Qualifications (Education and Training) Bill, 1999: Committee Stage. SECTION 1.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 7, subsection (1), lines 25 and 26, to delete "Qualifications (Education and Training)" and substitute "Education and Training (Qualifications)".
I welcome the Minister to the House. As I said on Second Stage, we support the legislation.
My amendment relates to the title of the Bill which is Qualifications (Education and Training) Bill, 1999. It seems to me it would be more appropriately entitled Education and Training (Qualifications) Bill because this is essentially an education Bill. The preamble states that the Bill is "An Act to establish an administrative structure for development, etc. . . . . " It refers to various awards, the authority and the council. The explanatory memorandum gives a clear picture of the purpose of the Bill and the amendment is being put forward in line with that description.
The purpose of the Bill, as outlined in the explanatory memorandum, is to put a legislative framework in place which will establish and develop standards of knowledge, skill or competence; promote the quality of further education and training and higher education and training; provide a system for co-ordinating and comparing education and training awards and promote and maintain procedures for access, transfer and progression. Access, transfer and progression are very important. We are not merely discussing awards, we are concerned with a considerable range of developments in the educational sphere – further education, higher education and training – and I do not believe the title adequately reflects that. The term "Education and Training" should not be placed in brackets, it should be boldly, clearly and strongly enunciated. Qualifications are part and parcel of the components of the Bill and do not represent the legislation in its entirety. We believe the Minister should take action about that misnomer in the title of the Bill.
If we were dealing with a nursing qualifications Bill, would it be entitled the Qualifications (Nursing) Bill? I do not believe so. In my view it would be called the Nursing Bill or the Nursing (Qualifications) Bill. Why should we accept lower standards in respect of a Bill dealing with education? I urge the Minister to accept the amendment because the wording it proposes to substitute in the title more properly reflects the true nature of the contents of the legislation.
I thank the Senator for his comments. We could argue about this matter until late evening and still have two different views on it. I am satisfied that the existing title is appropriate. I am not of the opinion that the term "qualifications" is somehow lesser than "education and training". Qualifications and certification are at the core of the Bill. A proper qualifications framework will facilitate progression, access and standards.
We gave consideration to the title suggested by the Senator which was used as a working title for a long period. We gave considerable reflection to this matter when drafting the Bill in the Department and, at the end of that period of reflection, we decided that the current title was most appropriate. We are somewhat loath to change the title again because we would be obliged to amend the terminology used throughout the Bill as a result. We are of the opinion that the current title, with its emphasis on qualifications, is perhaps more indicative of the general thrust of the Bill, namely, to provide for a high level of qualification for those involved in all forms of training, education and learning which will inspire confidence in and respond to the needs of the wider community.
On balance, I believe Senator Costello is right. However, I am not sure it matters very much because the Bill will only be referred to in certain limited contexts and it will not be the instrument that administers this area. As far as I am concerned, a spade is a spade. If someone wants to call it the "Agricultural Implement for the Trituration of the Soil by Manual Means Bill" that it fine, so long as the ground is dug.
I am more concerned about the title of the body and perhaps we will deal with that later.
We will deal with that later because an amendment to change the Long Title to the Bill has been tabled.
I was not referring to the title of the Bill but to the title of the body. As it stands, the new body will be called "Comhairle na nDámhachtainí Ardoicheachais agus Oiliúna", which is complete gobbledygook. With the exception of a few peculiar people like me, no one will be able to get their mouth around that title.
The Senator's pronunciation was quite good.
Its title in English is the Higher Education and Training Awards Council or HETAC, which adds to the dozens of similarly named bodies already in existence. I trawled the Internet superhighway and discovered that the acronym HETAC also applies to the Higher Education Technical Advisory Council and the Home Economics Teachers' Association of California. Can we afford such confusion?
The Minister's mind is made up on this. This is an education and training Bill, a significant part of which deals with the awards, councils and regulatory framework for higher education which are being established. I do not like to see it presented as though it is purely a qualifications Bill, which it is not. Matters of access and pathways through education are important and that is why we are looking at higher education and training and these are being included in the title. The whole purpose of this legislation is to provide better quality, better access and better progression. My argument is a better one than the Minister's.
We have a Qualifications (Education and Training) Bill which has a very broad scope. The intent of the Bill is to establish a framework harmonising and standardising qualifications and facilitating access and progression. It is an important Bill for the student in that context, and the essence of this Bill is the student. We have to place the student over and above providers and institutions in our minds. The Qualifications Bill captures the essence of this but I understand the point made by the Senator.
I am very glad the Minister said the focus of the Bill is the student. I know he is a very humane Minister and perhaps he could allay the fears of people who have been in contact with me by letter and who feel there is not sufficient student representation on the awards-giving body. I make that point now because the Minister said the Bill is student orientated and student directed.
The Senator is very alert today.
I am not a bit alert, I am just out of the dentist's chair. Perhaps it is the laughing gas.
Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 1 agreed to.
Amendment No. 2 is in the name of Senator Norris. Amendments Nos. 3, 5, 23 and 30 to 36, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 8, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following definition:
"Educational" in relation to the National Council for Educational Awards means education and training;.
Amendment No. 2 seems fairly straightforward. We have just been dealing with the title of the Bill and it therefore seems logical that one should include in the definition of education the idea of education and training. The single word employed at this point is educational, which could lead people to interpret it in a rather narrow, intellectually snobbish manner. It is important that full value be given both to training and education, the more skill-based, practically applied levels of these, in addition to the level of education in the more conventionally accepted sense as it applies in the universities.
I am slightly confused because of the number of amendments being taken together. I wish to refer to the two amendments in my name. Amendment No. 5 is self-explanatory. This authority will operate internationally. It will be referred to by educational authorities, employers and so forth in other jurisdictions. I believe that adding the words "of Ireland" to it would give it the distinctiveness it requires. I will come back to my other amendment when this is clarified.
I am prepared to accept amendment No. 5 in the names of Senators Manning and McDonagh as it is worded. It seeks to insert the words "of Ireland" after the word "Authority".
I am of the view that would be sufficient in terms of the higher education council and the further education council, which will come under the qualifications authority of Ireland. That authority would appear on certificates awarded.
I thank the Minister for that. I wish to refer to the other amendments in my name dealing with abolition of the title "The National Council for Educational Awards". Like Senator Norris, I found some of the titles somewhat cumbersome. For more than 30 years people have held certificates validated by the National Council for Educational Awards. They hang on walls and are displayed on mantelpieces around the country. Was it necessary to introduce a new title or was there a case for retaining the title of an organisation that is well established and accepted and for which there is general respect?
The issues pertaining to this Bill have been in existence for a considerable time. The view of the educational and training world was that new bodies were required, new bodies in terms of the higher education council and the further education council but also to embrace the world of training, experiential learning and so forth. What Senators are putting forward, via these amendments, is the retention of the NCEA. We do not propose to do that because the Bill will effectively replace the National Council for Educational Awards, but there are transitional arrangements provided for in the Bill. It will not in anyway undermine or dilute the quality of those qualifications.
We have had meetings with all the various sectors. We had meetings with the technological sector who were totally supportive of this. Although 90 per cent of the existing technological sector have awards granted by the NCEA, they are supportive of the move to establish a new body and the replacement of the existing title.
We are moving towards the development of a more inclusive model and a more inclusive system of making awards. We are of the opinion that the title "Higher Education and Training Awards Council" more widely reflects the activity in which the new council will be involved.
The title of the NCEA was reflective of its time, but the NCEA did not extend to making awards in the broad training sector. I have consulted widely on this and there was a good deal of concern, caution and fear about moving to the stage of having a published Bill. Many different sectors had to be brought on board. Many of the titles and the composition of the authority and the councils to a certain extent reflect the bringing of people together in the training area and in the education world, as opposed to people going in different directions within their own narrow confines. The titles are aimed to reflect the broader picture the qualifications authority and the higher education and training council will embrace.
I welcome the Minister's acceptance of amendment No. 5, which proposes the title should be "National Qualifications Authority of Ireland". If we are to award prestigious qualifications and run courses that are recognised internationally, the title of the awarding body should include the words "of Ireland".
I am very much in favour of the Minister. That is not because he is a member of my party, but it good to bring together the NCEA, the NCVA and NCCA. It will provide a chance for people to gain access to the academic world from the training sector. That was not the case heretofore. There was a very definite divide. In some areas one had to take a scenic rather than a direct route to get to the top. These new bodies will make such access much easier. I support the Minister on this issue.
I take it the Minister has no principled objection to the idea that education in relation to the national council means education and training.
As contained within the NCEA?
How does one define "education" or "learning"? I have no objection to what the Senator said. In essence, the Bill is replacing the title "NCEA".
As I understand it, the Minister is saying he is moving even further in this direction.
There is no ideological difference. This is a technical matter.
That is what I assumed. I am partly whimsical about the title. It is an awful mouthful. I do not object to what it is doing. I love the Irish language and it seems that this is a very obviously manufactured thing. It is unreal. Somebody was given the job of concocting this title. The fact that there are two other bodies with the same acronym on the website concerns me because of the confusion it may cause. When Dublin City University was established, there was an initial problem of perception because of UCD, DCU and the simple matter of postal deliveries. Now that there is such an enormous volume of interchange by electronic communications of various kinds, I am slightly worried there may be confusion here.
We will probably overcome the confusion with the home economic teachers in California.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."
On the section, there is a rather peculiar use of language in the interpretations. I believe that is because the Minister does not know how to define these things and he has handed it over to somebody else. There is no definition of further education and training or of higher education and training. He has handed it over to the national qualifications authority to make the decision. Further education and training means education and training other than primary or post primary education or higher education and training, which is determined by the national qualifications authority to be further education and training. Higher education and training means education and training other than primary or post primary or further education, which is determined by the national qualifications authority under section 10 to be higher education and training. One might think one was going around in circles if one did not follow this very carefully.
What happens if the national qualifications authority take a different definition of higher education from that which might be taken by the Higher Education Authority? If we do not have a firm, fundamental legal definition of what constitutes higher education, will we run into institutional conflict? These are fundamental concepts. We would not allow a body other than the law to define what is meant by primary education or vocational education. We would not leave it to people to make up definitions and to change them as they go along. It seems peculiar that we have left the national qualifications authority with the right to define what precisely is further education and higher education, leaving out primary and secondary education, which have their own legal definitions. Why do we not have such definitions?
I disagree strongly with what Senator Ryan has said. It is not because of any inability to define. Quite clearly, it is the job of the qualifications authority to make decisions in terms of demarcation between different levels of awards. We already have it in further education and higher education. Teachers, educators and trainers argue about where their level is. Some people argue about how NCVA levels 2 or 3 relate to the NCEA national certificate and what the relationship is between them. There is considerable debate on that issue but one could not resolve it by having a legalistic definition in legislation. It would be impossible and inappropriate because things evolve. The Bill is about creating a framework that facilitates the evolution of qualifications and awards. One must have a regulatory authority that works with providers, draws distinctions, looks at processes and outputs from various providers and makes decisions on the variety of levels in further and higher education, and the linkage between the two. To a certain extent also it will deal with overlapping and duplication. That is why we need a Bill like this one, otherwise one is dealing with ad hoc arrangements, empire building and institutions doing their own thing. They will suddenly arrive one day saying they have a third level award, whether one likes it or not, for which they are seeking recognition. That occurred in the past and the Bill is an attempt to resolve many of those issues.
Section 2 deals with interpretation.
Definition, essentially. We have a number of definitions. We know what the Minister is and what a learner is. We also know what functions and awarding bodies are and what an award means. However, one thing has been left out which might be looked at – although, mea culpa, I have not tabled an amendment on it – is the essential notion behind the Bill of quality assurance. It might be appropriate for us to look at it at this point so that it can be referred to again and introduced on Report Stage. Perhaps the Minister can do so. Quality assurance is a sort of quality control in educational terms but there is no definition of the term in the Bill, although perhaps I am wrong.
Is there? Considerable reference is made to it, so there might be. On the question of language, I was listening to one of John Quinn's wonderful programmes which featured an educator from America. I think he might have been a priest or an ex-priest. Something about the quality of his voice suggested that to me. He had a very interesting and imaginative mind. He objected strongly to somebody who asked him what subjects he taught, replying: "I do not teach subjects, I teach students". I think he was nit-picking. However, that person – I am sorry I cannot remember his name – might cavil a little at the notion of providers, rather than teachers and educators, because such terms are factory-like. It seems almost like quality control of a product. I am not even 100 per cent sure that the word "product" does not emerge. This used to drive me crackers in Trinity.
Is it driving the Senator crackers?
It used to drive me crackers at the interminable blasted staff meetings in Trinity, which I tried to avoid. I remember one of my colleagues referring to the homogenising of the student product. Oh God, I thought, am I in a dairy or a factory line? One assumes that Trinity was one of the least affected. There is a terrible danger that we will get this technological application of language in education, which should be a marvellous process to release the qualities inherent in students themselves. In terms such as providers and product there is a whiff of the assembly line.
In section 2, which deals with interpretation, I do not see any definition of quality assurance. It may be assumed that one knows what quality assurance is and that it is so obvious, but so is the term Minister. He is sitting there and I can see him. He could not be more obvious. A few other words, such as employee, are defined, yet one does need to know what an employee is in these particular circumstances.
Some things are defined in this section, yet we all know what they are. If the main intention is to look at the question of quality assurance, it would have been at least as significant to provide a definition of it. What do we mean by it and how does it relate to international standards?
Instruments are passed by the European Union which, for example, recommend to member states that they should do certain specific and clear things with regard to quality assurance. It might be useful to know if we are bringing this into line with these particular standards. It is possible to assert that notions of what constitutes quality assurance can vary from one point of view to the other, even if only marginally. Is there a specific definition of what quality assurance means in terms of this Bill? It might be useful.
The Senator is correct in saying that there is not a definition of quality assurance in the section. I am informed that it is a very well understood term, as the Senator himself said.
It was used in the Universities Bill, which was passed by the previous Seanad and Dáil, and is working quite well in terms of the implementation of that Bill. It is a well understood term. Quality assurance is a key theme of the Bill and everything that the qualifications authority will be doing. Indeed, it is a key theme of what we are doing in establishing external review bodies to examine quality assurance procedures within various institutions. To varying degrees, institutions are co-operating with these bodies.
The Senator is concerned with some words in the Bill, including provider, which are factory-type language. However, to a certain extent there is nothing wrong with that because the other language was quite exclusive in its own time. Many people involved in training, education or learning often felt excluded by traditional academic jargon. They felt it was not for them, but for a higher being who could pronounce such words better than they could. In many ways, we are using quite neutral terminology to try to be as broadly encompassing as we can of the various forms of learning experience that people go through, either in institutions, outside them or even on the assembly line.
We want people to train and be educated on the assembly line, literally, within factories and other places of employment. There is nothing wrong with that. The key point is that those people should feel as included by this Bill as others within an institute of technology or elsewhere. That is perhaps why some of the terminology is as neutral as it is. In some respects, it is unusual in education but, nonetheless, it is very important.
I will reflect upon the points the Senator has made about quality assurance. It is a well understood term but perhaps we could make some definition of it. It is a process which ensures that what happens within institutions is of a high quality. We cannot turn a blind eye to the procedures and processes that occur within institutions. How courses are established, their content and the degree and quality of teaching are all important issues that need to be considered in the context of continued monitoring of courses and programmes.
I find it quite peculiar that, for the purposes of this Bill, the definitions of higher and further education will be left to an authority only a small minority of whose members need have any direct experience of either further or higher education. I strongly suspect that this would not happen in the primary education area because we would have definitions that were not made by those with a direct connection with the area. The Minister is leaving definitions to the national qualifications authority and that body, apart from the entirely anomalous nomination of a representative of the universities, which are otherwise keeping a disdainful distance from the matter, is dominated by people who have no involvement in education. What is the purpose of handing fundamental definitions over to such a body?
Do we not know what further education is? I am aware that things evolve but that is not the issue. We should have definitions which are based on some rationale, which are consistent and which evolve. Institutions can move from being centres of further education to higher education if a reason arises, but that does not mean we should not know what they mean. In an earlier discussion of PLC courses, the Minister could tell me instantly that PLC courses were not higher education but further education. The Minister knows the difference between further and higher education and so do I. I know what is commonly accepted but we offer no direction to the national qualifications authority.
We do when saying higher education and training, which means education and training other than those in the primary and post-primary sectors.
There is a difference between knowing what something is and what it is not. Higher education is worthy of a better definition than saying it is not something else, as is further education. Saying that further education is everything other than something is not the way to write a definition and it is not what the Minister means when he says that further education and higher education are different things. It is not that they are not the same thing. They represent two different strands of education and they deserve better definitions than definitions based on what they are not. That is what is in the Bill.
I agree with Senator Ryan. I remember when he used to refer expansively to "my church", which was the Roman Catholic church. At that time we were referred to as "non-Catholics", which irritated me.
I would not accuse my colleague of doing so, but I sympathise with being defined negatively.
Just because I joined the Labour Party I am facing accusations.
Senator Ryan should not be paranoid. He is not long in the Labour Party and paranoia usually develops after 18 months.
I want to use this debate to alert the Minister. I am worried by the image of the production line and the "factorification" of education. I have nothing against factories, which are very important. Work and training in that area should be recognised and I am in favour of technological awards and ensuring quality and training in this area. However, it is significantly different from what I understand by university education. The principal requirement of a production line is absolute standardisation of product. Everything must be the same, while in the university diversity is required. Drawing out individual qualities in a student and encouraging diversity that may not be appropriate when faced with a production line is encouraged. The Minister is right when saying that the technical and technological areas may have felt burdened in the past by some of the airy-fairy language of the university, but we should not reverse that situation. Inappropriate values from the production line should not be imported into the university.
I was lucky enough to achieve what the British would call an acceptable level of disease and was hence able to take early retirement from the University of Dublin. That had become an ambition of mine in any case precisely because of this matter. In a number of universities there is a flight from the ivory tower because good, motivated teachers resent being required to operate in factory circumstances. Those circumstances are appropriate in a factory, but they are not appropriate in a university. I know the Minister does not intend to import factory values into a university where they are not appropriate, but I wanted to sound this warning. This is happening partly because of pressure of numbers in universities now there is a huge intake of students. There is a danger that diversity and various freedoms could be unintentionally threatened and it would be a real pity if that happened.
Senator Norris is probably overstating the case regarding this Bill.
Yes. I just wanted to make the point.
This Bill deals with a range of sectors, not just the university area. From time to time people panic too much and there is incredible paranoia in universities, particularly in the humanities sector. The mere mention of science or technology means the whole world is collapsing and we are jettisoning all that has been great over the centuries.
This happens all the time. I come from the history sector of the humanities and have corrected essays on the causes on the Second World War where there was no greater diversity or individuality than in the 30 essays written.
Universities are creative places.
Senator Norris's implication is that there is only one university in the State which is just down the street.
This Bill is about awards and qualifications. The Higher Education Authority obviously has a key role to play in the higher education and university sectors and may work in other areas such as funding, regulations and sanctioning new programmes in the future. This Bill is about diversity, choice and the variety of experiences through which people can learn. It is about validating learning experiences that were not validated in the past and about those who had difficulty in accessing many of these institutions. We are looking at experiential learning, where people can trade experience in areas for qualifications and get accreditation. I make no apologies for the language used. We have to make changes and bring people within the fold. We cannot use language that may be exclusive.
This is a good debate but it has gone off the point. I listened to the programme about what people taught. It was interesting that one person replied, "I teach students", when the question related to the subjects taught.
This Bill is opening up the whole process and allowing everyone the space to make it to the grade they want. We must allow access to all students. Those with academic aptitude will have an opportunity to avail of the aesthetic side of education. I come from the university perspective also and I see Senator Norris's point. We could have a long debate on this matter but we must discipline ourselves to discuss the Bill.
There may be an ideal of a university but that ended 70 or 80 years ago. In the areas of overlap between the various sectors of third level education, particularly technical and technological education, science and business studies, there is no fundamental difference between what is provided in an institute of technology and a university. That applies to the most ancient and the most recent of our universities. They all do the same thing and there is no fundamental difference between them, as any accreditation body will testify. In many cases, what is done in a university is identical to what is done in other third level institutions.
The liberal arts – the sustaining of which I support enthusiastically – are a glorious exception. I would love Senator Norris to be turned into a national institution – that is how much I support the liberal arts. It is a mistake to pretend that the quality of education given in a university is fundamentally different from that given in other third level institutions. This may have been the case in the nineteenth century when people went to Oxford and Cambridge to learn Latin and Greek and went to work for the British foreign service, but it is no longer the case.
Question put and agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 11, paragraph (i), line 17, to delete "diversity" and substitute "the range".
This amendment proposes to substitute range for diversity. I am very happy with diversity.
I thank the Minister. So am I.
I am glad that Senator Norris is happy with diversity. I would have found great difficulty in supporting the idea of range. The Minister is right to choose diversity. The Bill distinguishes between further and higher education. There will be difficulties putting further education into one category and higher education in another because sometimes it will be difficult to draw a line between the two. The Bill defines further education and training as "education and training . . . which is determined by the National Qualifications Authority . . . to be further education and training" and higher education as "education and training . . . which is determined by the National Qualifications Authority . . . to be higher education and training".
Section 10 endeavours to clarify and distinguish the respective areas of further and higher education and training and the respective roles of the National Qualifications Authority and the two awarding councils. Section 10(3) elaborates on the distinction between further and higher education and training. It provides that, as a general guideline, where a programme leads to the attainment by learners of a standard which is not higher than the level at which, before the date appointed, the National Council for Vocational Awards made awards, the programme concerned shall be deemed to be further education and training.
An authority is needed to deal with issues as they emerge. Issues will continue to emerge, particularly with regard to the distinction between further education and training and higher education and training.
I am in sympathy with the notion of diversity. However, this amendment was suggested to me and I feel obliged to express the thinking behind it, as I recollect it. The point was made to me that the Bill should recognise the existing range of education and training in institutions. It does not seem to me to be a particularly strong point.
Having tabled the amendment as it was suggested to me, I am obliged to speak on it. I am happy with the Minister's response. I am strongly in favour of diversity.
Given the unanimity of our views on diversity, I thank the Minister for his explanation. I hope there will be a certain amount of flexibility between higher and further education.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."
It might be more appropriate to promote scope and diversity rather than range. I accept the Minister's explanation that the matter is covered.
Section 4, which outlines the Bill's objects and functions, is the most important section. There is very little co-ordination between the various sectors in education. It is very important that education has a co-operative basis. Sections 4(d) and 4(e) refer to procedures for transfer and progression and to access for all learners, including learners with special needs. There is very limited access to third level education for all learners.
It is essential that the responsibility of the third level and further education sector to extend access to education to all learners be placed on a statutory basis. Systems must be put in place to give each citizen the opportunity to receive third level education. In many disadvantaged rural and urban areas access to third level education is almost non-existent and little effort is being made by the third level sector to promote access to education in these areas. Pilot programmes are run on a token basis.
We must recognise the development that has taken place in the further education sector. Post-leaving certificate courses form the largest post- secondary education sector but this has not been recognised. Representatives of universities say they do not wish to run their institutions with a factory mentality. However, nobody expects this. Universities are being asked merely to show a sense of responsibility. Members of university faculties cannot be allowed to speak of the charters given them by Queen Elizabeth and claim they are responsible only to themselves. We must all play a part in providing education and training to the country. Institutions which receive large amounts of taxpayers' money must play their part. I support the Minister and I hope the narrow academic aspect of education will not be over-emphasised. Education must be pluralist and all-embracing.
Section 4(h) states that an object of the Act shall be "to promote recognition outside the State of awards made by bodies in the State and recognition in the State of awards made by bodies outside the State". Our record in this regard has not been good. We must recognise foreign qualifications and those from Northern Ireland. There is much scope for co-operation between third level institutions and institutions of higher education North and South. There is scope also for co-operation with institutions in Britain and other EU countries.
I support this section. Many of the objects referred to in the section are already being addressed. We must all play a part in bringing them about.
We must get away from the silly business of setting up an institution as an Aunt Sally. It is suggested that Trinity College is an effete institution while it is, in fact, something of which we should be proud. I deprecate the parochialism of my colleagues. Trinity College has played its role in a most remarkable way at the forefront of technology and the Minister knows that. For my colleagues to try to denigrate it shows how petty they can be.
The promotion of access and opportunities is greatly important and there are ironies here which we all need to face. I do not want the Minister to think I spend my entire time listening to the radio but, as I spend a large proportion of it so doing, he will be glad to know I listen principally to Radio Éireann. There was a programme which would cause much concern to people about those in prison undergoing education. A point, which caused me concern, as somebody who used to be involved in third level education, was that several prisoners, one of whom was from Cork, said that because of their class or origin they would never have had access to a third level institution had they not been in jail. It took a transfer to the prison environment to put them in a position in which they got degrees. That is very worrying.
It is correct to look at the question of promoting access for all sections of society which require it and which are motivated. Motivation, partic ularly among adults, is greatly important in education. When someone is under a certain age we can push them into education but adults must be motivated and guided.
The question of recognition outside the State is important, although I am not sure how much machinery has been established. I remember dealing with cases in the House in which degrees from several universities here were not regarded highly in America where the equivalent degrees were not as good. Difficulties arise for teaching purposes in the United States because of an idiotic system in which commercial companies were hired to validate degrees. These commercial companies presumed to validate Irish degrees for the American system but they did not know the first thing about them. I hope this matter will be clarified, particularly with the American authorities.
I did not intend to intervene on this matter, but I support the general thrust of what Senator Norris said. I picked up from my two colleagues in the Labour Party a sense of the universities which is not that of the universities as I know them. I will not make a special plea in this regard but Irish universities have changed enormously in the past ten to 15 years. They are, and needed to be, more accountable and democratic than ever before and there is room for more change.
This has been a huge change. They have modernised on their own initiative usually but also in response to pressure. International standards are being achieved and maintained in universities as never before. Most of my younger colleagues are looking to be judged against the best international standards and the parochialism of the past is gone.
On such questions as access to third level education for the disadvantaged, whether physically disadvantaged or for those coming from deprived areas, dedicated people are working on programmes devised specifically in a structured way to achieve these ends in the universities with which I am familiar.
I do not want to get into the question of leadership again but Senator Norris was right to make that point. We have never been better served in the quality of the presidents of the universities than at present. They are very aware of the need to maintain standards, to be more democratic and to play a greater part in their communities. It would be a pity if there was a sense that the objects of the Bill, as set out in this section, were in some way at variance with what pertains in the universities because that is not the case.
The universities support the objects of the Bill.
As long as it does not apply to them.
The Bill applies to them.
The Senator must allow the Minister to respond.
The Bill is far more advanced in terms of co-operation with the universities than any previous draft and we have made progress. The Universities Act passed through the House and is law. We had an extensive debate, in which I participated when in Opposition, on the Universities Act, which was amended.
Senator Manning's point is valid – we can and should be proud of our universities. We should also be proud of our technology sector, which played a key role in broadening access to and participation in third level education. There is no question that it was one of the great innovations of Irish education over 30 years ago. It brought a major change in terms of access and participation.
Institutions are taking commendable steps in terms of access for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, but we need to do more. We have achieved some resources in the budget to facilitate third level institutions, universities and institutes of technology, in broadening their access programmes and to refine them somewhat to ensure that not only are students from disadvantaged backgrounds attracted, but that they stay and are supported in their programmes in the universities and institutes of technology.
We are happy with the degree of co-operation we have had with the universities on the Bill so far. There is an obligation on the universities to co-operate with the National Qualifications Authority in terms of access, transfer and progression, which are critically important, and also to make information available to the authority. That point should be noted.
The Bill has an international context in that the European Union has been trying for years without great success to push member states towards having national qualifications authorities which would fit into an eventual EU-wide qualifications authority, which would facilitate the mobility of students throughout the Union. In Australia and New Zealand, similar exercises have been achieved in the establishment of qualifications authorities. We must get our act together, so to speak, to facilitate the mobility of Irish students going abroad and students coming here with qualifications from other countries. That is one of the objectives of the Bill. I endorse Senator Costello's point about the objects of the Bill in terms of access and progression.
I do not want to push this issue too far but the universities are in favour of this Bill as long as they do not come under its structures. Will the Minister explain whether he decided to leave the universities out because it was good for them or did he know they would not accept being put under a national framework in which they might be accountable?
I subscribe to the objects of this Bill but I have a fundamental question. Is the reason for the exclusion of the universities, which, in some cases, are of more recent origin than other institutions which are under the aegis of the Bill, because of the ethos of the universities and because the Minister is satisfied the quality assurance procedures in our universities are of such an impeccable standard that they do not need any external assistance? Most of the work will be done through assistance, collaboration and co-operation. I know how the system has worked, and I presume it will continue to work.
Universities do a good job but there is a sense in which we are like Taiwan claiming to be China. There are references in the Bill to higher and further education and the wonderful things which will be done under section 4, yet the largest sector of education has been excluded from the provisions of the Bill. There is a peculiarity and a degree of unreality about the Bill in that it purports to promote the quality of further education and training and higher education and training, to provide a system for co-ordinating and comparing education and training awards, to promote access and opportunities for all learners, including learners with special education and training needs and to promote recognition outside the State of awards made by bodies in the State. It will only promote awards made by bodies under the aegis of the authority. The universities will not thank the Minister if he starts to promote the recognition of university awards outside the State.
The fundamental objective of the Bill is to provide a framework for standards within a sector of higher and further education which is not covered by the universities. The fundamental question is why universities, some of which are of quite recent origin, do not need a similar national framework. Universities do a great job.
A substantial number of amendments have been tabled and there will be a more extensive debate later. We should proceed amendment by amendment and I will be happy to deal with these issues in the context of the appropriate amendments tabled by Senators relating to the role of the universities under the Bill.
The importance of this section cannot be over-emphasised. I agree wholeheartedly with its aim but subsection (e) states that one of the objects is to promote access and opportunities for all learners. As one reads through the Bill one finds this is diluted. In terms of access, transfer and progression, universities have a different role and function in comparison to other institutions and that is the nub of our problem. It will be teased out later but it is important to flag the fact that while section 4, which is pluralist, comprehensive and all-embracing, is agreed, the Bill declines in standard from the high quality of its initial principles and it is important to put down a marker.
Question put and agreed to.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 11, subsection (1), line 33, after "Authority" to insert "of Ireland".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are related to amendment No. 6 and they may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 11, subsection (1), line 40, to delete "13" and substitute "14".
The Bill has been hailed for putting students' interests to the fore. In this context it is extraordinary that there is no provision for a nominee of the student body on the proposed National Qualifications Authority. Students are central to the new arrangement and there must be learner representation on the authority. I hope that the Minister will succumb to my representations.
With regard to amendment No. 8, industry is well represented on the authority and agriculture is still an important element of the economy, despite its major problems in recent times. Solid and good qualifications are an integral part of the new way forward in the agriculture. Accordingly, it should be represented on the authority.
It seems that the voice of the consumer is included or suggested for inclusion in almost every Bill passing through the House. I support the concept put forward by Senator McDonagh on the grounds that students are consumers. It appears that a representative of the consumers should be on the authority if possible.
Great care went into trying to arrive at a proper balance in terms of the composition of the authority and the two councils. The membership of the authority is designed to be as broadly based as possible and to include the broad sectors of Irish life, for example, industry. ICTU and Forfás are represented but it is not meant to be a representative body in the sense that everybody who has an input should have a representative on the authority; that would be too large and unwieldy. That is why I have a fundamental difficulty with the amendments. Agriculture, fishery, tourism, etc. could be represented and one could include many other sectors.
It is difficult to say which organisation would truly represent the learner or student because the Bill covers a wide range of students and not the classical university student who is a member of USI. Many universities are no longer affiliated to USI and a problem would arise there immediately. As Senators will be aware, some institutes are disaffiliating from USI. There are learners in post-leaving certificate colleges, FÁS, CERT and Teagasc, all of whom are embraced by the Bill. Therefore, the question is to what extent would all those students be represented by one nominee. We could end up with a token representation and that is why we are against the idea of nominating a particular organisation which may not be representative of all learners.
When I said that the focus of the Bill was student or learner driven, I meant that one of the great concerns of all learners or those engaged in a programme of training or education is where will it lead them – where they can go with the qualification or accreditation they receive or what next step they can take. The essence of the Bill is to facilitate the learner or student to advance and progress with his or her qualifications. The student takes precedence over everybody else in terms of the objects of the Bill.
The Minister of the day will appoint nominees and can nominate individuals who may have particular expertise from the consumer's perspective or other perspectives such as agriculture. That flexibility needs to be retained and a balance must be struck by establishing an authority that is broadly representative of the various strands in Irish life but which avoids a sector by sector trawl in terms of who should be on the board, otherwise it will be an unwieldy operation. The composition and size of the authority needs to be such that it will be rendered efficient and effective in the discharge of its duties. It took some time in terms of the consultative process in which we engaged to arrive at this model. It could disentangle quickly if we proceed to have a wide variety of groups with representatives on the authority.
On Second Stage I said I was anxious that the membership of the authority would reflect all aspects of higher education and further education and training and I am pleased that will happen. I was also approached by USI to make a representation on its behalf today but the Minister is right that a wider base is needed. I am happy that the proposed membership will discharge its duties and the objects of the Bill. The composition of the authority is fair; students and learners are its focus and it will reflect that.
I am always nonplussed when a Minister says that a Pandora's box would be opened if we were to increase or decrease numbers laid down by his or her Department. The Bill provides for 13 people on the authority, 15 on the Further Education Council and 17 on the Higher Education and Training Council. How did we get those figures? What is the magic number? Another amendment deals with the Minister appointing two people.
The universities may nominate one person. I do not criticise the universities, I have great time for them and they play an excellent role within present parameters, but those parameters should be widened. Neither the Dublin Institute of Technology nor the institutes of technology may nominate anyone to the authority. The universities are largely excluded from the legislation and they will not be regulated by this body. Why may the universities nominate one member of the authority while there are no nominees from the technology sector or from the consumers, that is, the students?
Among the objects of this authority is to provide a framework to establish and promote the maintenance of standards in further education and training and it is the students who will be affected directly by this. There are student members of the Higher Education Authority, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the National Council for Educational Awards, all of which provide qualifications. Why can students not belong to this body, which will largely incorporate the functions of those bodies? The student members are doing a good job on the current bodies and no one has said they should not be there. They were appointed to those bodies which will now be subsumed, to some degree, in the new authority. Why should students not be represented on the over-arching regulatory body, when normally they would be? We could discard one of the Minister's nominees or add another member or two to the authority.
I suggest that the technology sector and the consumers, in the form of the students, should be represented. I see no need for the Minister to nominate two members, nor for the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to nominate another. Would it not be better to represent those involved directly in the provision or receipt of the education?
I am somewhat disappointed with the Minister's reply. This Bill is about students – they are central to the new arrangements and are the fulcrum of the process. The Minister said there are many student bodies but the USI is generally recognised as the most representative group of the student movement and a place should have been reserved for it. Like me, students will be sorely disappointed. I note what the Minister says but I do not agree with him. Students have been neglected and they should be included.
There is a significant reduction in the number of ministerial appointees to this authority when compared, for example, to the National Council for Educational Awards Act, 1979, which provided for nine ministerial appointees out of 21 members of the council. This Bill provides for two members to be appointed by the Minister for Education and Science and one to be appointed by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment out of 13 members of the National Qualifications Authority.
It is important that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment should have a representative on the authority to bring the broader industrial and economic perspective to bear on its work. I make no apology for that because we must have an effective authority and it must reflect Government policy, not necessarily my policy but that of other Ministers in the future. I would not undermine this. There is a growing opinion that no Minister should appoint anyone to anything, which I think is ridiculous. I intend to avoid appointing hacks, as I have done in all my appointments to date, and I insist that we appoint people of quality. All Ministers have that responsibility.
The councils are different to the authority in terms of their remit and purpose. I understand the points made by Senators about the desirability of having representatives of consumers or different sectors involved but we cannot follow the policy pursued with sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism because we would have a very large body.
There are problems selecting a person who would be genuinely representative of all students and learners covered by this Bill. That is not a convenient excuse, it is a fact. In times past, when institutions were confined in terms of their remit, the USI was representative of students in the technological sector and the university sector and it was easy to nominate someone to cover those areas. That is no longer the case, particularly in respect of the National Qualifications Authority. I do not mean this in a derogatory way, but we would be fooling ourselves if we thought that a nominee from the USI would represent students and learners from all sectors.
I appreciate the Minister's problems but not some of his justifications. There are student representatives on the governing bodies of virtually every third level institution and there should be such representatives on the authorities governing further education. If there are representatives on all those bodies, they would amount to 60 people at most and it would be simple to arrange for that group to pick one representative for this authority, if the only problem were to find a person who is representative. However, someone has resisted the idea of a student member of the authority—
—and this is a plausible, if not a practical explanation.
If the Senator had been at the last USI conference he would know how impractical it would be.
Students have a representative in every institution, although there are differences in the process by which they pick that representative, and where students have no representative on further education bodies they ought to have one. Student representatives are, therefore, involved in the governance of third level and further education. It would not be difficult to arrange for that group to pick a representative.
This Bill covers more than third level and further education – Senator Ryan is ignoring FÁS and CERT trainees. We should not give the impression that the Bill only concerns further and higher education. One reason the process took so long was that people in the training sector perceived they would not receive fair treatment and would be excluded by more traditional forms of education. This is an inclusive framework which will not narrow the confines and it is important that the various sectors are covered. I will reflect on whether there is a mechanism to represent the consumer but it does not appear to be readily available. The Bill has yet to go to the other House.
The problem is that a large part of the training sector, particularly that dominated by FÁS, would not dream of involving students in the governance of their education, because its attitude to trainees is so outdated. FÁS treats these students as products and it must change its attitude. The Minister could serve a purpose by reminding FÁS that its quality assurance could be advanced considerably if students had a greater level of involvement in its governance.
The Minister has logistical problems finding a student representative but if he accepts the principle the practical arrangements can be made. I am delighted he will have a fresh look at this and I hope he does so before Report Stage or before the Bill goes to the other House. However, he will face the same problem elsewhere in this section. The Minister is nominating one person from the universities but he is not nominating anyone from the technological sector. He is not representing the full gamut of the—
The chairperson of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council will be on the National Qualifications Authority. That council will deal primarily with the technological sector.
The chairperson of the Further Education and Training Awards Council will also be on the National Qualifications Authority. We cannot have it both ways in terms of the universities. We cannot lambaste the universities. When we attempt to bring the universities on board and facilitate co-operation—
Could the Cathaoirleach provide me with protection from the Minister?
That is why we want a nominee on the board.
Senator Costello, without interruption.
The Minister stated one person will be nominated from the universities. Will this be from the universities established under section 9 of the Universities Act, 1997 or from the other universities?
The existing universities are represented by two. A representative body represents all existing universities. They will nominate a person to represent them.
The universities determined by section 9 of the Universities Act, 1997 will be effectively outside the scope of this legislation in terms of its effectiveness. Who will be included among the universities? There is not much sense in existing universities being nominated and any other body that will acquire that status not having access to that nomination. When existing universities are subject only to a co-operation provision of this legislation, they are not subject to the regulations. They are not accountable in terms of access to courses, progression of courses or the main parts of this legislation. Why include the universities if they will not be fully part of the requirements and principles of this Bill?
Is the Senator saying someone should take over the universities' representation?
No, I am saying there is an anomaly in the representation. This over-arching authority will provide standards but the universities that will be represented on this body will not be fully subject to those standards. Students will not be represented on this umbrella body and the technological sector will not be represented in its own right. The VEC sector, which provides most further education, is not mentioned either. There is still a lot of thinking to be done.
If one followed Senator Costello's line, there would be representatives from Teagasc, CERT, FÁS, vocational education committees and the technological sector on the National Qualifications Authority. The body would be far too large.
The Minister is choosing the universities because of that.
No, I am doing it because it cannot be provider driven or dominated. If we did that there would be a conflict of interests. It is important in terms of progression, access and co-ordination. The Universities Act, 1997 passed by a previous Oireachtas has established a range of procedures and quality assurance and established the universities on a new legislative footing. It is important in terms of this legislation and all the institutions which come under it that we develop a link which facilitates progression between institutions under this authority and the existing universities.
I respectfully suggest that one way of facilitating that progression in a genuine way is to ensure from the outset of the National Qualifications Authority that a representative of the universities is on it. If we do not have that, I suspect the shutters will come down. I want students to receive proper recognition for programmes they have completed in other institutions when applying to university programmes. They should not have to start in first year again because if they have completed relevant programmes they should receive accreditation. That is the job of the National Qualifications Authority. It makes sense to have a university representative on it but it could unravel if everybody is represented on it. That would take away a core function of the authority. It is not a representative body in the sense that everybody with an interest is represented. It must take action and be effective. There is sectoral representation in terms of industry, education and Government. The number of Government nominees – three of 13 – is small in comparison to previous bodies established in the education area.
We understand the Minister's problems in getting everything together in the section. Nobody wants to delete "one person nominated by universities" and no amendment has been tabled to that effect. Our concern is that the universities are entitled, under this legislation, to more or less pay lip service to its principles. They must only co-operate on their own terms. I hope the universities co-operate fully but they are not obliged under any statutory provisions. That is my difficulty. They are fully represented and the other 100,000 students in all further and third level sectors do not have the same representation. Also, the technological sector does not have the same representation despite what the Minister said about the chairperson being a representative. Other providers of further and third level education are represented in their own right. I know it is the Minister's difficulty but it is our job to point to the loopholes.
The body has 13 members. The two councils have 15 and 17 members. We still have no explanation as to why one should have – an unlucky – 13 members, one should have 15 members and the other 17 members. Why did we go for uneven instead of even numbers? The chairperson has two votes anyway so it does not matter in that respect. The essence of our and Fine Gael's amendments stands. There should at least be student representation and the Minister should find a mechanism to provide for that on a formal basis in the legislation.
I support the thrust of amendment No. 9 in the name of Senator Jarlath McDonagh on the basis of the principle of representation. It would be odd if the receivers of education were not represented. I have one difficulty with this. The Union of Students in Ireland is still a very strong body. They still have a travel agency. The other day I was looking in their window and noticed bargain trips which were only available to people under 30 years of age holding a student card.
Does Senator Norris not qualify?
Unfortunately I do not qualify. Even though USI may be powerful in terms of numbers and financial strength, I am not sure it represents all students and this is perhaps a difficulty. However I am sure a mechanism could be determined whereby the student interest was represented. That is the principle whether or not the representation comes from the Union of Students in Ireland.
In my day in Trinity – and I am out of the joint a few years now – there was a clamour by students to be on everything. At staff meetings, except when we discussed exam results, students, as of right, had established a position of automatic inclusion. It was useful to have them there and it is very much in line with democratic principles. I discussed this with Senator Quinn and he said it is his practice in business to include the consumer as much as possible. Although there may be some difficulties with mentioning the Union of Students in Ireland as if it was the only body representing students, the principle of student interest representation is important and would strengthen the Bill. Could the Minister give reassurance on that?
I have stated I will come back to that.
I do not want to go over ground that has already been covered. We are talking about a mechanism rather than a principle and hopefully the Minister can find a way of making this principle a reality. When USI was mentioned, the Minister made a telling point when he rightly stated that we are in a sense being elitist because there are far more people than just students. This illustrates the difficulty faced by the Minister.
I am concerned by the tenor of Senator Costello's remarks about universities. I know from being the leader of the minority group in the last Senate when the Universities Bill went through that its details were similar to this Bill. The Minister was very helpful, perhaps more than I appreciated at the time.
For the past few weeks my department in UCD has been subject to quality assessment. I was very sceptical about the process until then and I have found it to be extremely useful and beneficial. The universities, through the heads of the Irish universities, welcome this Bill. They support its contents and want to co-operate. It is not a question of their seeking any undue influence. It makes sense that there should be someone on the council to link up with universities. We should leave this issue to one side for the moment because there is no rivalry. They are different Bills but each has the same objective.
The Senator must be joking.
I might have an amendment tomorrow but I will try to incorporate the interests of the learner and the authority.
As the Minister has said that he will examine this situation again and come back on Report Stage, I will not press this amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 7, 24, 25 and 38 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 11, subsection (2)(c), line 44, to delete "two persons" and substitute "one person".
With regard to the remarks made by Senator Manning, I do not have any axe to grind with universities, particularly UCD where Senator Manning works and where I was educated. Senator Norris represents Trinity College where I was a schoolmaster fellow for some time. I lived on campus and I remember going to commons, the cobblestones, etc. I had a wonderful time there. It is a wonderful educational establishment. I have a lot of time for both universities. I just feel that sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.
My amendment queries why the Minister needs to nominate two people. One person should suffice. The Minister's nominee is someone who will report to him, supervise and advise him on what is going on in these bodies. He does not need two sets of eyes and ears. Perhaps he would be satisfied with one nominee and allow us to nominate a student.
I know the Senator and his party when in Government adhered to the principles that he has articulated.
We have significantly reduced the ministerial representation on this body compared to other bodies. There were nine ministerial appointments to the National Council for Educational Awards which consisted of 23 members, not 21. We are down to two from the Minister for Education and Science and one from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. It is important for the Government that the Minister for Education and Science is able to nominate at least two people to the authority because they can be effective members in all aspects and make a contribution to the work of the authority, not just report to the Minister. Very often the ability of the Minister to nominate people gives a flexibility to bring in people who have specific expertise or are in a position to make specific contributions to the work of the authority over time. It is not an excessive provision, given past precedents. There is also a responsibility on future Ministers and myself to ensure appointees are of a high quality, that they are people who can make a contribution and that we avoid political hackery.
If we accept Senator Costello's amendment then we would have only one position left where if two people from any group are to be appointed then one should be of each gender. Therefore, we would reduce the chances of women getting on to this body. We should leave it at two nominees.
In the next amendment it states that there shall be a 40 per cent gender balance.
I support that amendment. The Minister may not know this but the Department of Health and Children set up a manpower forum to study employment in the medical profession. It is a manpower committee because it is comprised of 14 men. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the photograph in the paper. I wrote to them and told them it was nice to see such an accurate description of a committee. The committee should have included a token woman or two in order for them to give their advice and in view of the fact that 60 per cent of medical graduates are women. The only hope of getting women on this committee is where there are two people in two categories.
That is a valid point. We will deal with the gender issue when we reach the gender amendments later on. It will not be easy to direct other organisations. If people can only nominate one person then a Minister is not in a position to direct. This amendment gives flexibility to the Minister to have a gender balance.
The council consists of 17 members. The Minister nominates two people to the qualification authority. Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 wish to delete "two persons"
Two persons can be nominated by the Minister and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, two persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, are representative of education and training. There is "one person who, in the opinion of the Minister, after consultation with the Minister for Enterprise . . . . "; there is another person "who, in the opinion of the Minister". The Minister's opinion is being sought with regard to these nominations. There is an unnecessary number of ministerial appointments on some of these councils.
I disagree. We will have to agree to differ on this issue.
Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 8 not moved.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 12, between lines 13 and 14, to insert a new paragraph as follows:
"(l) one person nominated by the Union of Students in Ireland.".
The Minister has said he will examine this situation before Report Stage and, therefore, I will not press my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 10, 27 and 29 are related
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 12, lines 22 to 26, to delete subsection (6) and substitute the following:
"(6)Regulations under subsection (5) shall ensure that not less than 40 per cent of members shall be men and not less than 40 per cent shall be women.".
We debated this issue under previous legislation. Failure to continue gender balance or gender proofing seems to be a recurring aspect of legislation produced by the Government over the past 18 months. It was a principle of the previous Administration and was introduced across the board in all established State bodies. Any body established by a Minister would have had the 40 per cent male and female gender represented. Subsection (6) states: "Where a nomination is made . . . . regard shall be had to the desirability of an appropriate gender balance . . . . ..". Whose desirability and how will this be implemented? The section goes on to state, ". . . . where a person or body has more than one nomination . . . . .. the person or body shall nominate at least one male and at least one female." How widespread is this? Does this refer to the Minister's nomination rights?
It refers to the Minister.
This means that at least two nominations will be gender specific.
Yes, two nominations to the authority.
Therefore, two nominations out of 13 to this authority and 17 to the other authority could result in a large gender imbalance. This is why I propose to delete the section and tabled an amendment which proposes that not less than 40 per cent of members shall be men and not less than 40 per cent shall be women. In education it is important to have equality of access and equality of the sexes because this affects every citizen. It is important that anyone in a regulatory position framing standards, qualifications, access and so on should make a special effort to ensure there is equal gender representation as far as possible. I believe that 40 per cent would be appropriate.
The Minister should have no difficulty in obtaining this figure because it was introduced, in the first instance, in the Dublin Institute of Technology and Regional Technical College legislation. Given the mixture and fragmentation of interests involved in these governing bodies, it was possible to obtain this gender balance. There is a precedent in the 1991-92 legislation which could be followed. The Minister would not have a major difficulty in finding a mechanism to obtain a 40 per cent gender representation. It is imperative that we make a statutory provision whereby this gender balance can be achieved in third level and further education.
I support Senator Costello's amendment. More than 60 per cent of third level students are female. It is ridiculous that a committee is being set up to consider working practices in the medical profession. To have an all-male team considering the working practices of a profession 40 per cent of whose membership is comprised by their gender is crazy. The previous Government managed to bring about this ratio. There are numerous bodies in technology and science that could supply many talented women to give advice in these areas and serve satisfactorily on boards. I know Senator Ormonde does not support me in this. However, we would get fed up if we were told that the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland would not receive preferential treatment to ensure they get proper representation on various boards and committees. I believe a country is governed best and various authorities function best if they properly represent those they are supposed to represent. The Minister is in a position to influence some of his colleagues to put people on boards to ensure there is some sort of gender balance. It is difficult to force nominating bodies to ensure there is gender balance.
There was a ridiculous situation a few days ago when a delegation of nine people attended the Committee on Enterprise and Small Business. They were discussing the retail trade, Sunday trading and 24-hour trading and each member of the delegation was a man, even though the retail trade is staffed to a large extent by women. Senator Cox raised an objection to the gender balance of the delegation. More and more people now believe that there must be better representation of those who work in various industries.
I support Senator Costello's amendment. Between now and Report Stage, will the Minister and his officials, who I am sure are very versatile, consider pushing this matter a little further? Per haps nominating bodies could be told that only the first 40 per cent will get their choice of gender and following that they will have to nominate a woman or man. Some nominating bodies are notoriously late in sending in nominations. This matter should be taken seriously because people feel very aggrieved if their problems are not addressed.
At the risk of being politically incorrect, I have great difficulty with statutory obligations such as this for any group. I find when I talk to women of my age, or a little younger or older, that they generally like this type of provision. Perhaps these are the people who had to fight hardest to get to a particular stage. When I talk to younger women like my students and graduates, they do not see the need for this provision. They are sufficiently confident to believe they will get their entitlement on their own merits and that, by and large, they are better than the men and will beat the men. I believe that nowadays organisations have their own mechanism to ensure there is a proper gender balance – sometimes the better people will be women.
I understand the points being made. The Minister will probably have to find a way of meeting these proposals. However, I do not like this sort of rigidity which may result unintentionally in better qualified people not being nominated to boards.
I listened to Senator Henry say that I have a particular opinion on this issue. This is not so. I am in favour of gender balance. However, I do not like to make an issue of this because I do not think it is necessary. We have a fine population of young people and if I said to my students that we must make sure they are well represented, they would take offence. Young women are far superior to many men in relation to their qualifications. This is borne out by the leaving certificate statistics and the achievements of women in universities and third level institutions. We are talking about membership of the National Qualifications Authority where these women would have no difficulty. Young women today, and older women, do not need these props because they are well able to make their mark on society.
There is no disputing the fact that on every index of academic performance women students do better than men. This is becoming more and more obvious. The trend has been in evidence in medical schools for a considerable number of years. However, if one looks at the ranks of consultants and other such areas, that wonderful performance goes missing. This is happening in every area. Women quite correctly describe themselves as self-confident and self-assured. However, it is only when they hit the glass ceiling they discover that the problem exists.
Glass ceilings remain in many areas and men, unless they are reminded, will nominate other men with whom they are acquainted to fill positions. The amendment is concerned with focusing people's thinking on a broader world than the one with which they are familiar; it is not concerned with discrimination. There are many very able women in our society but the problem is that they do not come to mind when nominations or appointments are being made by those charged with doing so. I do not refer here to abstract institutions. Senator Norris gave the classic example of manpower, planning and other matters in the medical profession being dealt with by a group of men who are singularly unrepresentative of the majority of those who work in the profession. These people did not set out to discriminate, they merely picked the people with whom they were familiar. Until they are vigorously reminded that the society is made up of another 50 per cent of people who are less well known to them, newer to the profession and equally and in many cases better qualified, they will continue to choose those with whom they are familiar.
Does Senator Manning realise that a large number of female academics at UCD are taking an action against the university in respect of the lack of promotion for women academics in that institution?
With respect, it is not only women who lack promotional opportunities at UCD.
I accept that, but women are discriminated against at university level in terms of attaining professorial posts. It is interesting that the Employment Equality Agency is supporting these women in their action and that organisation must believe something odd is happening.
Senator Ormonde's comments about the academic achievements of women were correct. However, as Senator Ryan so eloquently put it, in my profession 15 per cent of women – despite their being much higher in the honours rankings – become permanent consultants while 54 per cent of temporary consultants are women. They can obtain temporary positions because they have adequate academic qualifications, but they do cannot obtain permanent jobs.
I know the Minister is sensitive to this issue because I discussed it with him privately on previous occasions. I would appreciate it if he could find a way to strengthen the existing provision. To be honest, the comments made by Senators Manning and Ormonde were quite facile. Of course their students will not state that they believe they will be discriminated against. However, when they reach junior lecturer stage and are trying to attain positions as assistant professors or senior registrar, they will realise—
Or positions as consultants.
Those are the most difficult posts to attain. We encountered terrible difficulties in trying to have women included on interview boards in order to ensure that both genders are represented.
Ireland has a better record than many other countries in this regard. I have just returned from a conference in Paris where I discovered that far more serious problems exist in other countries, particularly France and Belgium. Ireland is a small country and it is easier for charming people like me to discover the size of an interview board, find out whether it includes a woman and object if there is no female representation. However, in a larger society it is more difficult to voice such objections.
Our legislation on equality before the law and in employment is extremely good. We need only ensure that it is enforced. In that regard, I suggest that the Minister strengthen the existing provision in the Bill because we can only bank on there being two women on the authority. I do not know how it is envisaged that other women will be appointed. The trade unions do not have a good reputation in terms of putting forward women representatives. For example, MANDATE sent two male representatives to the committee meeting to which I referred earlier. I was delighted that Senator Cox objected to this and stated that on the next occasion the union was sending people to discuss the retail trade it would be better to send a woman.
I believe many women would hate to be appointed to the authority because we had to adhere to a gender balance. I believe they would be offended.
Many of them would hate to be appointed merely because it would give the board a lovely image. Women are well able to stand on their own two feet and can make the case for themselves, particularly those to whom we are referring in connection with appointments to the board.
In the area of education, particularly in view of current trends, the 40 per cent quota may serve men better than women in the future. I do not make this point in a facetious way but it could very well become a reality in time. Notwithstanding that, the Bill attempts to ensure a minimum gender balance in the authority. Sections 6, 13 and 22 provide that where nominations are being made to these bodies regard shall be had to the desirability of an appropriate gender balance and, where a person or body has more than one nomination under the relevant section, the person or body shall nominated at least one male and at least one female. That means that at least two women and two men must be appointed to the qualifications authority. Therefore, four women and four men will be appointed to the Further Education and Training Awards Council and at least three women and three men to the Higher Education and Training Awards Council.
The difficulty in accepting a quota is trying to match the need to appoint certain people to the authority such as the chairperson and the chief executive. We do not know at this stage whether these people will be women. Of the two persons nominated by the Minister for Education and Science, one will be a woman and the other will be a man. The one person nominated by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment could be either an man or a woman, but I suspect that the Government has flexibility in that regard to try to meet the 40 per cent quota. Indeed, we always try to meet that obligation in terms of putting forward nominees to boards. I have had considerable success in communicating with bodies in respect of nominations and informing them that, given the emerging situation, the Government would appreciate it if women could be appointed to certain positions. We have done that on a number of occasions and it has proven successful.
Senator Ormonde would not agree with that.
The Senators should not rule out the fact that we may achieve the 40 per cent quota through voluntary means. For example, the chairpersons of the Higher Education and Training Awards and Further Education and Training Awards Councils must be appointed to the authority in order to maintain the linkages. The persons nominated by the universities and Forfás must also be appointed. We could direct the universities or Forfás that they should appoint women.
I have full faith in the universities.
As demonstrated during the course of the debate.
I have a difficulty in trying to be too prescriptive because Forfás could have it in mind to nominate an excellent person, male or female, for this job whom we could unintentionally disbar or disqualify by virtue of introducing a 40 per cent quota or by prescribing to them what they must do.
There may be some flexibility in terms of ministerial appointments. For example, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and IBEC both represent the industrial business sector of society and there may be an option of strengthening the section to ensure that we have a higher minimum number of women or men. If we are going to add a consumer representative, we might do so by the Minister being empowered to appoint a person who would be broadly representative of the student body. For example, the Minister might be given a list of people already elected to various bodies representing students from which he or she could choose one. In that context, the Minister could also have regard to the gender issue. I will see if we can improve the minimum number of women on the authority but I am not in favour of accepting the imposition of a 40 per cent quota because it is too precise, too restrictive and could undermine what we are trying to achieve in terms of the composition of the authority and the kind of people we wish to see serving on it.
Unless an initiative is taken by us as legislators there will be no gender balance on the authority. I guarantee the Minister that when the authority and the councils are appointed, there will be a gender imbalance and it will not be in favour of females. This is the way it is going to be, because it has been this way in the past for boards left to their own devices. It is a stark fact that there is a greater proportion of women being educated at further and third level. How are we to square the circle? I was heartened by what the Minister said but I would expect him to put some concrete proposals before us. I regret that since the separation of equality and law reform, with equality being relegated to an unimportant position, the same emphasis has not been put on this issue. I am reluctant to press the amendment but I hoped the Minister would offer something substantial, rather than simply desirable, knowing that all there will be only two women in this regulatory body and probably three in each of the two councils.
I have to reject any idea that because equality and law reform is with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, this is suddenly a change. We have had some success in working with educational bodies and asking them to co-operate in terms of gender balance. There is a balance to be struck between the desirability of gender balance and the necessity to have persons on this authority who have the requisite expertise and relevance in the sense that they are either chairpersons or executives of the councils.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 6 stand part of the Bill."
The Minister is being disingenuous when he says has the power to nominate only two members of the authority. The Minister will nominate two members and also under section 50 the chairperson of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council and the chairperson of the Further Education and Training Awards Council. The Government will have five direct nominees, four of whom the Minister for Education will nominate.
Yes. On the National Qualifications Authority with a membership of 13, he will nominate the chairperson.
He will also nominate two members, which makes three in all. In fact the Government will have six out of thirteen, including the chairperson of the Higher Education and Training Authority and the chairperson of the Further Education and Training Authority.
One more and the Government would have a majority. That is an extraordinary degree of Government control. Six out of 13 are nominated by either the Minister for Education or the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. This is concealed and I would like to know why.
It is quite simple. The Minister appoints the chairperson of the Higher Education and Training Council and the Further Education Council. They should be on the qualifications authority. It is not about control but about making sure the qualifications authority properly links the work of the Further Education and Training Council with the Higher Education and Training Council. The chairperson and chief executive will be the critical links in making sure there is harmony, co-operation and co-ordination between the two bodies. It is about what happens within the authority. The Minister's appointing a chairperson does not mean it will be a person of poor quality, or a political hack. All the people I have appointed have been far from hacks and they have made effective contributions to a variety of bodies, including the Higher Education Authority. I would ask anyone to examine the quality of people appointed so far and the nominees I have had available to me. It is important that Ministers appoint high quality personnel and particularly important, as this is a radical Bill, that the chairpersons make sure that these councils and this authority start effectively.
The Minister has good intentions in most areas but the Bill has no requirement of expertise, professionalism, background, authority or anything that must be met by the chairpersons of the various bodies referred to. The chairperson does not require any background in education or training, or any expertise for any of the three bodies, yet the Minister is reserving the right to appoint him. If so, why does he not specify the sort of person who should be considered for that appointment ? All the Bill says is that the Minister must consult other Ministers and then he can appoint whomsoever he pleases. There have been appointments of chairpersons of Government bodies made not by this Minister but by other Ministers in other sensitive areas to do with education that were blatantly and unmistakably pol itical – in a couple of cases, disgracefully so. I believe this Minister will not do that.
If the Government has to have direct control over the nominations of six of the 13 members of this body, there should be some specification about the sort of people that can be appointed, as is the case under subsection (3) which refers to "persons who have a special knowledge and experience related to the functions of the authority". Would he say that the chairpersons that he appoints must have a special knowledge and expertise or that he is satisfied they should have a special knowledge and expertise? There is nothing like that in the Bill, where it indicates that the Minister must consult another Minister. The objectives of the Bill are to establish and develop standards of knowledge and to promote the quality of further education. How many of the 13 members of the authority will have had any direct experience of education other than as a consumer? How many are we guaranteed will have any direct experience of education? We have only one, who is from the universities.
There are also those mentioned in paragraph (k) which refers to two persons nominated in accordance with subsection (3), which states:
Subject to subsection(1) , the Authority shall nominate as members two persons who have a special knowledge and experience related to the functions of the Authority, at least one of whom shall be, where practicable, a person with international experience related to those functions.
There will be experts brought on board. Let us be wary of the tendency in Ireland, particularly in education circles, that to be on any education body, you must have some educational qualification or be in a university. This is not necessarily true. Somebody from the world of industry who may not have a master's degree could make a sound contribution about what is happening in industry and about the qualifications that are required. We need a balance. In terms of the consumer nominee to this authority. I would be wary of saying that everyone must come from an education background because they need not. However, we need to get the right balance.
As I said in terms of the consumer nominee, there is room for some modification. We may be killing two birds with the one stone in terms of the student nominee. I have no desire to have ministerial over-representation. I am committed to making sure we establish a body that works. We can be as politically correct as we like and sometimes being politically correct and meeting every constituency in regard to the composition of boards can result in a damn poor board. I am also wary of that possibility. We are trying to achieve a balance between the two.
I wish the Minister would reply to what I said and not to an extreme position, which appears to suggest I want the board dominated by certain people. I have no problem with a range of expertise, but I have a problem with the degree to which expertise in the area of specialist concern is missing. Its composition will not include anybody from the institutes of technology or the further education sector.
The providers cannot dominate the regulations and framework to govern themselves.
That is precisely the point I am making. I did not say they should dominate it – I said they should be involved. The Minister keeps arguing, perhaps, with some people behind me who want to dominate it.
I do not want it dominated by anybody.
Perhaps the Minister was talking to the wall.
I meant he was talking to someone behind me. Obviously there is someone behind me who is saying things to him—
There is not. The Senator is becoming paranoid.
I do not want the authority dominated by any group, least of all by the providers. Self-regulation of the professions has been a disaster. That has been manifested by the Medical Council. I would not be in the least keen on service providers dominating anything. What is strange is the absence of representation for service providers, which could be easily interpreted as suggesting they are not to be trusted. Why will nobody from the service providers be on this body? There has been talk of the binary system of third level education, yet it seems as if one sector is directly represented to supervise the other and there is no reciprocation. I ask the Minister to name one member nominated to the governing body of any university – outside of the two new universities – who works in the technology sector.
Senator Ryan is obsessed about the relationship between the technological colleges and the universities.
I am. I work in the poor relation in this area.
The Senator has used a terrible phrase to describe a sector. He should stop using it. I said time and again that the technology sector should learn to be self-confident, to stop apologising for its existence and to stop using the universities as its book and yardstick. The day the institutes of technology stop doing that is the day they will have arrived. This Bill is about this very point. I get frustrated—
The bottom line is that the institutes of technology have a story to tell. They do what they do well, very well.
We have different institutions at third level. Why is everyone seeking to be something else?
I do not want to be something else.
Some elements in the sector are doing so. They should concentrate on developing and expanding their mission, which they are doing well. This framework facilitates expansion and growth.
I am mindful of that beautiful hymn with the lines, "each according to his estate, the rich man his castle, the poor man at his gate." I am sure that will comfort Senator Ryan.
I have no doubt about the technology sector. I know it does a very good job. The problem is that those who make decisions in society do not recognise it. The National Council for Science, Technology and Innovation does not include a representative of the technology sector. Does that reflect confidence in the sector?
The chairpersons of the two councils will be members of the authority.
The Minister picked them.
The chairperson of the higher education and training council will deal with the various service bodies that operate under that council and under the further education training council. The chairpersons of those two councils will bring their experience to bear on the work of the authority and that will ensure a strong relationship between the two. Those sectors will be represented through the chairpersons of the respective councils.
The Senator asked about the service providers. If I were to put representatives of all the service providers on a body comprising 23 or 24 persons, I would have to include all providers who have a vested interest, including Teagasc, CERT, FÁS, the institutes of technology and Dublin Institute of Technology. Where would that end?
It would end up by being—
We have debated section 6 in great detail and the debate is becoming repetitive. If Senator Ryan has a brief point to make, I will allow him to make it before I put the question. We are not making progress at the rate at which we are proceeding.
I wish to make two points. The composition of the authority is profoundly deficient in that it does not have an adequate representation of people who have direct experience of education and training provision. I invite the Minister to make some commitment, however imprecise at this stage, to require that the chairpersons whom he will appoint, should have some previous experience. He could include a form of wording similar to that contained in subsection (3) "special knowledge and experience in this area". The Minister may not intend to appoint political hacks, but the next Minister for Education from my party might not be as good a Minister as the present Minister – I say that to pre-empt the point I know the Minister will make about this. It would serve this body well to ensure that only people who have something to contribute are appointed to these jobs. They should not become political sinecures.
I will not accept this amendment because I do not want to tie the hands of any successor in terms of deciding on a chairperson.
It could be a displaced Fianna Fáil Deputy who had nothing better to do.
No. It could be a person who never attended university or an institute of technology, but who could be a very efficient chairperson. It could be a person with experience from a university or technology background. I have never seen a provision in legislation that sought to tie the hands of a Minister in terms of the appointment of a chairperson. If the Minister does not appoint a chairperson, who does?
We are moving into an era in which what politicians used to do ten years ago is not the standard by which we should judge ourselves.
As this section has been debated at length, it is time to put the question.
Question put and agreed to.
Before we proceed, I wish to correct the record. I accepted amendment No. 5 in the name of Senators Manning and McDonagh. The amendment should have read "line 32" and not "line 33".
The people in the universities cannot count properly.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 12, paragraph (b), line 33, to delete “establish” and substitute “develop”.
Having received so much assistance from my colleague, Senator Henry, I am overwhelmed with the richness of her whispered contribution. I need a moment to digest it. Under the phrase as it exists, there might be a suggestion that these standards did not exist as of yet. The Bill refers to establishing and maintaining a framework. The idea is that standards already exist and that instead of moving from a year zero into a situation where standards suddenly begin to exist, the existing standards should be developed.
The wording covers that adequately. All awards that are established are already covered by the Bill. Section 7(a) states:
. . . to establish and maintain a framework, being a framework for the development, recognition and award of qualifications in the State . . .
The word "development" is in the second line and, to be frank about it, I think it is all right. I understand the Senator's point but I think it is covered.
I am happy to accept what the Minister says.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 12, between lines 40 and 41, to insert a new paragraph as follows:
"(d)to promote the maintenance of the standards of education and training awards of the universities.”
In deference to what the Minister has said to Senator Norris, I will withdraw the amendment because what it seeks will happen.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 agreed to.
I move amendment No. 13:
In page 13, subsection (2), line 2, after "shall" to insert "in partnership with the institutions".
I move this amendment because the section looks very authoritarian. It would be better if we said that "the Authority shall work in partnership with the institutions". I do not think the authority will deal unfairly with the institutions but, rather than appearing so authoritarian, it would be better if the subsection stated that the authority would "work in partnership with the institutions".
I support Senator Henry for the first time today. The fear has been represented to me by a number of people in the IT sector in particular that, whereas the Bill is based on the principle of the greatest possible degree of consultation, this section does not stress that enough. There may be a need to insert words such as those envisaged by Senator Henry. I would add to subsection 2(a) and (d) the words “after consultation with bodies named in this Bill”.
The Minister will say that consultation is intended and that the authority will, by the nature of things, engage in widespread consultation. However, both I and those who have spoken to me, would feel happier if this principle was established in black and white in the Bill. It is the same principle proposed in Senator Henry's amendment.
I am unclear as to the institutions referred to in the amendment.
I am not worried about the phraseology – it could be the Minister's.
It is important, in one sense – the qualifications authority cannot perform its functions without the support and co-operation of all the providers of education and training.
Equally, it has a key role in ensuring that the interests of learners are met. If we look at the issue only from the perspective of the existing providers, there could be a danger that sometimes the interests of learners may be set aside. Therefore, there could be times when the authority may well have to make a decision which would benefit learners over providers. I would not want to tie the authority's hands and prohibit it from making that decision.
On the other hand, in subsection 3(c) we already provide that the authority will “consult, as it considers appropriate, with” the various providers and institutions. To a degree, that covers the desire that the authority should consult with providers. I will have a look at the matter again overnight.
I thank the Minister. The amendment is designed to make it a little more gracious, that is all.
I can understand the argument that there should be partnership and consultation because these activities are much better if done in a co-operative spirit. There is no question or doubt about that. The Minister has said more or less what I wanted to say. Particularly with regard to matters such as quality control, which we spoke about earlier, it has regrettably occurred that external assessors have been applied to look at standards. However, for reasons of internal political arrangements, the third level groups involved were reluctant to accept the recommendations.
One must be very careful in the balance of this partnership. With regard to internal quality control, independence and the perception of independence are absolutely necessary, while not ruling out co-operation in the areas the Minister suggested.
The Minister has graciously suggested that he will look at this section again. It needs to be examined in a delicate way because the right balance must be struck. While I accept what Senators Henry and Manning said about the need for co-operation and goodwill, sometimes one also needs distance. One needs to be able to register a view in a way that cannot be interfered with by the body with which that view is being registered.
I agree with Senator Norris in that it might inhibit the independence of the authority on one level. I refer in particular to subsection 2(a) which says the authority shall “establish the policies . . . ”. If one consults too much, policies may be over-influenced by the consultation with the institutions. It will be hard to achieve a balance in all the areas specified in subsection (2). It is difficult to get the balance absolutely right if one provides that “the authority shall, in consultation with the institutions . . . ”. It might be the case, in this section, that one would inhibit slightly the independence of the authority on one level.
Consultation simply means consultation, it is not binding. If criteria are to be set regarding standards and qualifications, it is better for people to be able to say that they were consulted and informed. I think it will happen anyway, but I am reflecting the concern of people that under a different regime it may not. Consultation does not have to be binding and it does not necessarily damage the sense of detachment of the authority.
I agree with Senator Manning with regard to consultation. I am in favour of consultation but if one consults too much then one's own concept could be coloured.
If one is to set up a framework and consult with everybody, then one's concept of the framework will be coloured a little. The framework should come first, before consultation.
I will reconsider this overnight. Sections 18 and 28 deal with quality assurance and the further education and training awards council. There is provision whereby programmes for quality assurance, for example, will have to be agreed. The council and the respective institutions will have to agree procedures.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 13, subsection 2(d), line 12, to delete “determine the procedure to be implemented” and substitute “co-ordinate the procedures currently being implemented and to be implemented in the future”.
My argument for this amendment is similar to that I made earlier. I suggest an organic developmental growth.
I have further amendments but I am committed to chairing a lecture in the despised University of Dublin and apologise as I will be absent when the debate resumes. My helpful colleagues will move them in my name.
I will not accept this amendment. The authority will need some teeth to determine procedures. Our history to date on co-ordinating access and progression from one institution to another has not been great. Admittedly, it has improved in the recent past but it is important we have an authority that can determine the procedures to be implemented by providers of programmes of training and education for access, transfer and progression. That authority should publish those procedures in such form and manner as it thinks fit. It is important we do this now or else we could be dealing with this matter for another 20 years.
If someone does a one or two year programme in a PLC, that person should be able to gain access to an institute of technology to get recognition for what he or she has achieved. It should be the same for a person moving from an institute of technology to another institution or from FÁS. There must be a body to determine these procedures.
I accept what the Minister says to an extent, but I assume that that does not mean that procedures currently being implemented to the benefit of students will be thrown out.
Presumably there will be some sensitivity in this area. The Minister has raised transfers and accessibility, but I feel this has been over-emphasised as it is not such a huge burden at the moment.
I received a note today from a person outside Dublin which states that in a case where 200 places were made available only 50 were taken up and that for students in higher education this is a very small proportion on which to base arguments for the vastly disruptive changes in this Bill. It goes on to state that even if those 50 people were experiencing difficulties in transferring, their problems could be resolved by a two hour meeting of admissions officers of goodwill rather than the vast bureaucracy envisaged in the Bill.
That is not my language but it suggests that the transfer problems have been exaggerated, if that is what the Minister was referring to.
There is more colourful material in this note which states that the writer is reminded of Lamb's ancient Chinese swineherd, who burnt his house down every time he wished to roast a pig. That is a misinterpretation of Lamb's tale, as the swineherd only burnt his house down once.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17, 18, 47, 48, 53 and 55 are related and are to be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 13, subsection (2), lines 17 to 20, to delete paragraph (e).
I raised the idea behind these amendments on Second Stage. There is differentiation into a second tier in parts of this Bill, and these amendments suggest that the phraseology in different sections which separate the Dublin Institute of Technology and new universities which may be established under section 9 of the Universities Act, 1997, should come under the same section later in the Bill which deals with the role of the universities.
Amendment No. 15 proposes deleting the first separate reference to the Dublin Institute of Technology and the universities established under section 9 of the Universities Act, 1997. In order to deal with other instances of this throughout the Bill, I suggest putting them all in one section rather than having them in different sections. I sympathise with the Minister's claim that this will not be an inferior type of university but it is like the argument in the Department of Health and Children about consultants and sub-consultants. No matter how well qualified they are, people will always think they are different if they are not quite on the same level and these third level institutions will suffer in the same way.
The Minister spoke about colleges of technology in response to Senator Ryan. The French polytechniques would never consider themselves in any way inferior to the universities. However, in Ireland there is a feeling that those bodies governed by different legislation will not be the same as the universities. I have tabled this amendment for that reason and because of the concern of my constituents in Dublin Institute of Technology. There is a definite concern that by separating them like this they will be looked at differently by those applying for admission, for example.
I am not disposed to accept these amendments. This is one of the key areas of the Bill. I have a difficulty with institutions wanting to be the same as universities, as there are different institutions with different missions. The review body established to oversee the Dublin Institute of Technology's application to become a university came up with very clear findings, not least the necessity to establish, on a statutory basis, the continuation of a binary system of institutions which offer multi-level provision of awards, from sub-degree to degree programmes. I am mindful of those recommendations.
The framework established by this Bill will facilitate institutes of technology in becoming universities under section 9 of the Universities Act. They will remain within the qualifications framework regarding sub-degree programmes and so on, as well as the various quality assurance procedures that have been established. I do not see the objection to this. It is important that the country maintains a binary system of education and a multi-level provision. Whatever institute of technology – Dublin Institute of Technology or other – becomes a university in time, it will be a very different university from those named in the Universities Act. I look forward to seeing universities with sub-degree and apprenticeship programmes. That is how I see the university sector evolving. It is important that we consider recommendations from bodies such as the Nally review group. We should also learn from international experience. We have a good system and it would be foolish to say that all institutions must be the same.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.