Amendments Nos. 22, 23, 28, 30 and 115 are related and may be discussed together.
Universities Bill, 1996: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I have already spoken on this amendment and we had a wide ranging discussion. This is a core value of the Bill and the Minister promised to take the spirit of this amendment on board in consideration of her Report Stage amendments. I hope she is actively doing so.
I look forward to proposing amendments in this regard on Report Stage which will seek to address the concerns raised.
Amendment No. 28 is based on a concern that it is not just the university which should have academic freedom, but that the individuals within the university should also have that freedom. Academic freedom is recognised for the university but individuals within that university may feel constrained. Senator Henry tabled this amendment to ensure individuals had that academic freedom traditional in universities.
Amendments Nos. 24, 24a and 25 are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 11, lines 13 to 15, to delete and substitute the following paragraph (d):
"(d) to promote the extensive use of the Irish language and the cultivation and promotion of the rich and distinctive linguistic and cultural resources of Ireland.".
Senator Dardis asked me to speak on this amendment. It is not a matter of vast ideological moment but an attempt to improve the phraseology and to give a more cultured profile to what we are trying to achieve. I will not linger on or launch a panegyric on this. Perhaps the Minister will find a phraseology to satisfy the aspirations being expressed in the amendments.
I consider the promotion of the Irish language by universities to be a worthwhile and necessary part of their mission. The Bill ensures that all universities now have a statutory obligation to promote and preserve the Irish language. This is the first time such a statutory requirement will be in place and it will give a significant impetus to this important area of university activity.
I will consider the proposals of Senators Dardis, Lee and O'Toole. Phraseology was mentioned and I am willing to look at this on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 11, paragraph (f), line 18, after "professional" to insert "administrative,".
One can argue that this could be subsumed under other headings. They may not always appreciate it, but I have a weakness for our public administration. They should have equal merit as administrative workers even if they are managerial or technical workers. "Administrative" embraces a variety of qualities and I tabled this amendment to see if the Minister shared my view.
It is not that I think we have a difference of opinion but I consider that higher level administrative personnel would be covered, and I intend them to be covered, by the reference to higher level professional and managerial personnel.
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 11, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the new paragraph:
"(j) to foster a capacity for independent critical thought among students,"
As I was looking over these amendments, I was asking "what was the intended end product? In terms of the education of individuals, it is precisely this new paragraph. If it is considered redundant or self-evident or it is felt that it ought to follow from all the other objects, I am quite prepared to accept that. I will await the Minister's response to it.
I must support Senator Lee. I would be concerned that there is no capacity for independent critical debate among students. I want the Minister to qualify that there would be independent discussion and debate among students and that there would be nothing ambiguous about the statement in amendment No. 27.
I add my support to that of Senator Ormonde for Senator Lee's amendment. If there is such a long list of objects and one were to consider what it should include, I would have thought it likely that one would include "to foster a capacity for independent critical thought among students". I would have thought that the concept of a university in the future as much as in the past is to create a willingness for independent critical thought among students. That is a worthy objective of any university and I support it.
I support the amendment for the same reason. It goes right to the heart of the concept of university education.
I believe section 12(a) which states, "to advance knowledge through teaching, scholarly research and scientific investigation" and section 12(b), which states "to promote learning in its student body and in society generally", advance the students' capacity for independent critical thought. I take it that the universities and the people who are responsible would have to respond to those two objects. If the University Senators, who are capable of fostering independent critical thought among their students, felt that this needed to be underwritten in statute, I shall bow to their wisdom. We do not disagree but I thought the first two objectives of a university catered adequately for the activity in the colleges.
I thank the Minister for that gracious response. I was not going to press the matter but I have been impressed by my colleagues' reassuring me of the correctness of my instinct. We can become otiose. We can become redundant quickly. There is much overlap between various objectives but there is a slight difference. Subsections (a) and (b) "to advance knowledge through teaching... "and "to promote learning in its student body and in society generally", are integral parts of university activity but "to foster a capacity for independent critical thought among students" gives a sharper focus on the student as the product of at least part of this enterprise. One can be very learned and not really have a great capacity for independent critical thought.
I notice that.
Maybe it can be the other way around too. On mature reflection, I hope the Minister keeps it in.
I welcome the Minister's indication that she will accept the amendment. Section 12(a) does not meet the requirements of Senator Lee's amendment. For example, there were many extraordinarily fine academic institutions in Germany until 1933. They were also remarkable after 1933, particularly in the scientific area, but it is clear that they did not foster and promote independence of thought. People can be brilliant in research and following patterns laid down by a dogmatic professor but that does not foster independent research. The same is true in the case of China, which I have had the opportunity to visit on several occasions in recent years — I may be spending a considerable amount of time there in the next few weeks — and Russia. I make that point in support of Senator Lee. For those reasons I am very grateful that the Minister has accepted the amendment.
Is the amendment accepted?
I have indicated that I will come back on Report Stage to accept it. I want to satisfy myself that I will be able to meet the requirement to include the amendment and I am committed to including it on Report Stage. It may be better to put it before one of the objectives, that is, sections 12(a) and (b), in the listing. I would have thought it was the kernel of the success of a university education.
If the Minister is coming back on the matter, there is no point pressing it.
I explained my problem with this section of the debate on an earlier amendment. I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions. Why is it necessary to provide for the object of a university in legislation? There is a great danger that, in 20 or 30 years, or sooner, other objects will occur to people as has happened here already. Will they then not be included because they are not provided for in this Bill? Section 12 states that the "objects... shall include" but what happens if it is decided that they shall not include the particular paragraphs in section 12? That worries me. Why is it necessary to provide for these objectives, which sound very worthy today but may not sound right in 20 or 100 years, in legislation? Why can the Minister not trust the individual universities to decide their objectives and what they want to pursue in terms of cultural and educational interests? I do not understand why this should be provided for in legislation.
Who will decide whether a university is fulfilling these objects which the Minister provided for in legislation? Who will be the arbiter? Who will watch over the universities? Who will decide on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis that these functions are being performed? What sort of monitoring devices will there be to ensure that paragraphs (a) to (j) or (k), to include Senator Lee's amendment, are being performed? That is important. These items are just being pushed into the legislation but there are no monitoring procedures. I want to know how it will be judged and who will do it.
There were two questions — why is it necessary and who will decide. The Senator answered the first question when he accepted this was not an exclusive section. It refers in broad terms to what universities are established to do. We could continue having a philosophical discussion about whether these things should be included and whether statute is needed. We are bringing forward university legislation to answer questions about the objects of a university, particularly when we had such a long discussion on section 9 concerning additional universities. I fall back on the definition that was arrived at here under the functions and objects. It is not an exclusive list but it is a broad statement.
As to who will monitor it, the universities themselves will be more than competent to do so. We have arrived at this position in close consultation with the universities. Given the broad sweep of the section, I expect there is enough confidence within the universities to decide what a university is about.
That does not quite answer my question but it takes me some way down the road. Does that mean the Minister and the Government do not have a role in this section?
No role is prescribed for the Minister. The section sets out in broad terms what universities are established to do.
In that case, if a Minister decides at a future date that a university is not promoting what the Minister considers to be the highest standards in the quality of teaching and research — for instance, in subsection (g) — what will happen?
We can refer to the section which deals with quality assurance. There are enough links between what are set out as the objects of the university and what we have accepted is not an exclusive list of objects but a basic one. Under other sections we have had discussions about setting things in statute, but if a Minister thinks this is the quality of the university's work it would be dealt with under the section on quality assurance. However, in introducing the legislation we have accepted that the objects of the university would be laid down in broad terms. I have tried not to be too prescriptive, but I know that is something the Senator cannot accept. The legislation is being brought forward in that way and the Senator can agree to support it or not.
I am well aware of that and do not need to be told. I want a categorical assurance from the Minister that there will be no Government enforcement of this section. I want to know if the Minister means what she says when stating that universities will decide how this is interpreted and that the Government will not interpret it in any way. The Minister has just said it will be up to the universities. May I have a categorical assurance that the Government will not intervene in the interpretation or enforcement of this section?
There is no provision for the Government or the Minister to have a role in this. It is a statement of the objects of the university and unless a specific role is inserted I cannot follow the logic of the Senator's mind, although I am sure it is very logical. The Senator has indicated that he cannot support this section, which lays out the objects of the university. There is no role for, and no reason to expect, any interference by a Minister or a Government. I am seeking support for the section as it stands.
I move amendment No. 28a:
In page 11, subsection (1)(a), line 32, after "study" to insert "through the medium of the State's two official languages,".
I am not privy to the amendment, but have moved it on behalf of Senator O'Toole. I have done so as it is necessary in order to keep it in play for Report Stage. I have much sympathy with the thinking behind it, but it is Senator O'Toole's amendment and it is better to let him make the case.
It is a proposed amendment to the functions of a university to provide that each university should provide courses through the medium of the State's two official languages. I consider that such an amendment would directly affect the academic freedom of universities to decide their own courses. It could be unintentionally implied from the amendment that the provision of courses through languages other than the two official languages would not be encouraged. I am not in favour of any such hint in legislation. There would certainly be cases where a French literature course could be taught through the medium of French. The proposal and the reasoning behind it would interfere too directly with the ability of a university to decide its own courses. The recognition of both official language is fundamental to the Bill.
I have sympathy with trying to promote the use of Irish in universities; not in the sense of imposing it on anybody but in trying to facilitate its use. On Report Stage I hope the words "and use" can be inserted in the objects, after "to promote the official languages of the State with special regard to the preservation and promotion". That is still aspirational compared to what Senator O'Toole's amendment seeks. However, it draws attention to the fact that this is not meant simply to be a declaration of rhetorical principle but that it is hoped a certain momentum will derive from it for the greater use of Irish in university life.
I reassure the Senator that point will be taken on board on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 11, subsection (2)(b), line 34, after "research" to insert "and publication".
This may appear a pedantic addition to "shall promote and facilitate research". However, it was the case for a long time that while we had very good and often undervalued teaching in Irish universities, and while worthwhile research was often conducted, there certainly was not the trend towards publication in our value system that prevailed in the university systems of Europe and North America in general. That had to do with a lot of things, including resources and massive teaching hours. That has changed significantly in recent years. Now there is a trend towards publication as an integral part of the expectations of university performance. It might be suspected that if we were to follow the English model too closely — I hope we do not — where the allocation of resources is on the basis of five year reviews and which is often mechanically linked to quantity of publication in a department, almost independently of quality, we would put excessive emphasis on publication. Scholars have a responsibility to publish as well as to do research.
The growth of private funding means there is a temptation in certain areas to do consultancy research which is confined to the donor. I am not criticising it, but it could mean that people in universities do a lot of research but publish little and be handsomely rewarded through donations because they are hired by a private company. I am a strong supporter of private support for universities but balance is required. Part of a university's function is to promote learning in society and to disseminate the outcomes of its research in the general community. It would be a little ironic if emphasis was not placed on promoting the outcome of research in the scholarly community. Inserting "publication" is not simply a semantic qualification.
I do not disagree with Senator Lee but he touched on the danger of over-emphasising the significance of publication. The phrase, "publish or perish", echoed nastily through university corridors some time ago. There is also a hierarchy of publication. Some extremely significant and important work is published in the form of journals which may not be recognised by the university. There is a type of intellectual snobbery among certain elements in a university.
The "publish or perish" ethos in the United States, in particular, has led to the publication of an enormous amount of twaddle and bilge because people must publish in order to climb up the ladder. I see this in the case of James Joyce, who has become one vast academic Rorschach blot on which every loony in the universe, academically speaking, projects his or her fantasies. As if James Joyce was not sufficiently original for them in developing an entirely new language out of the melted down fragments of 50 global languages, they must also be original at his expense. I am chairman of the Friends of Libraries so I am not inimical to books, but there are times when I think a good fire would help to clear out this rubbish and give other people pen room in which to sharpen their nibs.
I have no objection to including research as long as it is balanced. A young colleague of mine was put under pressure to publish. He agonised and got a mental block about subplots in minor Elizabethan and Jacobean dramas. The world had held its breath for 350 years, so it could have afforded to wait a couple of months longer. However, he was put under considerable pressure and tragically took his life. We need to be careful about putting pressure on people, although that is not Senator Lee's intention.
It is important to publish items which are of vital interest to the academic community, but it would be a pity to encourage people to publish rubbish for the sake of getting one incremental point on their salary scale. I am glad Senator Lee said he wanted to include it in a balanced way.
I am glad section 12(a) states that the objects of a university shall include "to advance knowledge through teaching...". My continued experience in university is that teaching is the least regarded of all academic qualifications. However, it is an extraordinary talent to be able to teach, communicate the joy in one's subject and set young people's minds alive so they search for themselves. I remember being told in Trinity College 20 years ago that if I was not careful I would turn out like old X. It was the greatest compliment I was paid in my life.
Has the Senator turned out like old X?
I have not because I have not published a monograph on P.G. Wodehouse, which was this gentleman's entire contribution to scholarship. That was the only thing he felt sufficiently deeply about to publish. He communicated a love and an understanding of the Augustan poets of the medieval mystery plays. I talk at meetings of Trinity College graduates throughout the world and he is the one person who is remembered with affection and joy and as someone who illuminated their lives and taught them something.
I accept the introduction of research but I am pleased the Minister put teaching at the beginning of section 12. If I was asked what I did when I was employed by the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth I near Dublin, I said "teacher" because that is one of the most honourable professions. I did not say "senior lecturer once removed" or "almost a professor". I am glad the Minister chose to highlight the fact that teaching is one of the most honourable professions by putting it at the beginning of section 12.
I support Senator Lee's amendment because people want to publish their research. I accept Senator Norris's point that there are many publications which could be set on fire to allow other worthwhile research to be published. This should be incorporated in the legislation.
I support Senator Lee's amendment because it seeks to promote and facilitate research and publication. I agree with Senator Norris that it would be wrong to put pressure on people to publish. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.
I agree with the Senator's intention. The wording would not interfere with the type of relationship which exists between universities and various companies. Universities make a substantial amount of money by carrying out confidential research on behalf of many companies. Section 12(h) states: "to disseminate the outcomes of its research in the general community". I presume that will be done by publication.
Section 12(h) which states, "to disseminate the outcomes of its research in the general community", covers the need to share information. It may not always be easy to deal with a statutory obligation to publish. I cannot comment on the need to start a fire. If we include a statutory obligation to promote and facilitate research and publication, it might not be disseminated as the outcome of research in the general community. I ask the Senator to reflect on the necessity to include "and publication" as a statutory obligation because that is covered under section 12(h). I am loath to state that I oppose it because the term "publish" is covered under section 12 which would allow universities to decide. A statutory obligation is placed on universities by this section, which refers to the outcome of research. I leave it to Senators to decide whether to push the matter to a vote but I do not recommend it.
The Minister made a valid point. In statutory terms, I would not put a gun to anyone's head. However, I feel justified in tabling the amendment if only to hear the full flush of Senator Norris's tribute to his old, unmentionable Master in Trinity College. While this matter is covered under the general objects, there is quite an amount of overlap and repetition between those objects and the general functions. For example, section 13(2)(b) states that as part of their functions universities "shall promote and facilitate research" while section 12(a) states that the objects of a university shall be "to advance knowledge through teaching, scholarly research and scientific investigation". I take the Minister's point and I do not want to make a major issue of this matter. Therefore, I will withdraw the amendment without pressing it further.
I move amendment No. 29a
In page 12, subsection (2)(f), line 8, after "with" to insert "convocations and graduates".
I move this amendment on behalf of Senator O'Toole.
It is proposed in an amendment to the functions of universities to provide that a university may collaborate with convocations and graduates. It would be beneficial if universities were allowed to do so. I believe Senator O'Toole's amendment does not propose that such collaboration be compulsory. Such action was recommended in the Lower House but I have no wish to be to prescriptive. However, because I agree with the spirit of collaboration without a necessity to make it compulsory, the provision as it stands allows for flexibility. I will reconsider the matter before Report Stage to ensure that there is no need to take further action. I believe the legislation allows for collaboration but I will return to this subject on Report Stage if it is necessary to underpin the provision.
It would be desirable if the Minister could return to the matter on Report Stage because all institutions are developing direct relations with their graduates at present for a variety of motives, some of them predatory. I do not disavow the use of the term "convocation" but, in that context, it has a some what different meaning from that of "graduate associations".
I will not press the amendment on Senator O'Toole's behalf. However, there may be a need to adjust the wording slightly.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 12, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following subsection:
"(4) In the performance of its functions, the right of a university to regulate its affairs in accordance with the traditions of university autonomy is recognised by this Act and nothing in this Act shall detract from the exercise of that right by any of the universities to which the Act applies".
The majority of the amendments concerned with academic freedom can be considered withdrawn in light of the Minister's commitment to reconsider the issue for Report Stage.
Representatives of the University of Limerick expressed concerns to me about section 13(2)(c) which states that a university "may establish by incorporation in the State or elsewhere, or participate in the establishment of, such trading, research or other corporations as it thinks fit for the purpose of promoting or assisting or in connection with the functions of, the university". The University of Limerick underwent an unfortunate experience when such a corporation was established and later encountered financial difficulties. There was a suggestion or fear that moneys granted to the university proper would be diverted to the corporation it had established, which would represent a misuse of public funds. There is no evidence to state that this occurred but fears were expressed that it might have done. I ask the Minister to take cognisance of this situation. Are there adequate safeguards in the Bill to prevent such an occurrence in the future?
I am aware of the case to which the Senator referred and such misuse of funds did not occur. The Higher Education Authority retains responsibility for the overall budgets of universities. I understand that some interaction took place which proved successful. The outcome was agreed and, therefore, under the functions of the HEA, it remains in place.
My objections to this section are similar to those I expressed on the previous section. In both cases a kind of wish list for universities is being put forward. We are being offered the current and fashionable idea of the functions and performance of a university being put into legislation. I suggest that those who are making these laws are not qualified to do so. I do not believe anyone should decide the functions of a university except those involved in the university itself. I believe the provisions of the section are restrictive, even though that may not be the intention. The Bill is patronising and it allows a university to do things it should obviously be permitted to do without the need for legislation.
Section 13(2)(f) states that a university "may collaborate with associations representing graduates of the university both inside and outside the State". I do not know why the word "collaborate" is used because it is pejorative. However, what place has such a provision in legislation? Why should a Government give universities permission in legislation to communicate and collaborate with people outside the State? That is an obvious right and there is no need for its inclusion in the Bill. Likewise, there is no need for any of the provisions in section 13.
There is a difference between the provisions in section 13. There are those which use the term "shall" while others use the term "may". The provisions using "may" should be removed. What is the point in informing a university that it "may" take action? If such provisions were removed from the Bill, universities could still take such action. If paragraphs in this section which state that a university "may" do something were removed, universities may do those things in any event. Why are the provisions included? They are patronising.
The more definitive objectives and functions in section 13 use the word "shall". I would have thought that these objectives and functions are so obvious that they do not need to be included in legislation. However, in line with the concerns I expressed on the previous section, such provisions give the Government and the Legislature a certain interpretation. If none of these provisions was included, surely universities would provide courses of study and promote and facilitate research.
What is the need for section 13, particularly as its provisions are not exclusive? Fundamental to my objections to the Bill is the fact that if sections 12 and 13 were removed there would be more, not less, academic freedom and more, not less, freedom for universities. I cannot see the point of putting these sections in legislation or of telling the university that, for example, it may or may not co-operate with graduates overseas. I find it objectionable, patronising and symbolic of the Bill, 90 per cent of which is unnecessary.
Universities should be allowed to decide independently their own functions. They should be allowed to decide what they want to do and their objectives. It is dangerous to say that a university may do one thing or another when it is obvious that it may do so. I oppose the section because it is patronising, unnecessary and may be varied in years to come. Notwithstanding what the Minister said, if a future Government decides that a university is not behaving in accordance with the section the Government will intervene and start invoking the legislation. That is the nature of Government. If the section was not felt necessary it would not be there.
The Senator suggests that the section should be removed. I disagree because there are elements which allow a university to take certain actions. Subsection 2(c) is important in allowing a university to undertake certain functions. Paragraphs (g) and (h) allow a university to acquire, accept or hold land or other property. There are essential elements in the section which should be included in the Bill. It is not necessary to delete section 13 and the Senator should withdraw his objections because the section does not hurt or affect anybody in any particular way. Its interpretation will not allow anybody to penalise universities.
I understand the Senator's point. However, I agree with Senator Ross that the word "collaborate" is not the best choice. It has several interpretations and connotations. As long as there is no interference, the section is fine.
At the base of Senator Ross's contributions is his view that this is not a competent body to legislate for universities. I resent that. We deal with legislation on a wide variety of topics about which we may know little. The Senator is attacking the democratic process of the House. The House has the right to bring in legislation to deal with the functions of a university.
Senator Ross is totally opposed to section 13. Having set out the objects of a university in section 12, section 13 goes on to provide the statutory basis for the powers necessary to implement the objects. The section provides for specific powers and functions including, for example, the awarding of degrees because at present degrees are awarded under different legislation, the provision of courses, engaging in research, establishing companies and collaborating with others. Senator Cotter indicated that the word "collaboration" is derived from Latin and we should not be bullied out of using certain terms.
This is an important section because it is necessary to give a statutory basis to the powers necessary to implement the objects of the university. Section 13(1) indicates that: The functions of a university are to do all things necessary or expedient in accordance with this Act and its charter, if any, to further the objects and development of the university." The Senator and I will have to disagree.
The Minister and I may disagree on everything but that is not a tragedy. Senator Cotter said this section would not hurt or affect anyone in any particular way and there is a certain amount of truth in his view. What is the point of having legislation which does not affect anyone in any particular way? I thought legislation was meant to affect someone in a particular way. One wonders why such meaningless stipulations are included.
The Minister did not indicate why the provision in paragraph (f), allowing universities to collaborate with associations representing its graduates inside and outside the State, is included. Senator Cotter is right — whether that provision is included does not matter. If it was not included it is unlikely that a university would be prevented from co-operating with associations representing its graduates outside the State. Why is the provision included? It is strange to include these minor functions.
I do not say that the House does not have the right to legislate. To suggest so is absurd.
But not on universities.
We have the right to legislate on anything. However, I do not know whether we have the competence to legislate. I would like to see less legislation on matters such as this. This Bill should have been much shorter. The State should keep its nose out of university affairs and let the universities run themselves. They are far more competent, as are experts in any field, to run the area themselves.
The House has the right to legislate on anything. We could reintroduce capital punishment if Senator Kelly so wished, although it would be wrong to do so.
The Senator's head would be first on the block.
However, the House has the right to do so. We should give autonomy to people to regulate their own affairs where they have greater expertise.
I note Senator Ross's contribution. The section is important.
I understand the Minister's point and we will not agree on the philosophy of the matter. Will the Minister answer my question on why it is necessary to include the minor matter of collaborating with associations representing its graduates inside and outside the State? Would removing it make any difference?
That is one of the provisions on which Senators asked me to table an amendment. There is support for the provision.
I did not ask for it.
I asked for it on behalf of Senator O'Toole.
We have debated the objects of universities and Senator Ross opposed that section. We have debated section 13 and the Senator has expressed strong opinions on it. Existing legislation, affecting UL and DCU, will be superseded by the provisions of this Bill. Section 9 opens the way for the creation of more universities. In doing so we lay down the objects and functions of the universities. The Department and the Government have consulted on the Bill with people who are already involved in universities and received the support of different bodies. Senator Ross is articulating fears which have not been expressed by other sectors. It is his right to do so but I have not come to the House to be quizzed on every word in the Bill because I said I did not agree with him. When I say I do not agree with him the Senator demands an answer. When I make a proposal he does the same. I am satisfied that the objects and functions in this legislation will enhance the university system, some of which is old and has a great tradition and some of which is new. We will map out the future. I recommend the acceptance of this section.
Is section 13 agreed?
I asked a specific question about paragraph (f). I do not care two hoots about this House's support for what I say. I have a right to ask the Minister a question. It does not do any good for the Minister to tell me there may not be much support for what I say. I am asking a specific question about paragraph (f) and I am entitled to an answer. Why is it there? What would be the consequence if it was not?
I ask the House to support section 13.
Is section 13 agreed?
No it is not. I asked a specific question——
The Minister has replied twice. I have no control over her reply. She has replied accordingly and I wish to put the question.
I asked a specific question about a paragraph to which the Minister persistently refuses to reply. It is a simple question. Why is the paragraph there? I am entitled to an answer. Committee Stage is about teasing out the detail of the Bill. I am asking about the detail of the Bill and I am entitled to an answer.
The Senator got an answer.
The Minister may reply as she wishes. I have no control over that and Senator Ross knows that.
The Minister must give me a simple reply.
I want to make a point of order reiterating what the Acting Chairman said. The Minister has replied. If Senator Ross does not like that——
That is not a point of order. Is section 13 agreed?
No. I want a specific reply.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 12, subsection (1), lines 40 and 41, to delete "being not less than 20 or more than 38, as determined in accordance with this Chapter" and substitute "as determined by the university itself".
This amendment deals with the kernel of this section, the governing authority of a university. This section puts the university in a straitjacket. I cannot understand why it is necessary to enact in legislation that the numbers on the board of a governing authority of a university should be between 20 and 38. This is not a matter for legislation. Why should a Minister decide between 20 and 38 members? Why not 100 or 200? Should it not be related to the size of the university?
This section will give the Minister and future Ministers the power to play politics with the board of a university which they have not had before. I would have thought there would be variants for different universities — such as DCU, Trinity College, Dublin University, UCD, NUI — and different requirements as they change. This section does not give them that opportunity. It says the numbers must be between 20 and 38 and, being very specific, states this must consist of between two and six academics, a certain number of full-time permanent members of staff, employees and students — one postgraduate — and a certain number of fellows in Dublin University. Why can the university not adapt itself and say it wants a board of ten, 50 or whatever number of members without the Minister specifying the sections from where they should come — employers, trade unions or staff? There are many specific requirements which have nothing to do with the State.
I object not only to the specification that there should be county councillors but to the specification that there should be businessmen and trade unionists on the board because these people have different agendas. They do not have an academic agenda. Businessmen will be on the boards of universities because they want honorary degrees. There are county councillors on the boards of universities because they represent political parties. Others are on boards for different reasons, but you can be certain of one thing: they will not have academic standards or the so-called performances and functions of a university at heart. They will be there for different reasons and fulfilling different agendas.
There are representatives of agriculture, fisheries, community organisations, the professions, business and industry on governing authorities. It is no good saying "as the governing authority sees fit". The authority is provided for in legislation but it should not be forced to have any of these people on the board if it does not want them. It does not need to be set out in legislation. If the governing authority wants outsiders on the board that is reasonable but it should not be done by a Minister. This section is wrong and ought to be deleted. The governing authority should be a matter for the university itself.
I speak on this issue as someone who has been a member of the governing body of University College Dublin for the past 21 years. I was elected in six successive elections by the graduates of the university. I owe my position entirely to the graduates, some of them former students. Unlike Senator Ross, I have direct experience of being a member of a governing body of a university, as well as Senator Fitzgerald who is an extremely valued member of the governing body of UCD.
I wish to make a number of points arising from Senator Ross's contribution, apart from the general offensive elements. To make a blanket condemnation of businessmen and say they only serve on governing bodies because they want honorary degrees is offensive and insulting nonsense. Business people who give of their time to serve on governing bodies generally do so out of a strong commitment to the university and because they wish to see it play a part in the wider community. Frequently, business people will go to great lengths to help universities raise money for much needed projects. I have no experience of people serving on governing bodies out of a desire to obtain honorary doctorates. There is very little honour or glory to be had from serving on the governing body of a university; most of the business is routine, as it is in this House, although there are occasional discussions on matters of great principle. The idea that business people want to be on governing bodies for any unworthy cause is simply untrue.
Senator Ross has already made his views known on the position of local and county councillors and people from the political world serving on governing bodies. I speak from 21 years experience of such people and Senator Tom Fitzgerald is one of the finest members I have known in my time on the governing body of University College Dublin. Local councillors tend to take their place at the bottom table out of choice. Their contributions are concise and they have much common sense and wisdom. The ability to get to the heart of a matter is often lacking in some of the more academic members of governing bodies. Local and county councillors have a valuable point of view and perspective. Universities do not belong to academics; they belong to the people of Ireland who support them through their taxation and who have a right to expect certain things from them. It is the presence of people whose feet are firmly in local communities and who know the real problems which makes this possible.
Shortly after being elected to the Seanad I recall Senator Lee saying that when he first entered it he wondered about the calibre of people he would find here. He found that the contributions of ordinary Senators covered a wide range of topics. They were obliged to master a range of topics and have cognisance of a variety of disciplines with which academics would not be familiar because of their narrow training. Excluding people on the grounds that a university should be run by a narrow group of academics has no merit.
I recall being present at the L & H in the old physics theatre in UCD in the 1960s. The speakers included Seán Lemass, James Dillon and Garret Fitzgerald — whom James Dillon dismissed as a statistician because he did not really approve of people who were too interested in figures and sums. I recall Seán Lemass being challenged by a student regarding the low calibre of Oireachtas members. Mr. Lemass replied that he would dread the day when the Oireachtas would be made up entirely of graduates. We could go a step further and say that the day when the governing body of a university would be made up entirely of academics or people with a vested interest would be a bad day. Senator Ross said that the Government has no business specifying the numbers on the governing body. It has every business doing that; the colleges of the National University of Ireland operate under a 1908 statute which lays down very specific details as to who shall or shall not be a member of the governing body. The State issued such details because it felt that would provide the universities with the best possible governing bodies and by and large it has.
The Minister's proposals in this section follow wide consultation with all the universities and have gained their approval. The Provost of Trinity College — Senator Ross's own college — unambiguously and unequivocally accepted the Minister's proposals which are no different from what obtained in the past.
Senator Ross maintains that the universities should be able to decide on the composition of the governing bodies. This section provides protection against a situation where a cabal might take control in a university and where the president might decide he or she wanted a governing body comprising five people. There might be a bout of midsummer madness and we could have a repeat of the 1969 situation where a university might be taken over by extreme leftists who might want a governing body of which everybody in the college would be entitled to become a member. Such a governing body would have to be in continuous session and no decisions would ever be made. The Minister is providing protection in this section by saying that a university shall not reduce the size of a governing body to the point where it would be controlled by a small cabal or increase it to the point where it would become a Croke Park, filled to the brim and in permanent session.
That might be very exciting.
The Minister has got it right in this section. I would like to see the section dealing with representation changed slightly and I support Senator Fitzgerald's amendment on that. Senator Ross's arguments do not stand up to scrutiny.
I am a county councillor. I work with other county councillors and look to them for advice. Sometimes I get bogged down in my thinking and very often my council colleagues help me to arrive at the core of an argument. I strongly object to Senator Ross saying that county councillors are all hacks who have a hidden agenda, who do not have a vision of Ireland and therefore cannot make a worthwhile contribution on the governing bodies of universities.
Councillors play a huge role in reflecting local issues and problems as they have their fingers on the pulses of their localities. It is a pleasure to attend the meetings of the general council of county councils as such expansive contributions are made there. The core of every problem can be presented simply and I often come away after an hour's discussion with more knowledge than I would have after three or four hours, or indeed weeks, in this House.
I am an academic and am well able to mix the roles of academic and councillor. Many of my academic friends applaud county councillors for becoming involved in governing bodies. They want balanced representation, not one way traffic where the emphasis is on academic orientation. I would be very angry if I thought we were going down that road. My academic colleagues often praise the contributions of Senator Fitzgerald and other councillors who serve on governing bodies and welcome their presence.
I will table an amendment later which will seek to increase the membership of the governing body of the Dublin Institute of Technology. In the light of amendments which will be discussed shortly we may also have to increase the membership of the governing bodies of universities. We need a proper balance and fair representation on governing bodies in order to ensure that the views of all citizens are reflected.
The academic staff in some universities look to the governing body to act as a counterbalance to what would otherwise be a severe managerial and executive style leadership. A letter sent to many Senators by some of the academic staff of the University of Limerick states: "In so far as the operation of the university has been concerned, the only effective protection against greater abuses has been the existence of a governing body independent of management". It also says that "successive governing bodies in the University of Limerick have conducted their affairs with diligence and have provided a measure of balance to an unrestrained entrepreneurial ethos". It is clear, therefore, that there is support for governing bodies within the universities.
I agree with what was said by my colleague and by Senator Manning whose praise I appreciate. I do not know what Senator Ross is up to. Everybody is equal but Senator Ross, apparently, does not agree. I would hate to live in his world if that attitude prevails. I am opposed to certain parts of the Bill but, unlike Senator Ross, I will not be disruptive. I want the Bill to progress. This is a good Bill and there is nothing wrong with the sections with which we are dealing.
I was on a sub-committee of the governing body of UCD examining this Bill and I am happy that, while maintaining the confidentiality of the sub-committee, it was satisfied with the Bill. There are certain parts of it which need to be examined and there are some amendments which need attention but I wish we could progress the Bill a little faster without the needless interruptions of Senator Ross.
I support section 15. It is important that the composition of the board is defined in broad outline. There is plenty of latitude to facilitate incorporation of the ethos of individual universities. It is important that the views and ideas of academia are leavened by views from outside. In questioning the motives of business people and councillors, we must also question the motive behind Senator Ross's approach. He is currying favour with somebody or some group. This is not a sufficient motive for this approach. Most of us have some hidden agenda from time to time but to accuse others of being on boards for spurious, dangerous motives is neither accurate nor acceptable.
I support the section. Ordinary people need to participate on boards of this nature to instil reality as sometimes people live on cloud nine. On many occasions over the past couple of years I have raised the effect of the points system on post-primary education. Its focus is more narrow because of the influence of universities. We need people on university boards who will talk sense and speak out on this issue. Children begin their schooling at four years from which time parents tune in to the need for points to get places in third level. The universities are dominating post-primary education and, to some extent, primary education.
There are limitations on places available in universities and a method of filling those places has be decided upon. However, little energy is put into deciding how best to do this. The view is that the system in place is handy, easy to operate and therefore sufficient. The universities are crucifying the nation in the interests of their own ease.
The definition of education and the reality of post-primary education are totally different. We hear derogatory remarks about members of council councils from time to time. There are all kinds of people on county councils as in every walk of life. County councillors understand what goes on at the fundamental levels of society. They are people with different levels of linguistic ability representing the people to the best of their ability. Most of them are re-elected and we should not be derogatory about them. They have something to offer. At worst, they represent the views of many people.
It is well known that leaving certificate students with a particular gift who do not have broad ability across a spectrum of subjects are barred from entering professions where they would be brilliant. They are barred because the universities have a particular way of accepting people into their ranks. We need people on the boards to discuss such issues and to bring sense to bear. I have raised this issue at every possible forum including the National, Economic and Social Forum of which I am a member and in the presence of university representatives. They shun discussion on this matter. They see it as a nuisance and they do not want to address it. However, it is time they did address it and the composition of the boards will force them to do so.
Nobody has supported me in suggesting that universities introduce a vocational aptitude test to provide opportunities for people with wonderful gifts but lacking the ability to perform well in a leaving certificate examination. The universities have made no attempt to include these people. Parents, teachers and students say that the points system is a crucifixion. If we had enough places for every student there would be no problem, but we do not. We cannot afford it. The universities are doing nothing to examine the effect their points system is having on post-primary education. This issue should be researched. Straight talking and good sense is called for. The boards need to be broadened. All possible views within society need to be represented on the board.
I support section 15, with amendment, because county councillors who represent and understand ordinary people, should be accommodated on the boards. I look forward to working with the Minister in achieving this.
Perhaps we owe Senator Ross a vote of thanks for addressing us in such a way that unanimity has been forged among other Members.
I have taken on board the concerns expressed regarding county councillors. The limit has been raised from 34 to 38 but we will return to this issue.
One of the core reasons for introducing this legislation is to amend NUI legislation, which the senate of that body invited me to do, and also to ensure that governing bodies reflect the wider community. The number of people on the NUI, University of Limerick and Dublin City University governing bodies was set by earlier legislation. The sovereign of the time decided the membership of the board of Trinity College, Dublin, under the charter of May 1637. Given that this is 1997, we owe it to ourselves to move forward and to introduce legislation which reflects the needs of those who benefit from a university education and to secure their position in the future.
I wish to clarify a number of extraordinary misapprehensions which I can only conclude are deliberate.
Why would the Senator conclude that?
Senator Ross, without interruption.
I am not surprised at the amazing leap to the defence of county councillors. Nobody declared an interest when they did so but most Members of the House are elected by county councillors. Perhaps it would have been honest if Members said they had been elected by county councillors and they wanted to talk about their electorate.
It is hardly a secret.
Declarations of interests are relevant.
It is a matter of public record.
That is correct but it is relevant to the debate. Unlike Senator Manning I was elected to a county council. However, I do not think that, as a county councillor, I should be put on the board of a university.
I was elected for a purpose and I did not at any stage declare an interest in becoming a member of a board of a university as a county councillor. When I put my name before the people in the local election, I did so on specific policies as a county councillor for the area.
The Senator wanted to be a Deputy and the electorate gave him an answer.
I was elected for an area, like Senator Fitzgerald. However, that does not give me any right to do anything else. If I was promoted to another position, I would have a political agenda. I would represent a political view on a county council. My point, which has been so misrepresented by those who are elected by county councillors, is that politicians should not be on university boards.
If one examines the Bill specifically and the case of University College, Cork, it is clear that the Lords Mayor of Cork and Waterford will automatically become members of the board by virtue of their office and not because they were elected by the people. The same is true of University College, Dublin, and the University of Limerick where the Lords Mayor of Dublin and Limerick, respectively, will become board members of the two universities.
People should not take my comments personally. It is incredible that Members have such thin skins on this matter. That is not normally the case, except when they have a chance to defend their electorates. This serious political point extends far beyond university education and university boards. Everybody knows that is the case but they are taking the opportunity to defend county councillors because an election is coming up.
Politicians belong in the Houses of the Oireachtas and local councillors belong on local councils because that is what they were elected to do. To pretend that they have qualifications to sit on the boards of semi-State companies or elsewhere is nothing more than hypocrisy. It is not a coincidence. Why are Senators not allowed to sit on the boards of semi-State bodies? It is correct that they should not be members of those boards but, apparently, county councillors, for reasons which are difficult to understand, should be allowed to be board members. I do not understand the inconsistency in this area.
Senator Fitzgerald misrepresented me and his suggestion that I implied county councillors are not equal to other members of the boards is wrong. I did not say that. I said they were inappropriate because they do not have the necessary qualifications and they have a political agenda. It is wrong to say they are not equal because they are equal, indeed superior, in many ways. They have a great deal of expertise in certain areas——
Why did the Senator make derogatory remarks about them?
——but not as politicians on bodies of which they have no business being members. Everybody knows that is what I meant and anybody who pretends otherwise is flying a flag to an electorate which they hope will elect them soon.
It is time this type of proposal did not provoke a phoney political row purely for electoral purposes.
I am most annoyed by the Senator's contribution. He said local councils are not in a position to reflect local issues.
I did not say that.
Senator Ormonde, without interruption.
That was my interpretation of the Senator's comments. He said local issues cannot involve matters relating to a university. However, a local issue could involve a student trying to find a way to go to university other than through the points system. Such people may have nobody to turn to except their local representative. If the representative knows a member of the governing body, he or she could bring that problem to their attention and it can be aired at a meeting of the body. There is nothing wrong with that; a core principle of democracy is that local issues can be aired at any level. It is a disgrace to suggest that local county councils are incapable of carrying that information through the process to the attention of governing bodies. Senator Ross suggested that local councillors are not qualified to serve on governing bodies. What are the necessary qualifications? Must one be an academic or have a string of letters after one's name——
——to make a contribution? My interpretation of Senator Ross's comments is that only people with degrees are fit to serve on a governing body. I reject that view because I bow to county councillors. They are superior to me in many ways in terms of making contributions. On the basis of my work with county councillors and my many dealings with my local county council, I bow to their knowledge. They are much smarter than I am in terms of getting to the core of matters.
I do not wish to add to Senator Ross's bad temper. Apparently, it is fine for him to attack the motives of business people, county councillors, etc., but as soon as people disagree with him, their motives are immediately suspect. Perhaps we have seen the true face of Senator Ross recently when he displayed his temper just because people disagreed with him.
The Senator talked about people with hidden agendas but one does not need the Freedom of Information Act to know that 43 Senators are elected by members of county councils. That is a matter of public record and nobody is hiding that fact. His suggestion about hidden agendas is disingenuous.
I wish to make another point about members of local authorities who are members of governing bodies on the basis of my experience over the last 21 years. In all that time, I have never known a partisan political issue to divide a governing body or members of a governing body to vote along the lines of the parties they represent elsewhere. They vote on the issues as they view them and they frequently split on them. The idea that they carry the flags of their political parties is not true. Senator Ross may say "he would say that, wouldn't he?", because I have a vested interest, but I say it on the basis of my experience which can be validated by many other independent witnesses.
This is a spurious argument. The Minister's proposals have been widely debated and are the result of widespread consultation. No one can be fully pleased but all the universities, including the University of Dublin, are happy with the proposals as they affect those institutions. Today I received a letter from the Provost of Trinity College, stating how pleased the board and he were with the proposals. They have no problems. Senator Fitzgerald said he spent months on a sub-committee of the UCD governing body — I do not know what happened on that sub-committee but there was wide consultation and ultimately the governing body said it was happy.
Senator Ross has spoken a great deal about the imposition by this socialist Minister of a statist system of university governance. The stake-holders, those most affected, have been widely consulted and are happy with what is being proposed. Who are we to tell them they are wrong? They have been consulted, they are happy and we should move on.
I have listened to the exchanges with great interest. Like Senator Manning I have served on a governing body although not for quite as long and not with an unbroken sequence, and it was not as a result of an election defeat that the sequence was broken. I therefore know what happens on governing bodies and how to get there. I do not recollect seeing a county councillor act in a party political way on the governing body of UCC. Some of the frankest, most honest and most direct commentary I have heard on issues which were being clouded with a great deal of circumlocution, academic and otherwise, has come from political representatives of one party or other, perhaps from TDs who were also county councillors. This is not to say that a county councillor or anyone else does not have his motives.
The main problem faced by outsiders on the governing bodies of universities — it probably applies to outsiders on the directorial board of any institution — is finding the time to keep abreast of the intestinal intricacies of the internal politics. All the academics — unless they are saints, in which case they would not even think of joining the governing body — are running their won agendas. These may be worthy and wonderful but they are agendas nonetheless. This may not be the most rousing support which county councillors or others have ever received, but we are all equally children of original sin or whatever today's theological equivalent may be and I am quite happy to work on that basis with all comers.
Amendments Nos. 32 and 33 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 13, subsection (2), lines 5 to 9, to delete paragraph (c) and substitute the following:
"(c) The senior officer of the university having responsibility to the chief officer for academic affairs,".
This section has caused me a good deal of concern. I do not resist its basic thrust but I wonder what may happen in real life. Section 15(2)(c) currently provides:
The members of the governing authority shall include—
(c) at least one but not more that two senior officers of the university having responsibility to the chief officer for academic, financial or administrative affairs, appointed by the governing authority [.]
A balance should be struck here between managerial efficiency on one level and university autonomy on another. When it is decided to include this paragraph, one must ask what is the most effective way of ensuring the discharge of university business and how far that impacts on the relationship between the chief officer, who is ex officio a member of the governing body, and the senior officers on the academic and broadly non-academic sides.
In ensuring that at least one but not more than two senior officers on the academic and the financial or administrative side are appointed, we must ask, to the extent we think it important to specify this, whether we should do so rather more precisely in terms of good managerial practice in the circumstances. Alternatively, should we allow it to become the potential plaything of internal politics, because that could happen? The moment a choice must be made and different personalities are involved, the danger arises that it can be politicised in terms of the internal affairs of the institution. Most of the time it probably will not be and one would hope it would never be but if it does happen it can have unfortunate consequences for the effective discharge of university business.
We have spent much time discussing the objects and functions of a university. When all is said and done, the core object of a university is academic, whatever we think of academics. There is a range of other necessary, worthy, desirable objects but if the academic side is not working effectively these will not be discharged effectively. The effective functioning of the academic side is a prerequisite for the achievement of the other desirable objectives.
The senior academic officer is responsible to the chief officer. The latter may not be an academic officer — historically they have been but we are trying to broaden the range of selection of chief officers both from within the institutions and to decision makers in general, who may well have much to contribute to the office. On balance, it is desirable to specify that the senior officer having responsibility for academic affairs ought to be ex officio a member of the governing authority and ought not have to depend on the pleasure or the electoral consequences of governing body decisions. I gladly accept it can be argued in a variety of directions. For what it is worth, my own conclusion — having seen a great deal of this in operation in a variety of circumstances — is that it is in the interests of the institution that the senior academic officer is a member. There will be a variety of other expertise on the financial or administrative side so I have a more open mind on that point but, on balance, my view is that the senior financial officer should also be there. The senior academic officer has a unique role which cannot be effectively discharged by anyone else in these circumstances. I will not rage on interminably because I am interested in the Minister's response.
I see Senator Lee's point. If there are to be not more than two senior officers on the body, one should be responsible for academic affairs and the other responsible perhaps for financial or administrative affairs. It may be splitting hairs but it would be better to spell out the role of the senior officer and which one it would be. There may be confusion on that point.
I support these amendments because they make a lot of sense. People with financial responsibility should, as part of that responsibility, be directly accountable to the governing body of any institution. It is unreal that people in charge of finances are not so accountable, although they may not be the final accounting officers. There is a strong argument in support of that point and it is in everyone's interest. It would lead to a better flow of information, cleaner and easier access and transparent accountability. There would be no filtering of facts, figures or interpretations between the person dealing with the money and those who make the decisions.
There tends to be difficulties with lack of information in organisations where people of such senior rank do not have access to the board or executive. The culture or philosophy of the person in the job is not communicated to the board, which can be very important in terms of that person having its confidence. The board does not learn the way in which the finance officer works and whether he or she is cautious or thrifty from documentation but from hearing the person's response and interpretation.
This is very good protection which would be in everybody's interest. It would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the operation of universities. I fully support this amendment. I do not see how it changes matters; in fact, it is very much in line with the philosophy of what the Minister said about the section. I do not see any difficulty with this amendment as it causes no offence to the general approach of the section. It seems a very sensible way of doing business.
I support Senator Lee in this area. I look at this from the point of view of best management practice. It is essential to have some of the management responsible for running any organisation on the board of that organisation. Senator Lee has given a very clear and understandable explanation of why he tabled these amendments which move, in an almost undemocratic way, from electing someone to the board to appointing them. The idea is that there will be someone on the board representing both the academic and financial or administrative sides. It is possible that both may be appointed but it is not guaranteed. I support Senator Lee's amendment because, although it sounds undemocratic not to have an election, the amendment is good management practice.
Some members of the staff of the University of Limerick have a problem with this section and the fact, as Senator Quinn said, that these members are appointed rather than elected.
I have listened intently to the contributions. The object of accepting the amendment would be to ensure that both the academic and financial or administrative side are represented on the board. I do not want to be too prescriptive — we are going from one extreme to the other in this debate. I had hoped we would allow the universities to decide which officers should be on the board. However, it has been signalled to me that the wish of this House is that I would look at the amendment and return on Report Stage with the wording "financial and/or administrative". I ask Senators to accept I will return on Report Stage with an amendment which meets their wishes in this regard.
I should have spoken before the Minister on this amendment. I wanted to make the point that, while I understand what is being said, I believe there would be some difficulties with what Senator Lee has proposed, in view of the express wish of the governing body of UCD. If the Minister accepts the principle of what Senator Lee is saying, I would like her to consult the authorities in the universities on whether they have reservations about this proposal for practical reasons and return on Report Stage. I would like to have a fuller viewpoint at that stage.
I thank the Minister. I also thank Senators O'Toole and Quinn for expressing, far better than I could have, the reasons for this amendment from the point of view of good managerial practice. I know from where Senator Manning is coming and the issues which arise in particular institutions. However, this is a potentially serious management issue for every institution over the long term. The provisions made in a particular institution should not be allowed determine the overall conclusion.
The Minister made a very valid point, which is the kernel of one of our problems. One can lurch from being too prescriptive to being too open. We are trying to lay down a structure which is in accordance with best management understanding at this stage, reconciling it with the other desiderata of what we feel to be the essence of a university.
One of my criterion of best management practice at the very top level is that it should reduce the scope for internal institutional politics and render decision making — as far as possible, which may not be very far but, at least, one can try — independent of personalities in particular posts and of personal relationships. We know that is not fully possible in any circumstances. However, we must try to devise structures which minimise the potential for expending the energy of able people on futile negativity. The moment a potential election emerges to affect the choice of very senior people with grave responsibility for the institution, we diminish — if not undermine — the potential effectiveness of the discharge of the rest of the responsibilities of that institution.
This is a grave issue. I understand Senator Manning's concerns, which he is obliged to raise. However, I would not want the short term problems of the administrative structure of one institution to determine our overall decision on this issue. I will withdraw the amendment in light of the Minister's commitment to return on Report Stage, although she will have a great deal to return to on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 35 is related to amendment No. 34 and both may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 13, subsection (2) (d) (i), line 12, after "are" to insert "full-time, permanent".
I have some questions about these amendments but I wanted to raise the issues concerned. There is no qualification of the term "professor" as there is with the term "lecturer" and other academic staff in this regard. There is also no definition of the term "professor" in the Bill.
The term "professor" is increasingly applied to a variety of people. In some cases it is an inherited category and some part-time professors of medicine and law render extraordinarily fine service to their institutions. I do not intend to exclude such people from consideration in this amendment. However, there are now visiting and adjunct professors. The little is increasingly used for people appointed in ways which do not bear a direct relationship to the way the term "professor" was conferred on most existing university professors. The term is now used much more loosely than the term "lecturer", which still remains, by and large, within the confines of its original definition. For a variety of reasons, the term "professor" has acquired a wider range of reference. I doubt if the Minister intended that the selection to the governing body would be made from those termed "professors" in an institution, however the term is defined, or even that, as electors, they would depend on their relationship to the institution.
While the amendment is capable of improvement, there is an objective issue involved which will grow over time. Who is to say what the designation will entail in ten or 20 years? The amendment seeks to pin down the implications of a category whose overall role on the governing body is to be reduced.
The matter is now in further doubt because we are apparently unable to define what is meant by "professor" in this context. That is the source of my concern. I have been told that use of the phrase "appointed by academic merit" is highly restrictive because it does not reflect the way in which universities may develop in the future. There is such a penumbra of uncertainty attaching to where we are going that it has become a serious issue, which my amendments seek to address however inadequately.
In its correspondence with me, the academic staff of the University of Limerick state:
In so far as the University of Limerick is concerned the proposal to allow for between two and six professors, elected by professors themselves, is extremely worrying. Many of the professors have been appointed, not because of their academic reputations, but because they held or were about to be appointed to management positions. There are no full professors who are women and given the small number of professors in the University the provision could allow a situation where a small managerial group would have disproportionate influence on the working of a governing body. This would result in a breach of the fundamental principle of democracy. The situation in the University of Limerick is also different from other universities as the professors do not represent academic departments as in traditional universities. As they are an unrepresentative group the legislation should provide that any reserved seats should be in proportion to their numbers on the academic staff and they should be elected by the broad academic community and not just a small and select group of professors.
This puts matters better than I could have done.
I sympathise with the type of situation which Senator Lee envisages may happen. Not being the holder of a chair——
——I am conscious that there are concerns, especially from some of the more established professors, about the way in which new chairs are created and the disparity between faculties where, for example, chairs arise more easily in the business and marketing areas than in the more traditional disciplines, etc. However, the amendments are perhaps unduly restrictive in that they would deprive a university from determining for itself a direction it may wish to take, which I may not approve and which Senator Lee would not approve.
Amendment No. 35 refers to "...`procedures of appointment to full-time permanent professorships on the basis of academic merit' ". Senator Lee is a member of the senate of the NUI and the governing body of UCC. What will happen when a board of assessors decides that, on academic merit, candidate A is the person most suitably qualified academically for a position while the faculty, academic council, governing body and the senate of the NUI decide otherwise? Who is the best candidate in terms of academic merit? I am sure that somebody who has been approved by the assessors but overturned further along the line, perhaps and most specifically at the last hurdle, may find that he or she has a legal case to take on the basis of that specific description. If the Senator presses the amendment, which includes the words "appointed by the normal procedures" then academic merit would almost be assumed to be part of them.
I understand why universities would have a different profile in terms of professorships. This may make it more difficult to provide for permanent professors, especially in view of the wide spread of universities to be included under the legislation. Amendment No. 25 states: "...'appointed by the normal procedures of appointment to full-time permanent professorships on the basis of academic merit' ". What is meant by "academic merit"? There could be variations of merit in so far as a candidate may have the necessary academic qualifications yet may not merit appointment to a given position.
I have supported Senator Lee on almost every point he has made in this debate. However, I urge caution here. Reference was made on Second Stage to the future of universities and university life. While this legislation may not last as long as the previous underpinning legislation, which was enacted in the early part of this century, we cannot foresee how universities will operate in the future. We should grant them as much freedom as possible to decide for themselves. The section deals with those who will be elected and we should not, therefore, be too restrictive.
My vision for the universities entails them using their assets to a much greater extent. At present their opening hours are restricted, for example, they close for a number of months every summer. In the future it is likely they will use their assets in different ways. While this does not mean that people will have to work longer hours, the universities will work all year and will not necessarily take breaks during the summer and at other traditional times. Given this, there may be a need for a different kind of employment and we should not restrict them. It would be better to leave them to elect those whom they see fit, without the imposition of conditions.
I support Senator Lee because it is important that appointments are made on the basis of academic merit. Professors should not be elected or promoted to run departments like businesses. I agree with the wording of amendment No. 25 where it states "...`appointed by the normal procedures of appointment to full-time permanent professorships on the basis of academic merit" '.
This problem should be resolved by a county council; it is an academic argument.
I do not agree with amendment No. 34. It was represented to me by the universities that there are a number of professors and associate professors similar to those who work neither part-time nor full-time in medicine but are often university professors. A part-time professor in law was elected by the academic council to the governing body of University College Cork in the 1970s. To stipulate that professors must be full-time and permanent cuts across the rights of an electorate. They can be full-time about their business, and permanent, but not within the universities sector.
It is 6.30 p.m.
I propose that we finish debate on these amendments before adjourning.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I do not support either amendment.
The issue I raised has not been adequately answered. I readily accept phraseology can be changed and improved. The original intent was to try to ensure the more recent type of person who has professor in their title did not become central to this. There are four categories — academic, non-academic, student and postgraduate. If professors potentially become increasingly non-academic, then the balance begins to shift. We do not have a definition of "professor". I am sympathetic with Senator Quinn's view that one should keep futures open as far as possible. I do not want to tie things down but we have a list of objects for a university, one of which is to have an academic core. The present type of professoriate is meant to be — however well they perform in it — the guardian of those values and of the most effective discharge of them. I have no interest in being on governing bodies unless I have to. If they are not best discharged to perform, there is something wrong about the way decision making has proceeded.
I take Senator Manning's point but I still question whether it is possible to improve the formulation in the Bill. I will think about it further before Report Stage.