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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 24 Jun 1980

Vol. 322 No. 9

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

I move amendment No. 1:

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".

This amendment is simply to make clear the difference in approach by the Minister and this side of the House to the awarding of degrees. The Bill as drafted means that the NCEA will be the only award-granting body. I regard that as being wrong educationally. It is potentially dangerous for the Limerick Institute, and it will also be applied to the Institute in Dublin.

The Limerick Institute will be constrained unnaturally in its approach to the giving of awards to undergraduates. In regard to certificates and diplomas, though I accept that the NCEA are the proper award-giving body, I say that the Minister was wrong when he drafted the Bill in such a way that the door has been closed to the institute in relation to awarding certificates and diplomas, which should have been left to the discretion of the governing body to which award-giving body they would apply in regard to certificates and diplomas, but particularly to degrees.

It is wrong to force the institute to seek awards from the NCEA alone because it could be dangerous. In order to ensure standards, it is important that there should be a certain amount of competition so that degrees awarded to the institute will be comparable with those granted by the universities. That is not the position under the Bill because there is a danger that degrees awarded by the NCEA may not be acceptable internationally. I know the Minister does not want that any more than I or anybody else in the House. We have an obligation to ensure that the standards to be set will be unquestionably high, and because of that I feel there is a need to allow the institute to seek their degree awards not only from the NCEA but from equivalent degree-awarding authorities.

An any rate, I doubt if the NCEA are competent to grant all the degrees which the institute will be offering to undergraduates. I am open to correction on that but I fear that the NCEA may be in that position. If the institute should wish to introduce a degree level course, the time it will take the NCEA to validate and recognise such a course for degree awarding may be such as to hinder the institute in its establishment of that course.

Having listened to the debate here, I feel the Minister is being pig-headed about that. Looking back on the various debates in this House and the Seanad on higher education it seems clear that the Minister has not been in favour of a comprehensive system of higher education in the short term. Perhaps he favours such an approach in the long term but in the short term he is supporting a division between the higher education authorities and that is unfortunate for a small nation like this. It would have been far more realistic and progressive if he had opted for a comprehensive system of third level education and allowed for the proper development of the HEA and the institute in Limerick in the context of a unified higher education system. He has not done that, he has not grasped the opportunity to ensure openness in the third level sector and he has closed the door on a unified system in that sector of education.

In his approach the Minister has displayed a narrow-minded attitude in regard to the Bill. When the matter of transferability and degree recognition arises we will be depending on vertical and horizontal mobility but very little recognition is being given to that necessity in the third level sector. That is the basic difference between my party and the Government on this Bill.

I will be forcing a division on this amendment in an effort to spell out the need for a unified approach which would be educationally sound, understandable and progressive. My object in pressing the amendment is to show clearly our opposition to the Bill, which has been drafted very badly. The large number of amendments which the Minister himself introduced indicates that he knows this. My amendment shows our opposition to the composition of the Bill and to the negative manner in which the Minister has approached the debate on the Bill.

I reject the amendment, basically for the reasons given by Deputy Collins. Indeed I challenge him on his statement that it is educationally unsound not to have more than one awarding body or council, on the basis that for an institution to have more than one could put a particular strain on the structures in the institution. It could dissipate efforts to achieve the kind of standards the Deputy was talking about. On Committee Stage Deputy Horgan agreed that transferability was very important, but he did not seem to agree with Deputy Collins that it is necessary to have awards made by an institution other than the NCEA in order to achieve that transferability, and I agree with Deputy Horgan on that. I submit to the House, and I have said already, that I am not putting a ne plus ultra on the development of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick. I have conceived of it as an institution, with its sister institutions in Limerick, as being capable of development into one of our finest third level complexes. The bones of this Bill sustain that position.

I cannot accept from Deputy Collins that there is the slightest danger that the awards of the national council will not be acceptable internationally. This was often urged at the beginning of this century with regard to various third level institutions envisaged at that time. They have established themselves internationally and the awards now being given by the National Council for Education Awards have already established themselves as being internationally up to standard. I know any further advancement, courses or validation that takes place will meet the same acceptance internationally as the ones already made.

The amendment states "by a university in the State or equivalent degree awarding authority of international repute". In his contribution the Deputy did not mention any equivalent degree awarding authority of international repute and I cannot accept that there would be any such body which would be able to process claims for courses or assess, validate and make awards with more speed than the NCEA. It was specially designed to achieve that purpose. It was specially designed so that it could quickly assess and sanction courses and quickly make awards. I cannot see that going outside the country, if that is what the Deputy has in mind, will bring any greater speed to the process.

The Deputy made a rather heavy point about comprehensivisation. He is on record in one of his speeches in this House as seeming to favour the comprehensive in one part of the speech and in another the non-comprehensive or binary system in third level education. He has made it quite clear now that he has pinned his colours to the comprehensive mast and, as I have said both inside and outside the House, I have no quarrel with the comprehensive system. I have no great urge to keep two rigid systems going without meeting. What I hope is that the two systems will make maximum contact and that there will be both horizontal and vertical mobility within the two systems. What I am saying at this stage is that the NIHE Limerick are suitable in our present stage of development. They are adaptable, flexible and creative in our educational system. For that reason I cannot see any valid reason whatever for this amendment proposed by Deputy Collins.

I am pleased to note that the Minister has at least acknowledged the correctness of comprehensivisation of third level education and that in the long run we may see that. We discussed it at length on the NCEA Bill and here as well. I am pleased to note that he has not shut the door altogether on the concept of comprehensivisation.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 24; Níl, 48.

  • Boland, John.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Cosgrave, Michael J.
  • Deasy, Martin A.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan-Monaghan).
  • Gilhawley, Eugene.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hegarty, Paddy.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Collins, Edward.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • McMahon, Larry.
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Brien, William.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Toole, Paddy.
  • Taylor, Frank.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.


  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Kit.
  • Andrews, Niall.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Sylvester.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Callanan, John.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Connolly, Gerard.
  • Crinion, Brendan.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Sile.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Farrell, Joe.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Filgate, Eddie.
  • Fitzgerald, Gene.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin South Central).
  • Fitzsimons, James N.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Fox, Christopher J.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Dennis.
  • Herbert, Michael.
  • Keegan, Seán.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Killeen, Tim.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Meaney, Tom.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Morley, P. J.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Donoghue, Martin.
  • O'Hanlon Rory.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Desmond. Power, Paddy.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies W. O'Brien and Kenny; Níl, Deputies Moore and Kenneally.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. 2 in the name of Deputy Horgan and amendment No. 3, in the name of the Minister, amendment No. 4, in the name of Deputy Horgan and amendment No. 5, in the name of Deputy Eddie Collins, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following:

"(c) to maintain, manage and administer all the property of the Institute;".

The debate on the Second Stage of this Bill and on the Committee Stage concentrated on the very many ways in which I and other Opposition speakers thought that the Bill ought to be amended in order to give the board of the National Institute of Higher Education in Limerick reasonable freedom and flexibility in the pursuit of its objectives and in the fulfilment of its task. Only today I was reading the National College of Art and Design Bill and noticed a general section in that Bill which gives the board of the National College of Art and Design sweeping powers to do all that it needs to do to run the college. It is a pity that the Minister did not see fit to introduce such a general section into this Bill. As a result of the discussions on Committee Stage I felt it necessary to put down a further amendment to restrict still further the area in which the Minister's express permission or approval is needed before the board of the NIHE could go about its ordinary business. I put down an amendment which is in fact one of a series of amendments to achieve the same objective. Since tabling my amendment I am interested to see that the Minister has put down an amendment, amendment No. 3, obviously with the same intention as my own. There are some differences between the Minister's amendment and my amendment, but in my view they are not substantial enough to justify wasting the time of the House arguing about them, much less voting on them. I am glad to see the Minister taking the points that were made from this side of the House during the early Stages of the debate. This amendment, which is one of the Minister's most substantial amendments to date, represents something of a retreat from Moscow in so far as his general line on this Bill is concerned, and in the light of that fact I will be happy to withdraw the two related amendments in my own name.

We are all trying to achieve a situation in which the institute is allowed to go about its ordinary day-to-day work of maintenance and management and administration of its property. Both Deputy Horgan and myself have put down amendments and I am pleased to note that the Minister has come in with an amendment which does not go as far as I would like it to go but nevertheless is an improvement on the rather narrow approach which was adopted on the Second and Committee Stages. I am glad to know that the Minister's amendment is a prescriptive amendment which allows the Minister to prescribe conditions concerning the management, maintenance and administration of the assets of the institute. That goes some way towards allowing the institute a fair amount of flexibility. However I would like to refer the Minister to section 6 (1) where this matter is already dealt with and to this extent there is a duplication in the Bill. Section (1) states:

Save as otherwise provided in this Act, the Governing Body shall manage and control all the affairs and property of the Institute...

That is quite simple, clear and straightforward. The governing body, without let or hindrance, has the responsibility under section 6 to manage and control all the affairs and property of the institute. There is really no need for the Minister to prescribe conditions under which the governing body should manage a building. After all, if the roof is leaking surely it is within the competence of the governing body to get the roof repaired without having to refer to the conditions of the Minister for Education. It seems unnecessary. I admit that in relation to the purchase of buildings or property the Minister's sanction should be sought and given, but for the ordinary day-to-day management and maintenance surely we could have confidence in the governing body to maintain the property. For that reason I would have preferred section 6 to be the operative section in relation to the management of the property of the institute. Because of that and in order to highlight section 6 I intended moving amendment No. 5, which deletes the words "maintain, manage, and administer" from section 4. The Minister's amendment does not go quite as far as I would like but it is an improvement on the first position so I will withdraw my amendment.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 3, to delete lines 38 to 44 and to substitute the following:

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

(i) to buy and acquire lands or buildings,

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

(d) subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe, to maintain, manage, administer and invest all the money and assets of the Institute;".

This amendment is at the request of the institute itself.

I am not surprised.

Deputy Horgan was talking about a retreat from Moscow.


The original was not narrow. I made the point already on this Bill at an earlier stage that certain technological institutions for which technologists have the height of respect are subject to far more central control. But, as the NIHE felt that there might, despite section 6 which was mentioned by Deputy Collins, be an undue measure of control over certain aspects of the activities of the governing body, I am introducing this amendment as a liberalising one and I recommend it to the House.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, line 31, to delete "nine" and substitute "four".

The reasons for this amendment are quite clear. It reduces the power of the Minister to nominate nine members of the governing body. At the moment the Minister can appoint nine members. I want that to be reduced to four. In amendment No. 7 I recommend that there be five direct appointments to the governing body. I recommend that there be appointments from university College, Cork, and from University College, Galway. The reason for those two is that in relation to vertical and horizontal mobility it is very important for the institute to work hand in glove with the universities and the two nearest universities are obviously Cork and Galway. Therefore, I am asking for direct representation from these two colleges on the governing body. I do not think that is being unreasonable. I am also looking for a member from the farming community through the IFA and from the industrial and commercial sector through the Confederation of Irish Industry. That is a reasonable request and it is important in view of the technological nature of the institute.

Finally, I am looking for direct representation from the Limerick City Vocational Educational Committee. The institute is sited in the catchment area of the VEC and it seems eminently reasonable that they should have an appointment on the governing body. I would therefore ask the Minister to consider these changes favourably. It is no wish of mine to interfere with the method of appointment, but I feel that my amendment is a far more liberal and progressive approach to the problem of representation on the governing body.

We are talking about a situation here in which the Minister nominates directly some 13 of the 23 ordinary members of the governing body. I believe that the central government should have a substantial nomination of members to this national institute. But I am sorry the Minister has not seen fit, after considering this matter, to reduce his total number of nominees to marginally less than half the total number. This would provide him with a hedge against any possible accusation that he was trying to pack the governing body with his friends and supporters without interfering in any way with the workings of the institute.

In passing, I particularly welcome the provision, which is not interfered with by Deputy Collins's amendment, that at least one of the persons to be appointed to the board will be a member of the non-academic staff of the institute. It is high time that the work of the non-academic staff in all our institutions was given more appropriate recognition in the governing of the institutes.

The point just made by Deputy Horgan is covered, as the Deputy knows, under section 5 (4) (c). There is representation for the non-academic staff. The expressed motivation of Deputy Collins of aiding mobility vertically and horizontally — and I would be particularly interested in the horizontal — in the context of the universities is a good one. His objective is good but it is not necessary in the particular context.

I can assure Deputy Horgan that the Minister's appointment will be based on very sound principles and not on any personal or political preference in this instance. I pointed out on Committee Stage that the weighting is already 15 to 10 in favour of the academic education sector. If Deputy Collins's amendment were accepted the balance then would be 18 to 7. This would be totally out of proportion and could not give a good balance. As is stated in the Bill, the Minister must take cognisance of industry, agriculture, fisheries, commerce protection and so on when making his appointment. With the provisions of the Bill, added to the common sense of the Minister, the House can be assured that the representation will be well made.

Does Deputy Collins wish to reply?

Not at this point in time. Obviously, the Minister's mind is set on a course. I can only trust in him and his successors to ensure that the balance of representation on the governing bodies is a genuine balance, not a party political one, and that it would be in the interests of the governing bodies and of the institute.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 5, lines 42 and 43, to delete "with the approval of the Minister" and substitute "subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe".

I am anxious that the conditions in section 6 will be prescriptive rather than dictatorial — in other words, that the Minister would prescribe the conditions under which the director would be appointed to the institute. The Minister should not have to approve the appointment of the director. The governing body should do the necessary administration, advertising, selection and appointment. This is preferable in the context of a third level education institute. The unnecessary constraints placed upon this appointment will leave it open to the possible interpretation that it will be a party political appointment, which is to be avoided at all costs in third level education. The governing body and the academic body will obviously be made up of people with high intellect and integrity. In that context, the need for formal ministerial approval does not exist. What is preferred is a prescriptive condition to the appointment of the director.

Section 9 provides for the appointment of members other than the director to the staff of the institute and exacts ministerial approval. As the director's is the most important post in the institute, it is reasonable and in accordance with sound practice that ministerial approval should be written into the Act. As the House knows, the NCA Act of 1979 has a similar provision. I accept, as Deputy Collins says, that the governing body will be beyond impugning as far as intellect and integrity are concerned. I cannot envisage any situation where the Minister will turn down the recommendation of the governing bodies, but it is reasonable and in accordance with good practice to maintain the position that the Minister's approval has to be sought and received.

Is amendment No. 8 withdrawn?

For the sake of speed, I withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, between lines 47 and 48, to insert the following:

"8. —(1) The Governing Body shall, subject to such conditions as the Minister may prescribe, from time to time appoint in a whole-time capacity a person to be referred to as `the Registrar' and who is in this Act referred to as the Registrar.

(2) The Registrar shall act as registrar and secretary of the Institute.".

This amendment seeks to have a protective office of registrar in the institute, on the basis that every Augustus needs a Caesar, that the director should have a counterweight in the person of a registrar. While there may be provisions in the Bill for the appointment of a registrar, it should be statutorily protected, so to speak, and there should be certain prescriptive powers in the Bill.

I know that there is a statutory post of registrar in the universities. I also know that there is a need for a registrar in the national institute, but the governing body have full power to appoint such a registrar, if they so wish. If the post is created, section 9 gives it statutory protection. The only post as specified in the Bill is chief officer. There is no need specifically to have a statutory post of registrar. If there were, I would accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 7, to delete lines 13 to 15, and substitute the following

"(3) The Institute may remove or suspend any of its officers (including the Director) from office.".

The governing body should have the direct power to remove or suspend officers of the institute, without reference to the Minister.

Briefly, on Committee Stage I did call attention to the fact that the Unfair Dismissals Act was available to people. The motivation behind this provision is the protection of staff.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 9, line 35, to delete "account and of such other account" and to substitute "accounts and of such other accounts".

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 12 is out of order.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 9, line 46, after "Institute" to add ",subject to such conditions as the Higher Education Authority may from time to time prescribe".

This refers to the fees charged. Since the overall grant for the institute comes from the Higher Education Authority, it is only proper that they should be responsible for the setting of the level of fees to be charged by the institute.

The Deputy had a similar amendment on Committee Stage. I think it was ruled out of order then and was to be raised again at this stage.

The Government will have an interest in the institute and its development and they feel that there should be a general interest by the Government in fees. Needless to say the income from fees affects what an institute needs from other sources for its proper running. Therefore, the Government and the Minister would have an interest in this.

As the House knows, the HEA have simply an advisory function with regard to the rate of fee and could not control the rate. Whereas people think of institutions as setting low fees and Ministers talking about high fees, the direct opposite could be the case and the Minister would like to have a certain amount of say in the matter.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 11, to delete lines 19 to 31, and substitute the following:

"6. (a) Where a member of the governing body——

(i) is elected to either House of the Oireachtas or is elected or appointed to the Assembly of the European Communities,

(ii) is adjudged bankrupt or makes under the protection or procedure of a court, a composition or arrangement with his creditors, or

(iii) is sentenced to a term of imprisonment by a court of competent jurisdiction,

he shall thereupon cease to be a member of the Governing Body.".

I hope the Minister will be sympathetic to this amendment which simply allows Members of the governing body freedom to stand for election either for the Houses of the Oireachtas or for the European Communities. The Bill as it stands would mean that a member of the governing body would have to resign if he were nominated to stand for election to the Houses of the Oireachtas or for the European Parliament. I contend he should be allowed stand freely. Indeed we should encourage such participation in public elections. If he were elected he would then resign but if he were not, he could continue to be a member of the governing body. The amendment is reasonable in the context of attracting people into public life and we should certainly allow them stand and, if not elected, remain members of the governing body.

On Committee Stage I pointed out a weakness in this with regard to people who are nominated to the Seanad. The amendment does not cater for them at all. To a certain extent I have sympathy with Deputy Collins on this whole matter. Indeed when I was on that side of the House I advocated something along the lines now being advanced by Deputy Collins. But the actual implications have been explained to me in more detail and, after much consideration and discussion, I have come to the conclusion that the existing format is necessary.

Is the amendment withdrawn?

Am I to put the amendment?

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 15, 16 and 17 are drafting amendments.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 13, line 15 to delete "and".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 13, line 21, to delete "decide," and substitute "decide, and".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 13, line 37, after "Director" to insert "shall be, ex officio, a member of the Academic Council and”.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.