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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Mar 1969

Vol. 239 No. 7

Committee on Finance. - Vote 32: Universities and Colleges and Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £353,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1969, for Grants-in-Aid to Universities and Colleges and to the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

The Supplementary Estimate is required to enable additional grants to be made as follows:

(a) £218,000 to pay increases in the salaries of the academic staffs of three colleges of the National University of Ireland, Trinity College and the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies;

(b) £130,000 towards reduction of the deficit in the accounts of University College, Dublin, and

(c) £5,000 to meet the grant shortfall in respect of current commitments on publications by the School of Celtic Studies of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

The pay increases being provided for are those resulting from the application of the 11th round of nine per cent to the staffs of the four university colleges and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. The supplementary amounts being provided relate to the period 1st June, 1968, to 31st March, 1969, and are as follows:

UCD, £85,000.

UCC, £30,500.

UCG, £25,000.

TCD, £70,000.

DIAS, £7,500.

It is estimated that on the basis of current revenue and expenditure there would be a deficit of £130,000 in the accounts of the college in the case of UCD for the year ending 30th June, 1969. This position could not have been accurately foreseen at the stage of the preparation of the original Estimate for the financial year 1968-69. It is proposed, accordingly, to make good this deficit by way of the Supplementary Estimate.

A sum of £5,000 is being provided for the School of Celtic Studies to meet the shortfall between the expenditure incurred and the grant provided for publications in the current year. Expenditure on publications is subject to relatively wide fluctuations and it is difficult to anticipate the incidence of expenditure arising in each particular year. An amount of £13,000 is due for payment by the School of Celtic Studies in respect of publications in 1968-69, compared with the sum of £8,000 originally provided for the purpose in the relevant section of the subhead of the Vote.

I have no objection to this Estimate. I just want to ask the Minister a couple of questions with regard to it. As the Minister mentioned, the Estimate is to enable certain additional grants which he mentioned to be made. The first he mentioned is a sum of £218,000 to pay increases in salaries of the academic staffs. I think that the Minister has made it clear—it is implicit in his statement—that this sum is purely for the purpose of paying increases in salaries, and that it is not for the purpose—I am putting this in the form of a query —of expanding the academic staff in the colleges? I would hope that I am incorrect in that, but I do not think I am.

The reason I would hope I am incorrect is that, it seems to me—and I do not want to open a discussion on it in a general way—that one of the drawbacks which has been highlighted by recent events in the university field is that you have, on the one hand, the problem of gross overcrowding so far as the students are concerned and, on the other hand, the problem of inadequate staffing. Consequently, you have an inadequate staff-student ratio. The question I want to put to the Minister is whether the sum of £218,000 being provided now will go any way towards relieving that situation, or is it simply, as it seems to me is the case, for the purpose of paying increases in salaries to existing academic staff members.

The other point I wanted to ask the Minister about is the next sum of £130,000 which he mentioned as being towards a reduction of the deficit in the accounts of UCD. Am I not correct in taking it that it is not merely a reduction in the deficit, but that it is a question of wiping it out by this payment?

We support this Estimate. If it is necessary it is necessary. Like Deputy O'Higgins, I am wondering whether this £218,000 is to pay increases in the salaries of the academic staffs. Can anything be done to improve the present position? It appears that, apart from the improvement to the buildings which appear to be entirely inadequate and becoming more inadequate, the number of the academic staff available seems to be much less than what is required. Can the Minister say if any arrangements have been made, or are being made, to try to relieve that position? We know the Government will say, and rightly so, that the influx of students as a result of the change in our educational system has created a big problem but, surely this problem could have been foreseen, and surely something could be done now to try to remedy the problem which has been created? Otherwise it will become greater year by year and, in a relatively short time, we might find that the number of students looking for places in the universities and the number of places available, would bear no relation at all to each other. I wonder could the Minister say—a question was asked last week and I did not get the answer; I do not know if it was given—the number of foreign students who are in fact getting places in Irish universities as of now.

I want to express to the Minister my concern over the financing of the universities in general, and I have particularly in mind the Galway University. I am glad to see that whatever extra few pounds are needed to finish off the present financial year are being provided. We know that the teacher ratio is not at the level at which we should like it to be, and we know there is a need for equipment in the laboratories and in the different medical schools and engineering schools to keep up with modern developments, all involving added expenditure. Indeed, we are fully aware of the fact that the students facilities provided in the universities are at best only minimal. There is need for a great improvement in this respect, all of which involves further investment by the Government in the development of our universities, which brings me to the point I want to make.

I feel that at present the universities which we have are ideally situated in as much as there are two universities in Dublin, one in Cork and one in Galway. I have a slight fear that, with the tremendous growth which has taken place in the universities in Dublin, we will arrive at a situation in which we will have some kind of colossus or monstrosity in Dublin which really will not be a university at all.

The Deputy will appreciate——

I understand that this is a Supplementary Estimate.

We are confined to the subheads under which the moneys are being provided.

I thought the Deputy was going to refer to the colossal growth in Limerick and justify a university there.

I understand that I am well in order in referring to any aspect of university education as these moneys are being provided to cover general expenses.

The Chair does not understand that, because this is not a token Estimate. It is a specific Estimate. Everyone is confined within a specific Estimate. If it were a token Estimate the Deputy could discuss other matters.

Could I be given some guidance?

The subheads under which the moneys are being provided.

The Minister's speech has not been circulated.

Has the Deputy got a copy?

No. Could I have some guidance?

I am very grateful for the co-operative way in which the House has accepted this Supplementary Estimate which relates to very practical matters. First of all, it provides for pay increases related to the nine per cent increase for the academic staffs of the institutions I have mentioned, and secondly for a reduction of the deficit which had arisen. It was a question, in fact, of wiping out the deficit which had arisen due to the colossal expansion in the numbers of students in UCD which was not anticipated and gave rise to this problem.

Similarly, there was the other problem which was referred to by one Deputy without relating to the overall picture. This Supplementary Estimate is purely related to the nine per cent increase to the staff. The question of providing staff is related to that matter. It is a problem which has relation to our universities and I am well aware of the fact that considerably increased investment will be required in higher education to meet the explosion among our young people in the desire for higher education, an explosion which was not anticipated. I do not make a political point of this, but I make the point that nobody interested in education at that time in the Fifties anticipated that the numbers in our universities would have doubled in the last ten years.

How does the Minister relate the inter-Party Government to the last ten years?

Deputy O'Higgins knows me better than that. I am referring to the fact that no planning took place in advance for the explosion which has taken place over the last ten years.

Fianna Fáil have been there for the past 12 years.

I have said that I am not trying to make any political point on this matter. Until 1958 there was no real plan to foresee the student explosion of the past ten years and to cater for it. The result was that, while ten years ago we only had something in the order of 10,000 students we now have something in the order of 20,000 students in higher education. Where ten years ago you had an investment of £15 million in higher education you now have an investment of £58 million. I mention this to highlight the immensity of the potential investment involved to cater for this explosion and desire of young people and of parents to secure the best education for their children.

It is not going to be an easy problem to solve in the years ahead. The Government will have to devote serious thought and attention to it. If we are going to provide equal opportunity for all our children the logical outcome of that is higher investment in higher education at technical, technological and university level. This can be said to be related to this Supplementary Estimate which we have had to bring in and which is not for a very substantial amount. Unless in the future the community is willing to make substantial sacrifices in the way of contributions towards higher education through the taxation which will have to be raised, our community will have failed the young people. I mention that as a point of warning because the subject was raised by Deputy O'Higgins.

The Supplementary Estimate relates to the nine per cent increase of last year but the staff arrangements that will be needed and the accommodation and equipment needs required will cost very substantial amounts. This is a matter which future Irish Governments and the community at large will have to bear in mind and in relation to what the community will have to yield.

That will raise the question of other expenditure such as research facilities and libraries.

It will. The ramifications of the whole problem are quite great. Under the Third Programme for Economic and Social Development we have a special section which highlights education as a top priority. The rate of increase in expenditure envisaged for education in each of the next four years is 8.5 per cent. Again, it may be that this will not be sufficient.

I hope it will be more successful than the First or Second Programme.

This is a serious matter and we are dealing with a very important subject. It is for this reason that we established the Higher Education Authority. In the context of the demands that will be made on a small community such as ours by our young people it was essential that we establish an overall authority to rationalise the facilities we will have available, such as staff provision, student placement and the provision of equipment and accommodation. We have established this authority. This is the whole thinking behind the required statutory association which we want to see between the two colleges in Dublin. This is what we want to ensure—that there is a balanced and rational growth in the colleges in Cork and Galway. We do not want to see tremendous growth in Dublin at the expense of the other two colleges and there is also the Institute of Higher Education which we propose for Limerick.

The university for Limerick.

In University College, Dublin, in the current year we have 9,000 students, in Trinity College, Dublin, we have 3,800 students, which means that in the new university in Dublin we will have over 13,000 students. In University College, Cork, in the current year there are 2,900 students and in University College, Galway, 2,400 students. If we are going to plan properly, and legislation in this connection will be introduced in the near future, it will be essential to ensure that this imbalance will be redressed and that we will have in University College, Cork, at the end of the next ten years between 4,000 and 5,000 students and in University College, Galway, also between 4,000 and 5,000 students.

In the Institute of Higher Education in Limerick degree awards will be made and there will also be technician and technological awards which will be universally recognised. This is the sort of thinking and planning on which the Government are engaged at the present time.

I should like to end my remarks in relation to the Supplementary Estimate. This Supplementary Estimate highlights the important financial commitment that will be involved in the future on the part of our community in facing up to the problem of carrying through to the full the policy of equal opportunity for all our people on which we have engaged. As far as higher education in the future is concerned, substantial sacrifices will have to be made by the community to face up to the very substantial investment that will be required to ensure that the equipment, the accommodation and the staff will be available to cope with the very substantial explosion in student numbers that will take place; to ensure that we shall be in the position that our young people will be fully equipped for the technician, supervisory and managerial jobs in industry in the future and that our farmers will be better equipped technologically and in every other way, and to ensure that all branches of our society will be better equipped to face up to the world into which we are going. It will take money. There is no easy way out of it. Anybody who pretends that there is an easy way out of it is not facing up to the realities of the world into which we are going. All of this has been highlighted in that excellent document Investment in Education. We are following it through the whole way. We, as a political Party, will face up to our responsibility while we continue in office, as all the signs indicate will be the case.

Can the Minister see only a few months ahead?

In that regard—all of the foreseeable future. I mean 40 years. That is as long as I would be in a position to foresee physically, I hope. I am not being too optimistic in that respect. We hope to plan for a better Ireland based on better training and education for our people and to implement in practical form what needs to be done.

I am thankful to the House for the reception it has given this Supplementary Estimate and I assure the House that we shall continue on the road that I have in very brief fashion outlined.

When will the Minister make a definite and categorical statement about the proposed university for Limerick?

I hope to go down in about three weeks time to speak to the Regional Development Organisation in Limerick.

Will the Minister make a definite statement on the matter then?

Vote put and agreed to.
Votes 48, 47, 21 and 32 reported and agreed to.