I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for the invitation to attend this meeting. I thank them for putting me on first as I have a domestic matter to attend, my daughter is receiving some awards from Rathmines College in the next couple of hours.
I welcome the opportunity to appear before the committee to deal with queries it may have about my background and the National College of Art and Design, NCAD, itself. I spent almost 40 years working mainly in education, in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. I have occupied public roles, in that I was president of IT Sligo, but I have also worked in, governed, reviewed or investigated secondary, further and higher education institutions within the State and voluntary sectors and I have worked within for-profit and not-for-profit educational institutions. In my personal life, I have led and governed charitable and sports bodies. I am a science graduate of Trinity College Dublin and a management graduate of the Institute of Public Administration.
The National College of Art and Design is one of the oldest education institutions in the State. It traces its origin back as far as 1746. Its present structure and designation date back to 1971 when it was established as the National College of Art and Design by an Act of the Oireachtas. That Act very clearly lays the responsibility for management and oversight on An Bord, which is appointed by the Minister. The NCAD is located in Thomas Street in the heart of the historic Liberties in Dublin, as most members will know.
The college is a systemically critical component of the creative arts provision in Dublin and nationally. While much of the headline activity in higher education in recent years in Ireland has been around science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM, it is increasingly realised that STEAM, the creative nexus between arts, on the one hand, and science and engineering, on the other, is even more important if global challenges - ageing, energy and climate change, to name but a few - are to be addressed. The NCAD has a vital role to play in helping to address those challenges. Creative arts education provides students with the ability to look at these problems afresh and to contribute unique insights to their solution. The Creative Ireland initiative has refocused attention on the value of the arts in Irish life to personal and community development and to our global reputation, and the NCAD will play its part in realising the benefits of this focus on the creative arts.
The challenges faced generally in the higher education sector over the past ten years were specifically manifest in the NCAD. In this college, difficulties in balancing budgets were compounded by technical problems in preparing financial statements. I acknowledge the very important work done by the previous board under the leadership of Professor Niamh Brennan. The board, with the support of the Department of Education and Skills, the Higher Education Authority and the staff and students of the college, managed to get many of these problems under control. I believe that this year will see the preparation and finalisation of accounts brought back in line with what is required of public sector bodies.
While the preparation of financial statements is under control, much work remains to underpin the important work done by the previous board. As chairperson designate, I will be bringing to the next board meeting in June four objectives to be achieved within the board's three-year term of office. Given that these should be approved by the board, I offer them to the committee at this stage as my own views on appropriate objectives.
First, the college is running a deficit, and it should be the intention of the board, in conjunction with the director, Professor Glennie, and her staff, to ensure that there is a balanced budget, working towards an annual surplus of 6%, by 2021. Second, the weaknesses in the underpinning financial and HR management systems need to be addressed and an organisational development plan needs to be put in place and implemented. Third, it must be ensured that the NCAD continues to be compliant with the code of practice for State bodies and operates to the highest levels of corporate and academic governance.
Fourth, the college should be operating a strategic plan that outlines a clear strategic direction for it. This will take into account the future position of the NCAD within the higher education landscape and will have identified the strategic partnerships that best support the agreed direction. It will have addressed the educational and philosophical tension that exists between holding on to all that is good about its current curriculum, with its emphasis on making and doing, and embracing what is new and valuable and losing that which could be lost without loss.
Once again, I thank members for the opportunity to appear before them as chairperson designate. Our board has met twice to date, the most recent meeting being this afternoon. I am excited about the prospect of working over the next three years with such a talented group of individuals, each of whom brings a unique perspective to the work of the board. I would welcome the opportunity to appear before the committee in the future to brief it on progress at the NCAD.