Under the Public Service Reform plan, the following rationalisations were identified: the merger of the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science into a consolidated single council under the HEA; the amalgamation of the Further Education and Training Awards Council, the Higher Education and Training Award Council and National Qualifications Authority of Ireland into one body, Quality and Qualifications Ireland; and the reduction of the number of VECs from 33 to 16.
The following actions have been taken to date: the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences were merged in March 2012 to form the Irish Research Council. The Irish Research Council has been established as a sub-board of the HEA and is not subject to a sunset clause. Under the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012, the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Higher Education Training Awards Council and the Further Education Training Awards Council were amalgamated into a new agency, Quality and Qualifications Ireland, on 6 November 2012 and is not subject to a sunset clause. In June 2011, I announced that the Government had approved a revised reconfiguration of the Vocational Education Committees system. The Government decision confirmed that the number of VECs would be reduced to 16. It is anticipated that the Education and Training Boards will be established in early 2013. Once established, the Education and Training Board will continue to provide a wide range of educational and training programmes into the future.
In section 8.1.iv of the Public Service Reform plan contains a commitment to legislate for the establishment of SOLAS in addition to the rationalisation of the VECs. My Department is in the process of establishing a further education and training authority, to be called SOLAS, which will result in the dissolution of FÁS. The Further Education and Training Bill was published in January 2012 and is expected to be enacted before the summer recess. In addition, the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board was established in March 2013 under the provisions of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Act 2012 and is not subject to a sunset clause. As a result of the establishment of the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, the Education Finance Board has been dissolved and its remaining functions have been transferred to the Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board.