Is mian liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadóirí a labhair sa díospóireacht seo agus a rá leo gur bhain mé sochar as an méid a bhí le rá acu.
Senator O'Brien in opening the debate for the Opposition gave a very well balanced view of the Bill before the House. He referred to the long delay in the development of the institutions, which arose from the Vocational Education Act, 1930, and regretted it. It is as well to set that Act in its context. From 1929 to 1940 the whole world was in a very depressed state and, in particular, industrialised countries were in serious economic difficulties. It was not a question of their reaching out and seeking for people with vocational training, technician training or technological training, it was a matter of trying to survive in a period which does little credit to anybody who was involved in trying to organise the world at that time.
I should like to put on the record of the House my appreciation of the part that Senator Mulcahy played many years ago in the development of the technological part of our education system. As the House knows, he was a pioneer in this respect and worked very hard on the committee which recommended the establishment of a chain of regional technical colleges throughout the country which would make technological education available to as many as possible in as many regions as possible with the allied view that industrial development would follow upon the establishment of these regional technical colleges. The House remembers that the commission mentioned the desirability of setting up new colleges and the idea of the national institutes grew from that recommendation, although the national institutes, being heavily in the technological area, are not quite what was recommended by the commission when it mentioned new colleges.
We got back to our old discussion with Senator Keating about the relative merits of what were called, by a man who died this morning, C.P. Snow, the two cultures. It is very easy to pick up something like that which had its own insights and which was a very important lecture in its time. It is very important to place it in its own social context because many of the points made by C.P. Snow in that lecture were to be taken in the context of the university which he attended and the social set-up in the country in which he lived. It is true, and has been mentioned in the course of this debate, that in many European countries there is a strict dichotomy between what we know as the traditional university and the technical institutes or technological universities. In this country we had a marriage of convenience quite a long time ago. Senator Staunton indicated that the universities were not properly here for technological input. We have in our universities civil engineering, chemical engineering, industrial engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, agricultural engineering. All these disciplines are already incorporated in one or other of the universities we have already. It is easy to develop a kind of cerebral argument about the two cultures as Senator Keating was doing, without their having very much reality in the country as a whole or at least outside certain restricted areas, particularly in our capital city.
Senator Hillery emphasised and praised the importance of the cooperative element in the education being provided in the National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick, but he thought a full year of connection with an industry was excessive and indicated that in some instances they had cut that down. He said perhaps this was an indication that the period they are using now is too much.
The second point he made on that—and perhaps these are detailed points which should be raised on Committee Stage—was the possibility that, when students from the institute got accustomed to working in industry, this would discourage them from doing postgraduate work later on, that they would be affected by the desire to be working and earning immediately and consequently, the research part of the institute would suffer as a result. This is a possibility. The acting director of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, was very keen that a develop-changin ment in research should take place. In my opening speech I indicated the exact strength of the research group there at the moment. Perhaps another suggestion that Senator Hillery made could come into play—I thought of it when he was speaking—if there is an industry which finds that the talents of a particular student from the National Institute, Limerick now, Dublin in the future, suit that particular institute, they could make a grant available to him to do the research. Consequently he, the institute and the industry would get the best of both worlds.
He also mentioned the danger of overemphasis on any particular development and he mentioned the danger of going overboard on electronics and particularly on electronic design at the expense of production engineering. These are details but they are, no doubt, details that will be taken cognisance of by the institute. I know that nearly everybody who feel it incumbent on him or her to make a speech nowadays must make some reference to micro-chips or electronics or the speed of technological advance and so on. There might be a danger that there would be overemphasis on this area. I am not in the position to say that there is but a warning perhaps is no harm at all. Our duty should be to see to it that the courses are available for people to take up the position in the rapidly expanding electronic industry. We should also be thinking in the education world about what will happen when the computer makes people redundant.
There is an obligation on us to think educationally, apart from economically and socially, about this particular problem. There is also an obligation on us to think out and research the best course for people, so that their minds will be as flexible and adaptable as possible and as creative as possible because they will have to train and retrain many times during their lifetime. It is important also in 1980 to put on record that we should not allow in 1984 a fictional 1984 situation to develop and to make sure that the type of education we are giving will see to it that the citizens will be in charge of the technology and not vice versa.
Thug Senator Whitaker óráid mhaith agus bhí sé soiléir go ndearna sé macnamh ar an gceist. Dúirt sé go raibh brón air gur sórt bord Stáit a bhí i gceist againn sa Bhille, nach raibh solúbthacht—de réir mar is cuimhne liom na focail a bhain sé usáid astu—ag baint leis an institiúid mar gheall ar an mBille agus go raibh mion-laincísí ar an institiúid, laincísí nach bhfuil ar na hollscoileanna.
Ní dóigh liomsa go bhfuil sé seo fíor. Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil gad ar bith ar an institiúid agus is féidir liom a rá nach bhfuilim ag glacadh leis na leasaithe a luaigh sé. Bhí sé ag caint ar níos mó cumhachta a thabhairt don bhord ach ag an am chéanna ní ag tabhairt níos mó cumhachta don mbord a bhí na leasuithe ach a mhalairt ar fad. Níl a fhios agam go bhfuil sé sin cóir nó an bhfuilim ag déanamh éagcóir ar an Seanadóir ach de réir mar a thuigimse an scéal deireann sé go gcuireann an Bille laincisí ar an institiúid ach mar sin féin tá laincis aige féin ar an mbord nó dhá laincis san méid a bhí le rá aige faoin chaighdeán agus faoi na poist ins an institiúid.
Éinne a léigh an méid atá ráite agamsa cheana féin sa Dáil agus in áiteanna eile sa tir tuigeann sé gur leag mise béim ó thús ar thábhact an chaighdeáin agus tá mé sásta go bhfuil an caighdeán sin le fáil ón NCEA. Dúirt an Seanadóir nach raibh aon dualgas ar an NCEA saineolaí nó saineolaithe a thabhairt isteach ón gcoigríoch ionas go ngeallfadh siad an caighdeán ins an institiúid, ach mar sin féin rinne mise taighde ar an scéal agus tháinig mé ar an eolas gur tháinig 41 saineolaithe cheana féin ag cabhrú leis an NCEA ionas go mbeadh caighdeán ceart ag na dioplómaí agus ag na céimeanna a bhronntar ón NCEA.
Luaigh Senator Whitaker freisin go raibh baint ag Ollscoil Náisiúnta na hÉireann leis an institiúid, go raibh sé mar choláiste aitheanta a dhein ollscoil ar feadh tamaill agus gur mise a chuir an colscaradh i gcrích. Ní bhéinn sa ghnó sin ach mar cheap nach raibh aon dul as agam agus go dtiocfadh feabhas ar an scéal dá mba rud é go raibh an colscaradh sin ann. Dúirt an Seanadóir Whitaker freisin gur chóir go mbeadh institiúid againn, foras againn a mheallfhadh micléinn ón acadúlacht go dtí an teicneolaoícht. Ceapaim go diongbhálta go bhfuil sé sin fíor, go bhfuil an institiúid sin ann agus go neartaíonn an Bille seo an institiúid.
When Senator Whitaker mentioned the idea that it was a State corporation rather than an educational institute I felt it was not exactly a fair criticism. Somebody took up the point later—I believe Senator Howard mentioned it also—and said that it was not a State board we needed. However, without it being a State board there are several aspects of many of a State board—I mention in Senator Howard's own area, SFADCo—which could be of benefit to the NIHE, namely, enterprise, the drive, push, and energy, the attempt to innovate and bring in new ideas, all those could be predicated off a national institute with benefit. I am 100 per cent in agreement with Senator Whitaker's ideas about standards, as I said in Irish, and staff appointments. The most important point of all is to make sure that the standard is high. Whatever others think about us we should make sure that the standard is high. The NCEA has an obligation in that respect, an obligation which I have emphasised time and again in the Houses of the Oireachtas and elsewhere, either at NCEA or NIHE occasions. The Membership of the Dáil and the Seanad is in agreement with me on this. I indicated that 41 foreign experts have been on various occasions, and in various disciplines, invited here to ensure that the standards laid down for certificates, diplomas and degrees by the NCEA are of the highest international repute. We could maintain that. We do not necessarily have to write it into this Bill.
Staff appointments are also to be the subject of an amendment by Senator Whitaker. He referred to the appointments in the NUI and the system of appointments there. Senator Murphy later said that there was an improvement. I believe he is right and that an improvement has taken place in that regard. The House might like to know the system that is being followed at the moment by the institute which is as of now an ad hoc institute without statutory being. Posts are advertised at home and abroad, some more extensively than others, depending on the specialism required. There is a five-man selection board constituted of two members of the senior academic staff of the institute and two people who are not members of the institute. Usually one of these is a senior academic of another third level institution. There is also a chairman who is a member of the governing body who is not on the staff of the the institute. To my mind, that is a reasonably good board for selection. In fact, if the basic qualifications are laid down and the procedure which has been adopted hitherto by the institute does not result in the best person getting a position, I cannot see that board of assessors from outside being in any better position for doing that. I know of a flagrant case in a university where the board of assessors unanimously recommended a person but he was not appointed to a position. All we can do is to strive for the ideal position. I do not think it is necessary to incorporate any structure in the Bill for the making of appointments. Wide advertising is important and a responsible board of the institute is important to advise the governing body making the appointment.
Senator Howard traced the relationship of the institute to the original grouping which pushed for a university in Limerick. He asked for a guarantee that the proper funding would be available for the institute and I have no hesitation in giving that guarantee and in also asserting that the per capita expenditure on the student body of the NIHE Limerick has been very high indeed. Those who read the Dáil Official Reports will know that from an answer I gave to a parliamentary question not so long ago. Senator Howard thought there was a lack of freedom for the governing body and also echoed the sentiment about a State board. I mentioned that already. There are certain aspects of State boards, particularly the State board in the Senator's own region, that many of our academic institutions could be doing with.
I should like to make the point that NIHE Limerick is a designated institution for the purposes of the higher education authority—An tUdarás Árd Oideachas, which sits as the assessor of needs and makes the recommendation. Luaigh an Seanadóir Cranitch an bás a tháinig ar an institiúid agus an forbairt a tháinig air ó bunaoidh é mar institiúid ad hoc. Mhol sé caighdeán na gceimeanna agus caighdeán na dioplomaí. He went on to refer to the extraordinary expansion in chemical and electronic technology and the need to have educational structures to cope with these developments. He emphasised one thing to which I attach particular importance, the link and co-operation between the regional technical colleges and the national institute. This is fundamental to the whole thinking behind the structure.
People who finish a certificate or diploma course, as the case may be, in a regional technical college should have places available to them in the national institute so that they will be able to move up in their own particular discipline from certificate to degree level. He also mentioned the importance of keeping a link with the various voluntary bodies and the various promotional institutes in the various spheres of our national life, and this is important also. Rinne sé tagairt sular éirigh sé as do thábhacht an éigse, do thábhacht na nithe spioradálta san institiúid agus dúirt sé nach raibh maitheas ar bith i bhforbairt den tsórt seo mura mbeadh grá tíre agus gnéithe den éigse seo le fáil ins an institiúid freisin. Is doigh liom go bhfuil an institiúid ag gníomhú mar is cóir sa méid sin i láthair na huaire.
Senator Conroy felt that higher education has not had the attention and support it deserved up to now and that the type of university development was one which was designed to produce people for the service of the Crown and that very often it was not alive to the present reality. I am not in agreement with him on that. As I have indicated already many of the areas of engineering have been wedded to the concept of the old traditional university and wedded successfully. There is no danger in this sphere of the colscaradh to which Senator Whitaker has referred.
Senator Conroy also emphasised, in agreement with Senator Whitaker, the importance of standards and of external assessment. I have indicated to the House that there is a very substantial element of the use of the external assessor already in this field. In fact, the amendment more rightly belonged to the Bill for the establishment of the National Council for Educational Awards. Indeed, it might be that the council itself would, on a triennial basis or every five years or so, invite, as well as the people they invite each year to act as assessors, people to make a general assessment of the standards for them. But we are not particularly involved in that here.
The Senator also referred to how vital it was to have an effective director and expressed satisfaction with the quality of work done by the existing director. He said he was unhappy with the idea of the director being permanent and, indeed, there are people in other institutes of higher education worried about this whole problem of people holding office for a long time. The Senator said that innovation, keeping in touch with new discoveries and fresh ideas was of the very nature of this institute and that all of us tend to become dulled and to run out of innovation as time goes on. It is a problem with regard to all institutes of higher education; it is one that perhaps they themselves and those of us who are involved heavily in education should address ourselves to.
Senator Murphy went on to pick up one point that Senator Conroy made and denied that Victorian was necessarily a pejorative adjective and went on to point out that many of our political ideas and so on developed from that period. He agreed that this institute was the right type of institute for Limerick and expressed very strongly the view that in 1968 we did not need just another university college. I know that University College, Cork, was involved in the various moves that were made with regard to the status of the institute in Limerick. I have already written formally to UCC to thank them for the amount of work they did at that time. He rightly said that there was no question of academic imperialism involved. The task was thrust upon them rather than the initiative coming from them and they trying to push out their own imperial frontiers in the direction of Limerick. This is true and the same is true of the involvement of UCG.
I take issue with Senator Murphy when he says that the Bill is out of character with the sentiments expressed. I do not think there is an overdue measure of Ministerial control built into the Bill. This was a theme that was repeated time and again by other Senators. In fact amendments were made by me on the suggestion of the governing body of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick. There is no intention on my part—and I do not think careful reading of the Bill will indicate it—to arrogate to myself too much power. The level of Ministerial control is well below what is exercised, as has been said elsewhere, in other institutes.
When Senator Murphy asked the question—and it is a proper question to ask—why should we accept standards or models from Europe, he went on to say something I did not agree with, that they were already dictating our foreign policy and so on. We have a greater involvement in Europe. The development of our economy now has to be influenced more and more by Europe. I mentioned Eindhoven in the Dáil, I mention it here now to indicate that, as is the European tradition mentioned by Senator Murphy, there is a far greater degree of control in these institutions in Europe. That was not why I brought it up at all. The reason I brought it up was that there was an indication that standards might fall in these circumstances. What I am saying is that it does not logically follow that the standards do fall, and that in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union, where a far greater degree of control is exercised, very high standards indeed can be achieved. That was the particular reason I brought up the points that there is not a necessary link between standards achieved and the degree of control exercised.
Senator Murphy praised the section of the Bill which demanded a declaration of interest on the part of anybody who was involved in any of the business of appointments or other business of the institute where there could be a clash of interest. He also supported the nomination of the National Council for Educational Awards as the award-making council for the institute. I would be sorry to think there was any truth in his suggestion that the Minister's role, as outlined in the Bill, would be deleterious to the working of the institute. The progress it has made so far was made by it purely as an ad hoc body. Very generous amounts of money were allocated by the various Governments since it was set up as ad hoc body and all that took place in a context where there was no statutory basis. To use a phrase somebody else used, if this could happen in the green wood, let us hope that it will take fire in the dry. The Senator indicated general support for the views about the appointment system and standards, but denied that this ivory tower situation existed to the extent that some people claim it does in our higher education field.
Senator Murphy mentioned academic drift. It has happened elsewhere that institutes which were designed to provide a sound technological education, with special "isms" in certain spheres, moved away out of that altogether and developed a large sociological side. In the end, that kind of sociological tail wagged the technological dog. This is something which we do not want to happen. I am not conceding that the Department have put a stranglehold on the institute in order to avoid that. It is important that the institute knows exactly what it is doing, what its role is, and that it should dedicate itself to that role. This is in no way restrictive of it within the field for which it is designed.
Senator FitzGerald talked—and scared me because I am afraid of power—of the enormous powers of the Minister. I do not concede that a closer reading of the Bill will in any way validate this claim by Senator FitzGerald. He mentioned the tradition of Germanic control on the Continent, and indeed Gallic control, because, as a centralised idea, this is at least as evident in France. He said that this idea of control of a higher education institute was not one we had in these islands. That is true. He said there was a danger in it. Senator Murphy mentioned how silent the members of the various German universities were during the great tragedy that occurred in that country in the thirties, which led to the dreadful war from 1939 to 1945.
I think of another European country on the eve of another conflict. In a university the famous Spanish writer and philosopher, Unamuno, when one of the new leaders in that country shouted, "Abajo la inteligencia”, Down with the intellect”, “Muerte a la inteligencia”, “Death to the intellect”, stood up and said he was speaking in the temple of the intellect, that he would not sit there and allow this philosophy to be propounded. We would hope that no higher institute of education in this country would fall down in that situation. I would claim in the case of Unamuno, it owes as much to the individual character of the people as to the institute for which he was speaking.
In an institute like the one in Limerick, the freedom to criticise whether educational policy, or industrial policy, or social policy, should be cherished and will be cherished. There is nothing in this Bill which would indicate that the Minister, or the Government, or anybody else, would have any power to prohibit this. I have no power in it that will either corrupt me or tend to corrupt me, with all due apologies to Lord Acton. Senator FitzGerald also emphasised the importance of the high standard of the qualifications given. I have already said I too attach this importance to it. It is essential. Steps have been taken in the other Act to ensure that.
The inter-disciplinary aspect was also referred to. It is important, although sometimes I wonder whether we do not attach too much importance to it. In the traditional university where you have science, arts, commerce, engineering, I wonder whether, in some of them at least which have grown rather large, there is much cross-fertilisation as of now. Perhaps where you have a residential situation, there is more than there is in the non-residential. At a meeting with the Irish Federation of University Teachers recently, one member of the delegation from one of the smaller colleges said there was a deal of cross-fertilisation and cross-pollination. That is the ideal. As the Senator said, rubbing shoulders with others who are following different disciplines is important and is an important part of the education of students. This is catered for in the institute in Limerick to a certain extent, perhaps not as much as would be desirable, perhaps not as much in the other universities and university colleges in Ireland.
If I may be permitted to reminisce I remember going to a lecture given in London when I was doing some work there. I was an exile from Erin. It was a talk by Professor Bowra a very famous classicist who had a knowledge of all European languages and was professor of poetry at that time at the University of Oxford. I was sitting beside a student who was doing post-graduate work, having got his Special B.Sc. It was a degree of a particularly high standard. When the lecture was over we adjourned to the students union for a bottle of ale and he told me he had not the remotest idea of what the man had been talking about. The actual lecture was perhaps a far-fetched one. He was interpreting national character from the literatures of various countries. As he knew all the European languages from ancient Greek up, he made a particularly interesting job of it. It was a very interesting lecture but the student said that he did not understand it at all. In a sense it proved the dichotomy of the highly specialised scientific discipline. He was a student of an Irishman called J.D. Bernal of whom no doubt the House has heard. He said that when the lecture was published he would buy it and study it. Some of the lecture was a bit far-fetched but it was in the traditional academic strain. It was disturbing to find somebody who had achieved a very high distinction in pure science would make that admission and it would bear out what Senator FitzGerald said with regard to the importance of the admixture.
He also emphasised the importance of independent research. I have referred to the research element already. I know that the director was very keen that there should be post-graduate work in the institute and feared that he might be prohibited from having this. I mentioned in my opening speech that there is considerable research, but possibly not quite as independent as the Senator was thinking of, going on there at the moment. I am sure that the research is in the applied field more than any other.
Senator West also referred to the importance of pure research. I may make a comment on that later on. The Senator made a point at the very end of his speech and I am not quite sure if I understand what he meant. He said that there was no such provision in the Bill for setting up An tÚdarás um Ard Oideachas. Section 1 (1) (c) of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971 specifies "institution of higher education" as:
an institution which the Minister, after consultation with An tÚdarás, designates by regulations as an institution of higher education for the purposes of this Act;
That is the reference which has cross-reference in the Bill before the House. I do not have to express resentment at being called a figurehead again by Senator West as I interrupted him to do so. He also was very insistent on the freedom and talked about the importance of pure research. I must confess that I am not fully aware of the fields which are being researched now but I would be inclined to believe that the research that is being done is in applied science or how to apply science in the various fields for which the institute caters.
Senator West made the point that the MIT had achieved a very high name in the field of technology, one of the highest in the world, and he talked about the importance of pure science in that context as well as the importance of maintaining a liberal arts stream in the institute. Some of the older universities insisted in the case even of applied science degrees that degrees of more or less importance in the liberal arts should be taken as well. That used to be the tradition. Again his emphasis was on standards and on the quality of appointments. I have commented on that.
Senator Staunton referred to the situation where we had too many arts graduates and too few in technology hitherto. I always like to distinguish in this field because it is not so much what they graduate in as the danger of feeling that they have been stereotyped for certain positions that I would quarrel with. People in, for example, the computer field have told me that arts graduates very often make very good trainees in the field of applied computer science, not merely at graduate level but at the level of the leaving certificate. The idea of being programmed or stereotyped or ready to be put into a certain type of job has done more harm than the actual quality of the certificate or the range of subjects studied because a student holding the leaving certificate or a B.A. degree may feel inclined to say, "I am not qualified for anything other than this or that or the other type of job." Those of us who are in the education world could encourage people to think more widely, to think in terms even of apprenticeships and various technician jobs even where the weight of subjects studied has been in the other field. I do not want to sound unrealistic but I have been at various AnCO centres and found people with arts degrees doing courses there. This is all to the good and if we could expand that kind of thing it would be all the better.
I made the point already with regard to what Senator Staunton said, that our traditional universities had nothing to do with technology. He did not say it in so many words but he said that the marriage of technological and traditional universities was not possible. It has been done very successfully in the case of all the various engineering fields that I have mentioned already. I regard that the final sanction of the Minister in the question of dismissing people is an extra safeguard for the person being dismissed rather than a undue interference in the work of the governing body or the institute.
Senator Connaughton felt that there were too many nominees by the Minister but if the Senator examines the text of this Bill carefully he will see that the dangers of abuse to which he referred are not as great as he imagines. He has an interest in adult education and he welcomed the Bill as being one more effort to cope with the fast-changing technological world in which we live.
Mar fhocal scoir gabhaim búiochas arís leis na Seanadóiri as ucht an céad codán mór den Seanad a labhair i rith na diospóireachta. Tá mé faoi chomaoin acu agus tá súil agam nach mbeidh aon ró-mhoill ar an gcuid eile den Bhille.