The Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority Dr Graham Love has resigned.

In a brief statement on the organisation's website, Dr Love stated that he was doing so with regret.

Dr Love took up the role in March of last year and his resignation will come as a shock to many involved in the sector.

In his statement, he said that in his "brief tenure" he had "endeavoured to make strategic development a core element of HEA activities".

Dr Love said the HEA makes a valuable contribution to higher education in Ireland and he wished the organisation every success in the future.

In a statement, HEA Chairman Michael Horgan thanked Dr Love, saying he "has significantly contributed to the development of the higher education system in Ireland" and added that the authority is "sad and disappointed that he is leaving".

Dr Love is expected to step down in October.

Surprise resignation leaves HEA back at square one

Dr Love has a science and research background and is the former head of the Health Research Board.

He previously held senior roles in Science Foundation Ireland, including Head of Strategy, Director of Policy, and Interim Director General. His PhD is in cell biology.

On his appointment to the role, in January of last year, the HEA chair pointed to Dr Love's "extensive experience in leading organisations and in supporting change".

The Department of Education thanked Dr Love for his contribution to the higher education sector.

It said that under Dr Love's leadership and guidance, the HEA had overseen the implementation of significant reform measures, including a new systems performance framework and the design and implementation of a new funding model that would provide a road map for transitioning towards a more transparent funding model that would drive future performance and reform.

David Cullinane, Sinn Féin member of the Public Accounts Committee, said Dr Love’s resignation was troubling, given the issues facing the organisation.

He said: "In the past year the PAC has had to deal with issues of governance and reform within our third level sector."

Deputy Cullinane said the chairman of the HEA must now come before the PAC to explain the circumstances behind the resignation of Dr Love.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne Dr Love should be invited before the Oireachtas Education Committee at the earliest opportunity.

Deputy Byrne said: "Minister Bruton must make a statement on this matter. I will be writing to the Chairperson of the Oireachtas Education Committee Fiona O'Loughlin to request that Dr Love is given the opportunity to appear before the committee at the earliest opportunity."