Agus an dara léamh á mholadh agam don Bhille seo maidir leis An Foras Náisiúnta um Árd-Oideachais, Luimneach, a chur ar bhonn reachtúil, measaim go mba chóir dom i dtús báire cúlra an scéil a thabhairt i láthair.
Ar 12 Nollaig 1968, d'eisigh an tAire Oideachais, Brian Ó Luineacháin, TD, ráiteas ag foillsiú go raibh beartaithe ag an Rialtas institiúid den triú leibhéal a bhunú i Luimneach agus go mbeadh soláthar chaipitil ar fáil chuige sin. Dúirt an tAire freisin ag an am go raibh sé tar éis iarraidh ar an Údarás um Árd Oideachas moltaí a chur ar fáil faoi conas d'fhéadfaí a leithéid d'institiúid a shníomh isteach sa structúr a bhí nó a bheadh ann i réimse an ard oideachais.
Sa chéad tuarascáil uathu dár dáta 30 Márta 1969, dhein an tÚdarás um Árd Oideachas na moltaí seo leanas maidir leis an institiúid nua a bhí beartaithe do Luimneach:—
(a) Coláiste Árd Oideachais a bhunú i Luimneach;
(b) cúrsaí céime a chur ar fáil san institiúid seo maille le réimse leathan de chúrsaí a oirfeadh do mhic léinn nár chomhlíon na coinnhollacha a bhí leagtha síos ag na hollscoileanna nó nár mhian leo cúrsa ollscoile a leanúint;
(c) cúrsaí a chur ar fáil do dhaoine a bhí fostaithe cheana féin agus a theastaigh uathu a gcaighdeán oideachais a árdú nó a gcuid scileanna a fheabhsú nó cáilíochtaí breise a bhaint amach;
(d) mic léinn a mhealladh ó gach áird in Éirinn tré cúrsaí a chur ar fáil nach raibh ar fáil cheana féin in institiúidí eile, cé gur thuig an tÚdarás go mbeadh tromlach na mic léinn ag teacht on gceantar thart timpeall ar Luimneach;
(e) ba chóir go mbeadh an institiúid nua bunaithe ar na prionsabail seo leanas:
(i) institiúid náisiúnta a bheith ann ag plé le riachtanaisí na tíre go léir agus le mic léinn ag teacht ó gach ard den tír;
(ii) cúram ar leith a dhéanamh san institiúid de riachtanaisí an cheantair;
(iii) údarás neamhspleách a bheith ar an institiúid ach í a bheith faoi chúram ginireálta an Údaráis um Árd Oideachas;
(iv) bunreacht so-athraithe a bheith ag an institiúid ionas go bfhéadfaí deighleáil le riachtanaisí na tíre agus an cheantair de réir mar a nochtfaí iad san am a bheidh le teacht;
(v) cúrsaí céime, cúrsaí diploma, cúrsaí teastais a bheith ar fáil agus iad á bhronnadh ag Comhairle Náisiúnta na gCáilíochtaí Oideachais;
(vi) Ar dtús, bheadh tromlach na gcúrsaí ag leibhéal an teastais agus an diploma agus thabharfadh na cúrsaí sin taithí do lucht stiúradh na hinstitiúide i bpleanáil cúrsaí céime;
(vii) an caighdeán iontrála do chúrsaí céime a bheith ar aon dul leis an gcaighdeán sna hollscoileanna; do gach cúrsa eile bheadh an tÁrd Teistiméireacht (Pas) nó a comhionann ag teastáil;
(viii) bheadh obair na hinstitiúide bunaithe ar an dteicneolaíocht ach le réimse fiúntach den éigse.
Mhol an tÚdarás um Ard Oideachas an chur chuige seo leanas:—
(a) go mbunódh an tAire Oideachais bord pleanála le seisear baill ar a mhéid;
(b) go gceapfaí stiurthóir agus cuid den fhoireann sinnsireach; go mbeadh an stiurthóir ina chathaoirleach ar an mbord pleanála agus go mbeadh sé de dhualgas ar an mbord na sochruithe cuí a dhéanamh maidir le suíomh d'fháil, foirgnimh a thógáil, troscáin agus fearais a chur ar fáil, cúrsaí a chur le chéile, agus mar sin de; agus
(c) go mbeadh sé de dhualgas ar an mbord pleanála freisin dréacht de bhunreacht don institiúid nua a chur faoi bhráid an Údaráis um Ard Oideachas.
Cuireadh an chéad tuarascáil seo de'n Údarás um Ard Oideachas faoi bhráid an Rialtais ar 2 Aibreán 1969, sar ar leagadh é ar bhord Tithe an Oireachtais.
Ceapadh stiúrthóir don institiúid agus chuaigh sé i mbun na hoibre ar 1 Eanair 1970. Cheannaigh mo Roinnse an suíomh ag Plassey i Mi Feabhra 1970 agus bunaíodh Bord Pleanála sa mhí céanna. Seisear a bhí ar an mbord taobh amuigh den stiúrthóir-chathaoirleach. Cuathas i mbun deisiú Teach Plassey i 1971 agus bhí an obair sin críochnaithe i 1972. Tógadh roint foirgnimh réamhdhéanta freisin. Tugadh cead an chéad grúpa den fhoireann teagaisc a cheapadh i Mí Meán Fómhair 1971 agus faomhadh na cúrsaí a bhí le cur ar siúl sa bhliain acadúil 1972-73. Tháinig mic léinn isteach san institiúid nua den chéad uair i Mí Dheireadh Fómhair 1972.
With the acceptance of the first group of 100 students in autumn 1972, the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, came into being with programmes leading to diploma and degree awards in administrative systems, business studies, electronic engineering, European studies and materials and industrial engineering. The accommodation provided in Plassey House and prefabricated structures was quickly supplemented by the first phase of permanent building which, with the aid of a World Bank loan, was commenced in 1972 and completed by 1975. This provided accommodation for 1,100 students in 18,500 sq. metres.
The growth of the institute since 1972 can be gauged by the fact that in the current academic year, there are over 1,300 full-time students, and over 1,100 part-time students, following degree courses in business studies, administrative systems, European studies, regional studies, public administration, electronic eingineering, industrial and management mathematical science, materials and production engineering, energy technology and chemical technology with diploma courses in business studies, banking, European studies, industrial electronics, instrumentation and control, computer engineering, materials and production engineering and industrial design. There is also a certificate level course in data processing as well as post-graduate courses leading to the award of master's degrees and doctorates. There are over 100 post-graduate students in the institute in the current academic year.
The National Coalition Government's decisions of 13 December 1974 in relation to higher education included the following in relation to the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick:
(i) The National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick shall be a recognised college of the National University of Ireland, with the capacity to evolve into a constituent college of the National University of Ireland or to become an autonomous degree-awarding institution.
(ii) The majority of the members of the Governing Body of the NIHE Limerick shall be nominated by the Government on the recommendation of the Minister for Education and shall include representatives from the trade unions, agriculture, business, industry and educational interests.
(iii) A Council for Technological Education shall be established to plan and co-ordinate courses and to validate and award non-degree third-level qualifications in the NIHE Limerick (and other institutions).
(iv) The National Institute for Higher Education Limerick shall be a designated institution for the purposes of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971.
(v) The Governing Body of the NIHE Limerick shall consist of twenty-five members.
On 5 March 1975 the Government approved a list of names of persons to be invited to act on the Governing Body of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick. The first meeting of the Governing Body was held on 19 June 1975.
The National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, was granted Recognised College status by the National University of Ireland in 1976, and the university was the degree-awarding authority for students of the institute who graduated in 1976 and 1977.
On 14 December 1976 the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, was designated by the Minister for Education as an institution of higher education for the purpose of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971.
That then was the position when I became Minister for Education. One of my first actions as Minister for Education was to restore to the National Council for Educational Awards its degree awarding function. I had discussions in the matter with UCG, which was the college dealing with the NIHE. Limerick, on behalf of the National University of Ireland, with representatives of the governing body of the NIHE and with the National Council for Educational Awards. On 18 November 1977 I announced that the NCEA was to be the degree-awarding authority in the case of students who successfully completed degree level courses in the NIHE, Limerick, and also in the NIHE, Dublin, the Thomond College of Education and the regional technical colleges.
As a result of my discussions with the bodies concerned, a smooth transfer of responsibility for degree awards from the National University of Ireland to the National Council for Educational Awards was achieved. I want to put on the record of the House how grateful I was, and am, to the National University of Ireland and in particular to University College, Galway and University College, Cork which did some work also in this field, for making that transfer as smooth as it actually was. The NCEA was the degree-awarding authority for the NIHE, Limerick, from 1978 onwards.
I now propose to summarise the main provisions of the Bill as it has been presented. Section 1 deals with the interpretation of the various terms used in the Bill. Section 2 establishes the institute which shall be known in the Irish language as An Foras Náisiúnta um Ard Oideachas, Luimneach, and in the English language as the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick. Section 3 defines what is meant by membership of the institute. Section 4 provides for the functions of the institute. The functions are:
(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 postgraduate 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 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;
(e) 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 provision of this Act;
(f) 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.
Under section 4 (2) the Minister, with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance, may by order assign to the institute such additional functions as he thinks fit. Section 5 provides for the establishment of a governing authority for the institute, to be known as the governing body, and prescribes its structure and functions. More detailed provisions for the operation of the governing body are set out in the First Schedule. The governing body is to consist of a chairman, the director and 23 ordinary members. The chairman and the 23 ordinary members shall be appointed by the Government on the recommendation of the Minister. The manner of appointment of the 23 ordinary members is set out in section 5 (4) and is as follows:
(a) nine shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Minister in accordance with the provisions of section 5 (5) which draws particular attention to the need for adequate representation of industry, agriculture, fisheries, commerce and the professions;
(b) three shall be appointed who shall be members of the academic staff of the institute who shall be chosen by the academic staff in accordance with regulations made by the governing body;
(c) one shall be appointed who is a member of the non-academic staff of the institute chosen in accordance with regulations made by the governing body;
(d) two shall be appointed who are full-time students of the institute chosen in accordance with regulations made by the governing body;
(e) three shall be appointed on the recommendation of the governing body of Thomond College of Education, Limerick;
(f) two shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Minister from members of the teaching staff of regional technical colleges;
(g) two shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Minister from members of the management boards of regional technical colleges; and
(h) one shall be appointed on the recommendation of the governing body of the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin.
Section 6 provides for the functions of the governing body. The governing body shall manage and control all the affairs and property of the institute and shall perform all the functions conferred on the institute by this Act and shall have all such powers as may be necessary under this Act for this purpose. The governing body may from time to time appoint such and so many committees as it thinks proper to assist it in such manner as the governing body shall direct and the governing body may assign to any committee so appointed such duties as it thinks fit. The acts of any such committee shall be subject to confirmation by the governing body unless the governing body dispenses with the necessity for such confirmation.
Section 7 provides for a post of chief officer of the institute, to be known as the director. The Second Schedule sets out the conditions governing the appointment of the director. Section 8 provides for the establishment of an academic council for the institute and prescribes the functions of the council. The academic council act as specialist advisers to the governing body on academic matters. Its functions relate to the planning, co-ordination, development and overseeing of the educational work of the institute. The membership and terms of office of the academic council are determined by regulations made by the governing body. Section 8 (3) lists particular functions of the council as follows:
(a) to design, develop and implement appropriate programmes of study;
(b) to make recommendations to the governing body for the establishment of appropriate structures to implement such programmes of study;
(c) to make recommendations to the governing body on programmes for the development of research;
(d) to make recommendations to the governing body for the selection, admission, retention and exclusion of students;
(e) to make, subject to the approval of the governing body, and to implement the academic regulations of the institute;
(f) to propose to the governing body the form of regulations to be made by the governing body for the conduct of examinations and for the evaluation of academic progress;
(g) to make recommendations to the governing body for the award of fellowships, scholarships, bursaries, prizes or other awards;
(h) to make general arrangements for tutorial or other academic counselling;
(i) to exercise other functions, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, which may be delegated to it by the governing body; and
(j) to implement any regulations which may be made by the governing body concerning any of the matters aforesaid.
With the approval of the governing body, the academic council may establish such and so many committees either consisting wholly or partly of persons who are not members of the institute as it thinks proper to assist the academic council in the performance of its functions and may determine the functions of any committee so established.
Section 10 provides that the staff serving in the ad hoc institute may be transferred to the service of the statutory body and protects the conditions of service, pay and pension rights of the transferred staff, which will not be any less favourable than the conditions they enjoyed while serving as members of the staff of the ad hoc body.
Section 11 places responsibility on the institute to prepare and submit to the Minister as soon as possible after the passing of the Act, a pension scheme for staff. All provisions of any pension scheme submitted by the institute will be subject to the approval of the Minister with the concurrence of the Minister for the Public Service. Every approved scheme will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and may be annulled by resolution within 21 sitting days.
Section 12 requires the governing body to submit to the Minister annually a report of the work of the institute. The section also provides that the institute will give the Minister any information about its operation that he may require from time to time.
Section 13 provides that in each year there shall, in accordance with section 12 (2) of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971, be paid by the Higher Education Authority to the institute, out of moneys received by the Authority under section 12 (1) of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971, a grant or grants of such amount or amounts as the Authority think fit.
Section 14 requires the institute to keep accounts which must be submitted annually to the Comptroller and Auditor General. When received by the institute the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General must be submitted with the accounts to the Minister. The Minister will lay the accounts before each House of the Oireachtas.
Section 15 enables the institute to charge fees for admission to courses, lectures, examinations, exhibitions or any other event held by the institute or for admission to any event held at the institute. Section 16 is the usual provision that the expenses incurred by the Minister in the administration of the Act shall, to such extent as may be sanctioned by the Minister for Finance, be paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas.
Section 17 provides for the short title and the commencement date.
I should like to record my appreciation of the great service rendered by the planning board in getting the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick off the ground and overseeing its development in the early years of its existence. I should also like to pay tribute to the work of the ad hoc governing body which has been responsible for the affairs of the institute since 1975 and whose term of office has been extended by me until the institute is established on a statutory basis.
The decision of the Government, announced by my predecessor, Deputy Brian Lenihan, in 1968, was a difficult one, but in hindsight the right one. It must have been tempting to announce the establishment in Limerick of a university college, modelled closely on those that were well-established and well-respected in Dublin, Cork and Galway rather than the creation of a new, and, consequently, less understood concept. The latter was the course, quite consciously taken, in the interests of the people of Limerick and, being a national institute, of the country as a whole.
It is satisfying, now in 1980, to see that the wisdom of the decision is evident; the graduates of NIHE are providing the country with a new range of expertise in disciplines ranging from microprocessor engineering to European studies, and while providing existing Irish enterprises with the expertise necessary for the microchip age, their very presence serves to attract a variety of new industries into this country.
In many senses the need to make a new start in Limerick arose from our success in the sixties in stimulating economic growth. At that time we succeeded in both reawakening Irish business and industry and attracting a considerable amount of foreign investment. Initially, and quite understandably, our development frequently depended on a large labour force eager for work, but for the most part neither highly skilled nor with a background in business or industry. The dynamic growth of the sixties made it quite evident that we had in Ireland qualities which few abroad had previously attributed to us: we could achieve high levels of productivity and rapidly assimilate new knowledge and acquire new skills. Those industrial organisations which came to Ireland in the sixties discovered many of our latent strengths and built upon them. Initially, of course, much of the newly generated employment was not particularly sophisticated or intellectually demanding. However, the sixties served to lay the foundation for a new era of development, which commenced in the seventies and is now under way in the eighties. Ireland is no longer looked upon as a source of cheap unskilled labour, but as one of the special locations where the engineering, business and scientific expertise necessary for the sophistication of the microchip era is available. As an indication of this, employment in the electronics industry in 1979 was double the 1973 level, and during the same period the value of electronic exports has grown from £38 million to £305 million. Already there are over 70 companies in the industry in Ireland, including 12 out of the top 100 US electronic firms. This would have been inconceivable ten years ago, and impossible had we not taken the initiative in the late sixties to establish the regional technical colleges and to invest heavily in the major technological centre which has been created on the Limerick campus.
Increasing numbers of our young people are now well equipped for challenging careers within their own country. No longer must large numbers of our most talented youth go abroad for employment. The drain on our life-blood has been stopped: now our able young people make things happen here and industry is now coming to Ireland in order to avail of this talent.
The NIHE, Limerick, Bill, 1980, is intended to make statutory a new and important component of the Irish higher-educational structure. It is not intended that NIHE, Limerick, should be inferior, or indeed superior, to the established universities within the State; rather it is intended that its work should be complementary and its standing comparable. Other countries have found need to introduce similar new institutions as their economies develop, and indeed the parallel drawn with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by my predecessor when in 1968 he announced the decision to establish the institute still stands. The country is at a stage of economic development where we need a full contribution both from the established universities and the new NIHEs in Limerick and Dublin, which will be established statutorily. I will be coming before the House again with regard to that matter.
The recently enacted legislation for the National Council for Educational Awards makes it clear that academic standards are set at levels comparable to those in the established universities, while any visitor to the Limerick campus leaves without any doubt that the facilities and equipment already provided compare favourably with the best found within this country or abroad.
While equivalent in standard and standing to the established universities as a designated body under the HEA, the institute is expected to have a special relationship with the regional technical colleges. Through interaction with the RTCs, and I want to emphasise this, and in conjunction with the NCEA, it is intended that programmes and regulations should be developed in a compatible way so as to ensure ready mobility of students in this case vertical mobility. We shall have as an ambition horizontal mobility between universities and the disciplines in them and also the national institutes.
The capital investment and resources necessary to achieve levels of excellence in any discipline of engineering or science are great. However, optimum use of our available resources can only be achieved through close collaboration between the various institutions. With careful planning it should be possible to facilitate a student with ability to progress within the State from one centre to another in order to specialise in his chosen field.
In deciding that degree programmes operated at NIHE, Limerick, and accredited by the NCEA, should be both practically oriented and at the same time comparable in standard to those in the established universities, special constraints are placed on those planning and operating the programmes: not only must the programmes be career-orientated but they must also be academically rigorous. The two requirements are not, of course, mutually exclusive, but nevertheless special effort must be taken to ensure that the sensitive balance is achieved and maintained.
While the institute was assisted by its own development consultants, and monitored by the extern examiners of the National Council for Education Awards, it was recognised that the success and the standing of the institute would ultimately be measured by the performance of its graduates.
It is now widely known that NIHE, Limerick, graduates are eagerly sought out by employers, and many individuals—particularly in areas such as electronic engineering—choose from four to five attractive job offers even before they complete their courses. As a result, each year 80 per cent of NIHE graduates go directly into Irish employment, while of the remainder some 15 per cent undertake research or further study and less than 5 per cent go abroad for employment.
Not as widely known perhaps is the achievement of the smaller number of NIHE, Limerick graduates who have undertaken post graduate study abroad in a number of leading university centres. Perhaps the most vivid example is the success of European studies graduates at the College of Europe in Bruges, where over the last three years they have distinguished themselves. In fact in 1979 an NIHE Limerick graduate took first place in a class of 130 postgraduate students drawn from leading educational centres throughout the European Community.
Various approaches have been adopted to ensure that NIHE, Limerick, undertakes work which is relevant to the needs of the community at large. Perhaps the most successful of those has been the co-operative education programme whereby every national diploma and every degree student spends one or two six-month periods in employment off campus.
The co-operative education programme introduced in Limerick is new to the country and is perhaps the single most important element of the innovation on the NIHE campus. Quite obviously the students benefit from their practical experience and equally important perhaps is the fact that the faculty members of the institute have an opportunity while supervising students to visit and establish relationships with a wide range of Irish business, industrial, professional and State organisations. Through this interaction changes in the curriculum are brought about, the need to mount new programmes is identified and various consultancy and research projects are initiated.
During the past year the institute's heavy involvement in the special manpower programme, designed to meet special manpower shortages, has led to a significant increase in enrolment, to a total of 2,462 students, of whom 1,302 are full-time. While the existing facilities have been modified to some extent to cope with the increased numbers, I was pleased to announce recently that a major expansion is at an advanced planning stage. When complete this will more than double the available capacity. In the interim I know that various arrangements are being made to accommodate the increased enrolment planned for the forthcoming academic year.
Because of its special mission the institute has focussed on the disciplines of engineering and business and in 1979 over 350 new full-time students entered the College of Engineering and Science, while over 280 entered the College of Business. In terms of size alone the institute has therefore become the country's main source of engineering graduates and after UCD the country's largest source of business graduates.
I am particularly anxious to achieve a fully satisfactory result in relation to consideration of this Bill as I attach great importance for the future of Ireland to the development of technological education through the National Institutes of Higher Education and the regional technical colleges which will be closely associated with them. I have given careful consideration to all recommendations and suggestions made to me since publication of the Bill with the result that a considerable number of amendments have been made on the Committee and Report Stages of its consideration by the Dáil. This Act for the establishment of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, will serve as the model for the legislation in connection with the National Institute in Dublin and for Thomond College of Education. Accordingly, I propose to introduce those two Bills immediately after the Summer Recess and anticipate a speedy passage through the Oireachtas for them.
Molaim mar sin an Bille don tSeanad mar thógra a bhfuil lán-mhuinín agam as ó thaobh leas na tíre agus an oideachais.