here by controlling the activities of bogus universities on the internet; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [25929/06]

  Ms Hanafin:Section 52 of the Universities Act,1997 states that except in relation to an educational institution or facility established and described as such before the 30th day of July, 1996, (in which case it may continue to be so described), a person shall not, without the approval of the Minister, use the word “university” to describe an educational establishment or facility.

My Department conducted a review of such organisations, with a view to securing their compliance with Section 52 of the Universities Act 1997. Arising from this review, my Department has undertaken a number of actions including:

Agreement of new procedures with the Companies Registration Office, including the conducting of a rigorous review of applications for registration of Limited Companies and Business Names;

[232] Requesting the Internet Domain Registry (a private company) to exercise caution when reviewing applications for domain names which include the titles ‘University’, ‘Institute of Technology’ and ‘Regional Technical College’;

Communicating with a number of such organisations requesting that they desist from using the term ‘university’;

Publication on the Department’s website of a list of State-aided third level institutions, or other colleges where programmes have been validated by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council.

I would like to advise the Deputy that my officials are reviewing existing legislation with a view to strengthening its position in dealing with these organisations. However, Irish legislation is only applicable to institutions established and operating within the State.

My Department’s views these operations as mere commercial organisations with no educational standing, which are exploiting tenuous links with Ireland. Certainly, they have not been subject to any of the well established rigorous accreditation or quality assessment procedures which exist here in Ireland. Their existence is contrary to the interests of Ireland’s higher education institutions, which have sought to preserve the high international standing and reputation which our system quite rightly enjoys.