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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 May 1980

Vol. 321 No. 2

National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, Bill, 1980: Committee Stage.

There is a note for the Chair with regard to two printing errors in two amendments. In amendment No. 7(c) of the proposed new section 4 the word "with" should appear after "consultation". In amendment No. 28 "the Government Body" should read "The Governing Body". This will be corrected in the next printing of the amendments.


Amendment No. 1 is in the name of the Minister and Deputy Collins. Amendments Nos. 5, 27, 29, 31, 32, 33, 35, 81 and 82 are cognate and may be debated with amendment No. 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, subsection (1), line 17, to delete "Board" and substitute "Council".

I am putting forward the amendment at the request of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, who had an academic board up to last year but who replaced it by a restructured body called the academic council. The amendment arises as a result of that.

I am glad to note that the Minister and myself can agree on at least one amendment. The need for change is a reflection on the Bill, that greater care was not taken in drafting it. As the Minister said, last year the title of the academic board was changed to academic council and had officials of the Department been au fait with the affairs of NIHE Limerick there would have been no need to use the word “board” in the Bill. The word “council” should have been put in originally, I make that point because it is symptomatic of the structure of the Bill. It is also a reflection of the fact that the Minister has had to bring in so many amendments.

I should like to dispute philosophically what the Deputy has said. The people who devised the system for our legislature saw to it that there were several stages. It is the essence of democracy that at each stage inputs can be made. I made the point originally that there was a board in the institute, that the name was changed to council and I told the House that was the reason for the amendment. I reject also the suggestion that my officials, some of whom acted with distinction in the institute for a long time, were not au fait with what was going on. I regard the whole process through Second Stage, Committee Stage and Report Stage as being one that enables a democratic input and I do not think it is a cause for criticism of amendments to the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 2, line 24, after "Awards" to insert ", by a university in the State or by an equivalent degree awarding authority of international repute".

I consider this amendment is central to my approach to the Bill. It goes back some years in that there has been a difference between my party and the Government in relation to the evolution of third level education. This Bill embodies the principle of a binary system at third level and this is unfortunate. The fact that the Minister has seen fit to designate the NCEA as the degree-awarding body is not acceptable to me. In this Bill the NCEA have a monopoly in relation to the awarding of degrees at NIHE, Limerick, and I assume something similar will be inserted in the Bill dealing with NIHE in Dublin.

That is not acceptable. There should be flexibility enabling the governing body of NIHE Limerick to look at their degrees and consider from where this should best be awarded. I see no reason why the NCEA should not have the dominance in relation to the awarding of the degrees. What I object to is their being given a monopoly in this matter. The Minister has stated on a number of occasions that he is in favour of the comprehensive system in third level education in the long term. If he is, certainly the Bill now before us does not lead to a comprehensive system, which is unfortunate. It does not even open the door towards a comprehensive system in third level education.

There must be interrelationship between the NCEA and our university system. Doors must be opened and there must be cross-fertilisation of ideas and services between the various third level institutions. For that reason, my amendment is central to the Fine Gael policy in relation to third level education. I would certainly push it to a vote, it is a matter of principle rather than a matter of drafting.

This is clearly an important issue and one which should certainly be teased out at this stage of the debate, without necessarily committing ourselves irrevocably to any course of action. This is an area which we should think about and if we need to come to a confrontation on it, probably that is best postponed until Report Stage.

I was interested in the point which Deputy Collins made, and I speak from the point of view of someone who also believes that an integrated comprehensive system of third level education, in the long term, is the best future that we could hope for in this country. However, if we are going to have an integration, a move towards comprehensivisation, as it were, I would argue that such a move can only effectively take place if there is some degree of effective parity between the elements that are to be subject to this process. I would favour, and the Minister and Deputy Collins would, no doubt favour, the maximum degree of transferability of students between all higher education institutes. I do not, however, know that it is necessary at this point in order to facilitate student transfer between institutions, that we should have the possibility of NIHE courses at degree level receiving university validation rather than NCEA validation.

I would prefer at this point in time to see a proposal that the NCEA should be responsible for all degree awards outside the university sector—which, in fact, is embodied in the NCEA Bill which has gone through the Houses of the Oireachtas—given expression in this Bill. In the circumstances, we should be slow to move towards the situation whereby there are alternative modes of validation for NIHE qualifications. The main reason why I would be slow to accept this at this stage is that I am in favour of the principle of comprehensivisation of third level education is that it would make the job of planning even more difficult than it is at present. Goodness knows, planning higher education is extremely difficult at the best of times. I have a fear that opening this door would make it a little more difficult.

I am afraid I cannot accept Deputy Collins' amendment. He has raised already in the House the question of the binary system and the comprehensive system and has been a little ambiguous about it, in one of the speeches at least, earlier on. I have said, as Deputy Horgan recalls, that I would be very reluctant to introduce any structures which would be rigidarian, of having two systems not cross-pollinating but developing rigidly, independently and parallel with each other. I have stated also that my vision of what will happen to the National Institution of Higher Education in Limerick is that it will become in due course a technological university.

I agree with Deputy Horgan that administration and organisation in the universities is difficult enough at the moment and that we would only be compounding the difficulties by having various assessment and degree awarding bodies dealing with one institution. It would create difficulties from the administrative point of view. It would also create difficulties within the institute itself, because you could very well have, not merely a number of degree awarding or diploma awarding bodies dealing with different sectors of the institute, but you could also have the position of students who would have to keep their eyes on a number of awarding bodies for the same discipline and the same subject, which has been true in this area before the establishment of the National Council for Educational Awards.

On Second Stage, I made it quite clear that at the present stage of its development it is the Government's decision that the National Council for Educational Awards will be the degree, diploma and certificate awarding body for the National Institute.

I see one problem here which relates to the transferability of students between the NIHE Limerick and, say, a university. There is no arrangement in the Bill to have an open-ended attitude towards this matter. Perhaps on this amendment the Minister might comment on this? We all agree, or I hope we do, that there should be a concept of vertical and horizontal transferability of students between the higher education colleges and the universities. It is important that some system be laid down to ensure this. This problem is not tackled under this Bill. The Minister should comment on this question, which is important for many students who perhaps attend a certificate or diploma course but would then like to move to a university college, for instance, to pursue a degree course. Under this Bill the only degree awarding body is the NCEA. I do not know what arrangements they have for transferability of students and would like the Minister to comment on that.

The Chair feels that we should deal with the amendments first and then we can deal with points of that kind, unless they are relevant to the amendment.

This is relevant to the amendment.

To some extent, it may be.

I would like to comment, but I am not 100 per cent sure of the relevance of this.

The Chair is worried about that point too.

The Chair is generous, as always.

I agree with Deputy Collins and Deputy Horgan that transferability is very important and the very fact that the NCEA are the degree-awarding body for the institute should be a help. As the Deputy knows, because he assisted it through this House, the NCEA Bill makes provision for reasonably heavy representation from the universities and the RTCs, which also are relevant in the matter of transferability. The mechanics for transferability would have to be worked out between the RTCs, the National Institute and the universities where the RTC students want to have vertical mobility. The NIHE, of Limerick, for example, if they get an application from a student in one of the university colleges would have to decide on the horizontal mobility, where that student would fit into their own structure. It would be a question for the institute themselves. It would be a question for the university to decide where a student, again for horizontal mobility, would fit in. It would be quite different for a graduate; it would be just an assessment in that case. What should ease this is the fact that the council themselves are representative of a wide area of academic life, having people from the universities, the RTCs and the two National Institutes in their membership. There is hardly a more favourable milieu than that for transference.

I am still afraid that we are getting away from the amendment before us, which is limited.

I wonder whether the amendment which Deputy Collins has put down will help to achieve the aim which we all share, and that is the aim of securing transferability of students between institutions. We are talking about part of the definition section. The reason I express doubt is that at degree level transferability arises in relation to a student who has acquired a degree going on to study for post-graduate work in another institution. Involved there would be recognition by the other institution of the validity of the degree obtained at the NIHE rather than that the other institution should grant the NIHE degree in the first place. In so far as it is related to transferability it might require another amendment to another part of the definition section that we might discuss at another stage.

Part of the problem in relation to all of this is that you cannot enforce anything on the universities in the matter of recognition. You may twist their financial arms until they come out of the sockets and produce some results in certain areas, but you cannot force them to recognise anything that they do not want to recognise or to validate anything they do not want to validate in the system that they have.

I withdraw the amendment at this stage with the right to reintroduce it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 2, between lines 31 and 32, to insert " `a graduate of the Institute' means a person who has received an academic award as a result of completing a course designated by the Governing Body for the purpose of defining a graduate;".

This really is a definition of a graduate. Section 3 (1) (e) mentions a graduate of the institute. This definition of a graduate of the institute is a drafting amendment rather than expressive of any feeling I hold in the matter. I am stating merely that the graduate of the institute means a person who has received an academic award as the result of completing a course designated by the governing body for the purpose of defining a graduate. It is a drafting amendment and it should be accepted.

There is a problem about this. The NCEA, who have been mentioned, award national certificates and national diplomas and degrees. The word "graduate" here means someone who has been awarded a degree, in this case an NCEA degree, and we refrained from expanding any further on that because in the terms of the activity of the NCEA the meaning of "degree" and "graduate" is quite clear.

The legislation with regard to the election of Members of Seanad Éireann will be taking cognisance of graduates in the university colleges and will be taking cognisance also of graduates, people who hold degrees from the National Institute of Higher Education. Consequently, this precludes me from accepting the amendment here. Some people think there should be a tighter definition in the Bill of the word "graduate", but I maintain that the words are clear enough in the context.

What the Minister has said reinforces my opinion that there is a need for a graduate to be defined. I appreciate the Minister's point. I take it that if we have amending legislation to the composition of Seanad Éireann and that, for instance, a seat might be awarded to NIHE Limerick, then you have to define who is entitled to a vote for that panel or whether that legislation will allow graduates or degree holders from NIHE to have a vote under a different structure in relation to the composition of Seanad Éireann. I take the Minister's point that there is a problem in relation to defining a graduate for the purposes of election to Seanad Éireann and that it is a degree holder the Minister is talking about. There is a need for a tighter definition of the word "graduate". This matter should be tackled now rather than later where we might need an amending Bill to this one. For the purpose of a graduate of the institute, if the Minister means a degree holder, he should say so. On the other hand, if it is for the purpose of being a member of the institute—I do not know what benefit that confers—the Minister should state clearly that he means that a graduate is a degree holder. If he means a certificate holder, a diploma holder and a degree holder he should state so also. There is a need now to define a degree holder as a person who would have a vote in a Seanad election. I would prefer to attack the matter now rather than later.

It is not necessary to put it in this Bill as there will, of course, be a Bill introduced by the Minister for the Environment to cover the Seanad Éireann aspect of it. I can see that by using the word "graduate" in a loose way in other countries there could be some difficulty, but I think it is true that when we say "graduate" here we mean somebody who is a degree holder. That is the meaning we attach to it in this Bill. That is the meaning that will attach to it in the legislation to cover the election to Seanad Eireann. I am not sure if the Deputy asked me was it intended that graduates of the National Institute would have a vote in the Seanad elections but the intention is that they will.

I think that a degree holder of the NIHE should have a vote in a Seanad election. If the Minister, as he stated here, means that a graduate of the institute is to be interpreted as a degree holder, that should be stated. It also means that a certificate holder or a diploma holder is not a member of the institute because the only members of the institute are degree holders; in other words, a person who holds a degree is a graduate of the institute. There is a lot of sense in stating that quite clearly rather than leaving it subject to loose interpretation. I thought on reading section 3 (1) (e) that a graduate of the institute was a person who held a certificate or a diploma or a degree. I thought any of those would be a graduate, but the Minister now states that is not so, that a graduate is only one who holds a degree. If that is what he means he should state it quite clearly because it will be open to misinterpretation.

I think the old legal saying that clear words need no interpretation holds here.

But the words are not clear. My reading of section 3 (1) (e), which refers to a graduate of the institute, was that he would be a person who held or holds a certificate or a diploma or a degree. That was my reading of the paragraph. I was surprised to hear the Minister say that it was not what was intended but that what is intended is that a graduate of the institute is only a person who holds a degree.

We are dealing with section 1.

They are related, but I think we are rambling somewhat from amendment No. 3.

The reason for my amendment is to define the term "graduate" in section 3 (1) (e). Now, listening to the Minister I find that what he means by graduate is not what I understand to be the meaning of graduate in the Bill. There is need to state what he intends to mean by graduate in the Bill. There is need to state what he intends to mean by "graduate". His interpretation is certainly difFerent from mine.

Amemdment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 3, between lines 4 and 5, to insert a new subsection as follows:

"(3) The term "Institute Body" shall have the meaning ascribed to it in Article 1 (2) of the First Schedule.".

This is again a definition amendment. In the First Schedule, Article 1(2) there occur the words "The seal of the Institute Body." There is need to define what "Institute Body" means. In section 2 (2) it says:

(2) The Institute shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and to acquire, hold and dispose of land.

Article 1 of the First Schedule states:

The Governing Body shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and to acquire, lease, hold, and dispose of land.

I will come to that when I reach the relevant section and article. Article 2 (2) of the First Schedule brings in something I do not understand—the "Institute Body". What is the "Institute Body"? Is it the governing body, some other body or is it the institute itself in its corporate name? This term needs to be explained fully in the Bill.

I have put down amendment No. 65 which proposes that Article 1 of the First Schedule shall be recast. The term "Institute Body" is not used in that amendment and consequently this amendment is unnecessary.

Yes, and I think also on reading the Minister's amendment the concept of the governing body having its own seal is also removed. That power is in fact in the name of the NIHE itself. The institute is in fact the institute with its corporate body, with perpetual succession and power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and the duplication of the governing body having similar status is being removed. Is that correct?

That is quite logical and it clears up the point I am making in this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I was about to ask the Minister whether diploma should not be put in as well as certificate. I see that in the definition section they are separated by a couple of other definitions whereas it would appear to be more reasonable to put them together, but that is purely a drafting suggestion.

Section 1, as amended, put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Subsection (2) states:

The Institute shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and power to sue and be sued in its corporate name and to acquire, lease, hold, and dispose of land.

I have just made the point that it is the institute itself which has this status and the governing body has not this status. It is, in fact, the institute which undertakes all its legal functions. That is proper and correct. There would be doubts about the interpretation of giving similar powers to the governing body. Consequently, I think what has been done is correct.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 16, to delete "Board" and substitute "Council".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6.

In page 3, subsection (3), line 27, after "section" to insert "by conferring on him an honorary degree".

This relates to the conferring of membership. I am specifying the method by which the governing body can confer membership of the institute on a person who is not qualified. The only way to confer membership of the institute on a distinguished person should be by awarding an honourary degree. I do not see how the institute could make a person a member by any other means nor, I am sure, did the Minister intend that it should be done in any other way, but if he does, I would like to know how.

The effect of the amendment would be that the governing body could not confer membership of the institute on a person except by conferring an honorary degree. The power given in the Bill is much wider. I do not agree with the Deputy that the conferring of an honorary degree would be the only appropriate way to make a person a member of the institute. People who have made distinguished contributions in the field of technology may never have had a formal degree conferred on them. This is the one area in the history of science and technology where such a person has very often made a mark. It should be open to the National Institute for Higher Education to confer membership of the institute on such a person. The honorary degree is open to them as well.

What would be the other mechanism used by the institute?

That is outlined in the Bill. The governing body may confer membership by a decision of the governing body. That power is given to the governing body.

I would prefer to see that defined.

They could commend a person for an honorary degree to the National Council for Educational Awards, but they would still have to make the person a member of the institute by virtue of the power conferred.

I appreciate the reasons offered by Deputy Collins for his amendment and the rationale offered by the Minister for his attitude to that amendment but, if only in passing, I feel we might point out that the growth and proliferation of honorary degrees over the last 50 or 60 years has been largely due to the fact that our Constitution expressly forbids the State to create titles of honour. In these circumstances, the honorary degree has become a substitute for the honours which tend to be conferred by other administrations. Again, only in passing and with some regret, I must record my disappointment with our further removal from the republican ideal that titles and honours do not need to be conferred on citizens of this State.

Is the amendment withdrawn?

I withdraw it reluctantly.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment No. 7 proposes the deletion of section 4 of the existing Bill. There are a number of amendments to that section, namely, amendments Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 which are related. If amendment No. 7 is agreed we cannot take a number of the other amendments put down to the existing section and they cannot be moved.

I would like to speak to amendment No. 10.

The Deputy may speak to all those amendments in the debate on amendment No. 7 but if it is carried, amendments No. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 cannot be moved. If there are any outstanding issues they can be raised on Report Stage.

I feel amendment No. 10 could have been omitted because it was not included in the original Bill.

If there are any issues outstanding as a result they can be raised on Report Stage.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 3, before section 4, to insert the following section:

"4. (1) The functions of the Institute shall be—

(a) to provide degree level courses, diploma level courses and certificate level courses and, subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe, such other courses, including post-graduate courses, as may seem appropriate to the Governing Body;

(b) to engage in research in such fields as the Governing Body may deem appropriate;

(c) subject to the approval of the Minister, after consultation with an tÚdarás—

(i) to buy, acquire, maintain, manage, administer and invest all the property, money and assets of the Institute,

(ii) to institute and, if thought fit, to award scholarships, prizes and other awards;

(d) to accept from donors gifts of land or other property upon such trusts and conditions, if any, as may be specified by the donors; provided that nothing in any trust or condition is contrary to the provisions of this Act;

(e) subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe, to do all such acts and things as may be necessary to further the objects and development of the Institute.

(2) (a) The Minister may, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, by order assign to the Institute such additional functions as he thinks fit.

(b) Whenever an order is proposed to be made under this subsection, a draft of the proposed order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the Order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

(3) The Minister may by order revoke or amend an order under this section including an order under this subsection.".

As the Chair rightly said this is an embracing amendment. I have carefully considered the various representations made to me in relation to this section. For the purposes of clarification and to ensure that there will be no doubts as to the provisions of the section, the section has been recast. Provision has also been made for the assignment of additional functions to the institute by ministerial order.

The revised wording of subparagraph (1) (a) has been introduced at the request of the institute. I am sure the Deputies in their amendments wished to achieve the same purpose—to remove the limitations that the Minister's approval is required for the provision of courses other than certificate, degree and diploma courses leading to awards by the National Council for Educational Awards. In this amendment I am proposing that the words "subject to the Minister's approval" should be replaced by the words "subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe". I do not think there is need for any further comment on that.

First that the Minister should have to move this major amendment is a reflection on the poor drafting of the Bill. He should have known clearly that the structure of section 4 of the original Bill, especially with the words "with the approval of the Minister" and "subject to the approval of the Minister" was obnoxious as it applies to third level educational institutes. It is unfortunate that it was published in that form, and we can accept section 4 as amended by the Minister.

Amendment No. 10 relates to continuing education of graduates and others. That is something that should be specified in the Bill. I appreciate that section 4 (a) refers to "other courses, including post-graduate courses as may seem appropriate to the Governing Body". I take that point. There may be benefits in including some reference to continuing education of graduates and others. It is for that reason that I put down amendment No. 10.

In relation to subsection (1) (c) (i), the position in relation to the gift of land and other property has been changed. That is important. Obviously the institute would act responsibly in this matter. In the original Bill that was subject to the approval of the Minister. That has now been changed and is certainly a con-structive move.

I do not know why, in subsection (2), the Minister has to have the concurrence of the Minister for Finance in order to assign to the institute such additional functions as he thinks fit. I would imagine that this should be an educational decision. I do not particularly like that wording. I am glad that where an order is being made under this that it must come before the Oireachtas. It takes proper cognizance of the status of this House. In general I welcome the Minister's amendment.

I listened with interest to the Minister's introduction of his amendment. I feel he might have been a trifle more generous to the sentiments expressed in this House on Second Stage when he identified the source or sources of the amended section 4 which is now before us. I am not against Ministerial amendments, far from it. As I said in relation to other legislation here not so long ago, I would far prefer this House to act as a legislature rather than as a rubber stamp and if that means the Minister has to bring in amendments, so be it. I will not be castigating him just because he is bringing in amendments.

There are a couple of detailed queries which I would like the Minister to address himself to in relation to his amendment. Could the Minister tease out for us the difference between the phrases "approval of the Minister" and "subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe". Does "with the approval of the Minister" mean that the Minister basically says yes or no whereas "subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe" means that the Minister can say yes but impose conditions? In other words, in relation to the functions which are subject to the approval of the Minister, the Minister has no flexibility; he either agrees or disagrees, whereas, in relation to other functions the Minister may agree subject to conditions. I would be glad to hear if that is the Minister's reading of the wording of his amendment as well.

One of my amendments which is being discussed together with this is amendment No. 9. When I made my speech on Second Stage I attacked, as Deputy Collins did, the pervasive presence of the Minister in the Bill and I suggested that the Higher Education Authority should perhaps be put in instead of the Minister in certain instances. At the same time I recognised that there was a structural problem here in that the Higher Education Authority is not a body which has been set up to permit anybody to do anything. It is purely an advisory body advising the Minister in relation to the Minister's functions so I accepted that there was a problem here in putting in the Higher Education Authority as a gatekeeper when effectively that is not the role they have been asked to play by statute. I would in any case have withdrawn that amendment at this stage because of that difficulty. But in relation to the Minister's amendment the degree to which I would find it satisfactory or not—and in large measure it mirrors at least one of my other amendments—would depend on the Minister's explanation of the difference between the approval process and the prescribing of conditions process. I would be glad if the Minister would address himself to that.

I do not think I will be able to convert Deputy Collins to my view of the legislative process. As I said at the start I consider all the stages as stages where the House may have its input. I think Deputy Horgan agrees with me basically on that. As he just said, he has no objection to amendments from the Minister or anybody else being considered. That is what we are doing; we are putting a Bill together which will become an Act of the Oireachtas.

The third point that Deputy Collins made on amendment No. 10 was in regard to the courses for the continuing education of graduates. That is now comprehended in the recast subsection (1) (a). In fact the term "other courses in education" would take in post-graduate courses. The words "including post-graduate courses" are inserted to eliminate any doubts on the matter.

Deputy Collins also referred to subsection (1) (c). In the recent section subsections (1) (c), (1) (d) and (1) (e) go most of the way to meeting Deputy Horgan's amendment No. 11 and Deputy Collins's amendments Nos. 8, 12 and 14. I propose to remove the restriction of approval, as has been commented upon, from the acceptance of gifts by the institute and modify the restriction on the performance of other acts in paragraph (d) of the Bill as introduced and (1) (e) of this section.

In relation to the phrase "subject to the approval of the Minister" and the phrase "subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe" Deputy Horgan has asked me to distinguish between them. In general the format in the recast section is more liberal than in the original one so it is in the business of doing what Deputy Horgan was recommending. Approval means a specific proposal must be submitted on each occasion. It is imposing an onus on the governing body. That may be approved subject to amendment or modification. The approval means that a Minister can specify in advance in general terms rather than specific terms for the governing body what they may do and they will have freedom to work under that specific approval. Is that satisfactory?

We are really talking here about subsection (4) (e) of the Minister's amendment:

Subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe, to do all such acts and things as may be necessary to further the objects and development of the Institute.

It appears to be the Minister's intention to prescribe in advance to the Institute the kinds of acts and things it may do in order to further the objects and development of the Institute itself.

What kind of prescription instrument has the Minister in mind? Does he anticipate simply making a speech at the inaugural session of the new governing body in which he will give the necessary prescription or is he thinking of issuing a statutory instrument? What precisely does he have in mind when he talks about prescribing conditions? It seems to me that the prescribing of conditions is some general statement which he is to make in vacuo and within which the institute would have to operate compared with the post hoc validation or non-validation of any proposal made by the institute. If that is a correct reading perhaps the Minister will tell me.

I would envisage that the governing body motu proprio would indicate to the HEA and the Department of Education that it wanted to develop in a certain way or a certain area. The Department of Education in consultation with the HEA would then lay down a kind of general framework for such development. They would be general parameters rather than having specific proposals coming up in each instance for the Minister to approve.

The HEA is the funding body for the NIHE, Limerick, and it has the responsibility of seeing that the overall development of NIHE, Limerick, falls into place with its overall plan for third level education. In those circumstances there is logic in saying that it is the HEA that should prescribe the conditions or give the sanctions for courses and so on. In fact, there is duplication. Now the NIHE, Limerick, will have to go to the Minister for money and for sanction. We should avoid that. If we have established the HEA on a statutory basis to do this work, let them do it. Seeking the prescription of the Minister is somewhat unnecessary.

The Minister would in every instance in regard to any development in third level education consult with the HEA and there is no question of duplication. As Deputy Horgan stated, the HEA is an advisory authority set up by statute and consequently is not in the field of instructing any particular institution which may be designated to it. There is not any difficulty at all in this regard because the Minister will consult with the HEA and will, as I stated in reply to Deputy Horgan's question, in advance set in general terms the kind of development it thinks suitable for the institute. I am anxious to get the idea across that it is a much more liberal terminology than the original one. That is the distinction I want to make. It will leave the governing body much freer than the original terms before the amendment.

There is some truth in what the Minister has stated that this is a more liberal terminology. We will have the opportunity between now and Report Stage to plumb the depths of its liberality to see whether it meets all the requirements we would like to see it contain. In relation to my amendment, No. 9, which we are discussing with this, it occurs to me that part of the confusion in relation to the Higher Education Authority is one of nomenclature. It is called the Higher Education Authority but it does not have the authority to do anything. All it does is to advise the Minister; it is a higher education advisory council effectively. In the Seanad, when we discussed the Bill dealing with the HEA, part of the discussion was about the degree of authority the new authority would have. Sometimes, in order only to avoid confusion, it might be better to call institutions or bodies by names which approximate more to their actual functions.

On the face of it there seems to be a good deal in what Deputy Horgan has stated, but in fact the activity of the Higher Education Authority is so comprehensive and efficient that even though it does not have the statutory backing to put things into effect the result of the labours and expertise of the HEA is practically the same as if it had that statutory authority. In developing a specific school the amount of expertise it gathers and work it puts into it and the fact that it is dealing with the allocation of funds for a specific project means that it is, in effect, a pretty powerful authority.

The HEA does fund NIHE, Limerick, and to that extent would receive annual submissions from NIHE, Limerick, in respect of expenditure and course planning. The HEA would sanction those things within the context of an overall budget policy and the functions it was given by this House. The HEA would also go to the Minister in relation to its annual budget and at that point in time the global development of third level education would be discussed between the Minister and the HEA. That is fair enough and understandable and is the function given to the HEA. Surely in that context the NIHE, Limerick, should go to the HEA and then the global problems of the latter in relation to the development of third level education would be discussed annually with the Minister rather than having the duplicated system that now arises. Under that system the Minister will be laying down prescribed conditions in relation to courses and NIHE, Limerick, will have to go to the HEA for money and from there to the Minister. The duplication is unneccessary and unfortunate.

Amendment agreed to.

The acceptance of amendment No. 7 involves the insertion of a new section and the deletion of section 4. Amendments Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 cannot, therefore, be moved.


I move amendment No. 16:

In page 4, to delete lines 11 to 13, and substitute the following:

"(3) The first members of the Governing Body shall be appointed by the Government, on the recommendation of the Minister, and shall hold office for a period of one year from the date of their appointnent.".

This is a drafting amendment.

I take the point that the Minister must involve himself in this matter since he is the Minister responsible for the NIHE. May I recommend to him that, when this Bill is enacted and signed by the President, there should be no delay in appointing the statutory governing body. Many months ago we passed the NCEA Bill which was duly signed by the President. Many months later the Minister has not even signed the order bringing the Act into force, and has not yet appointed the statutory members of the council of the NCEA. That is most unfortunate and I hope it does not recur in the case of this Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move Amendment No. 17:

In page 4, to delete lines 14 to 17, and substitute the following:

"(4) After the expiration of the term of office of the first members of the Governing Body, the 23 ordinary members of that Body shall be appointed by the Government, on the recommendation of the Minister, in the following manner:"

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 18 is consequential on amendment No. 22 and they can be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 4 subsection (4), line 18, to delete "nine" and substitute "four".

This is an important amendment. It deals with the composition of the governing body and reduces the number the Minister may recommend to the Government for appointment under subsection (4)(a) of section 5, which provides that nine of the members of the governing body shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Minister in accordance with the provisions of subsection (5). I am proposing to reduce that number to four. The Minister has power, directly or indirectly through the Government to nominate 14 members of a 23 member governing body. Therefore, a Minister —I am not saying the Minister would do it—could appoint a majority of the governing body of the NIHE, Limerick. That is not proper.

I have attempted in amendment No. 22 to have a broader spectrum of membership of the council. Under the Bill the Minister has the right to recommend five to the Government for appointment. I am suggesting that those five should be appointed directly as follows. One should be appointed on the recommendation of the governing body of UCC, one from UCG, and the Irish Farmers' Association should have the right to nominate a person for appointment and the Confederation of Irish Industry should have the right to appoint one member. Finally I suggest that Limerick City Vocational Education Committee should have an input.

To deal with the last one first, it is important that there should be some formal relationship between the NIHE, Limerick, and the local VEC. Obviously there is a direct relationship, and the VEC representing the technological sector of second level education should have representation on the governing body of the NIHE, Limerick. The concept of local participation is important and would help to ensure good relations between local educational authorities.

I doubt that the Minister can argue against a member from the Irish Farmers' Association and one from the Confederation of Irish Industry. The institute are directly involved in providing technological courses related to the Irish agricultural and industrial sectors. There should be some ongoing relationship between UCC, UCD and NIHE, Limerick. For that reason I have suggested there should be one member from each of those university colleges. I appreciate that setting out the structure for any governing body is not an easy task and rarely can one prescribe the perfect solution. The rights the Minister has in this regard are overbearing and we should ensure that there is a very broad spectrum of representation on this governing body by being more specific in relation to the appointments to the body. I recommend my formula for the appointments which the Minister can make through the Government.

The problem we face here is presumably that the NIHE, Limerick, are precisely what their name implies, a national institute. At the same time, it seems to be reasonable that an institute which will continue to draw, as the NIHE, Limerick undoubtedly draw, the vast bulk of their student population from a certain region should count in their governing body some regional if not local or community representative.

The Minister has sufficient latitude in the number of free places he gives himself to appoint on the governing body to ensure that such regional interests will be represented. It might be to his advantage and to the advantage of the institute if he were to cede at least one of those places to a specified local or regional representative in order to secure the maximum possible degree of local and regional acceptance for the institution concerned, which they have to some degree already, and in order to write into the Act the regional or local dimension of the activities of that national institute.

Part of the problem is that in so far as this will be one national institute, and the NIHE, Dublin will be another national institute, I presume it is precisely in the areas from which the Minister chooses to pick his own nominees on to the governing body that he will be indicating to each institute how their aims, although national, will not conflict with each other. We do not want any unnecessary degree of duplication between the work of the two National Institutes.

I wonder about the degree to which the Minister would be prepared, between now and the Report Stage, to consider the reasonable points made by Deputy Collins particularly in relation to local and regional representation. I do not know about the Irish Farmers' Association or the Confederation of Irish Industry having a right as of themselves to ensure effective nomination on to the governing body of the institute. Perhaps the Minister would consider further the other points.

I take the point of the importance of local representation. There is nothing in the Bill which would preclude them without the necessity of stipulating in the Bill that a person should be from a given region. Deputy Horgan made the point that it is a national institute and designed as such, but, being in the area of Limerick and achieving a reputation for excellence, it will attract many people from that area. I agree it is important to maintain the best relations with the local area and I will keep in mind what the Deputies have said about local representation.

On the other hand, the substance of the amendment is not acceptable because it would cut down the number of places available to me to represent commercial interests, fisheries, agriculture and industry, although the Deputy's amendment mentions farming representatives and somebody from the CII. Taking this amendment with amendment No. 22 in the name of Deputy Collins, suggesting there should be members from UCC, UCG and the City of Limerick VEC, it would mean that 18 of the 25 members of the governing body would come from the educational sector. That is too many because it would leave only a possible seven from the industry, commerce and farming sectors.

We discussed during the passage of the NCEA Bill the importance of the technological sector. This institute is training sophisticated workers for industry and it is vital that a large proportion of the governing body should be from the business and agricultural sectors. As it is, the terms of the Bill seem to be weighted a little too heavily in favour of the academic sector, 15 to ten, but if I accept the amendment of Deputy Collins the balance would be tipped over completely. I do not find that acceptable because I do not think it would make for the kind of governing body we are looking for.

In selecting the nine ordinary members whom the Minister will recommend to the Government, the five bodies mentioned by Deputy Collins will be kept in mind; but I would point out that there is a danger that we could have a too heavily weighted academic governing body if we specify existing university colleges.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 4, subsection (4), line 36, to delete "teaching" and substitute "academic".

This is a drafting amendment. The word "academic" occurs in subsection (4) (c). There are teaching staffs in the regional technical colleges and there are academic staff as well, and I do not know why the Minister has used different terminology here.

I use the word "teaching" because in the RTCs we are dealing with different grades of teachers. There has been a tendency to refer to academic staff in relation to universities, third level institutions generally, and "teaching" is understood to be a more comprehensive term representing all grades of teachers.

I will consider putting down an amendment for Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 4, subsection (4) (f), line 37, after "colleges" to insert "chosen in accordance with regulations approved by the Minister".

Amendment No. 21 is related and may be discussed with No. 20.

I know why the Bill is phrased in the way it is and I know why I put down this amendment, but I do not know if there is any ground in the middle where the Minister and I can meet. It is plain that the framework of the subsection has been drafted in such a way that it gives the Minister the power and the duty to choose certain persons from certain categories because there is not a national form of organisation for either of the categories of persons involved. I do not know how the Minister or how any Minister would feel about the emergence of further national organisations representing workers in the educational sector with whom he would have to deal and negotiate about various issues such as appointments like these, but it is arguable that if these appointees are to reflect the real concerns of the grades of staff from which they come there should be some kind of consultative if not elective process from which they might emerge.

The danger otherwise is that the Minister will lay himself open to the accusation that he is appointing people from these areas less in relation to their academic or other qualifications than their political affiliations. One of his predecessors, the late Deputy O'Malley, once delivered himself of the famous line that "all other things being equal we look after our own", or words to that effect, and I should hate to have the Minister in a situation in which he would be accused unnecessarily of favouritism because of the absence of appropriate machinery and structure.

I am therefore suggesting in the amendment that the governing body effectively should establish elective or consultative mechanism which would be approved by the Minister which would allow the persons whom the Minister would appoint to emerge. At least to some degree those persons would have the consent and support of the people in their sector of the educational system and would thereby be enabled not necessarily to fulfil totally representative roles but at least to carry more weight at the level of the governing body than if the Minister simply had snatched them out of the air.

I agree with Deputy Horgan. It is a difficult problem because the Minister will not be dealing with even one trade union nor is there a single body of teachers that can be approached easily. I appreciate that the Minister is attempting to ensure that there will be representation from the RTC staffs. That is good and constructive, but how it will be achieved is another day's work. Incidentally, "colleges" in amendment No. 20 should appear with a capital "C" instead of a small "c". I see the merit in the Minister's point because there might be a difficult or mischievous process before he gets to that sector.

The section as drafted empowers the Minister to recommend people from the RTCs. I am glad the Deputies have commended that power. As the Bill is drafted, the Minister may if he chooses decide the procedure by which the choice is to be made, or he may invite the RTCs to recommend some people to him.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.