SECTION 1.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill".

We have an amendment to section I which relates to the Dublin Institute of Technology but it is at the end of the list of amendments prepared by the Minister's Office. It is in respect of the Title and is listed as amendment No. 315. It states:

In page 5, line 22, after "1980," to insert "The DUBLIN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ACT, 1994,".

Amendments to the Title are always taken at the end of the Bill.

We do not want to agree section 1 until we deal with the Short Title.

Is it agreed that section 1 stand part of the Bill?

We are anxious to include the Dublin Institute of Technology in the Bill and from our analysis of the matter there are a number of interrelated amendments, one of which is to the Title of the Bill. If there is a vote on the Title of the Bill and the Dublin Institute of Technology is excluded we will have to vote against section 1.

The vote on the Long Title is at the end.

We are being asked to vote on the Long Title now.

We are voting on the Short Title.

I cannot subscribe to that. Can we debate it?

We can debate that section now.

The Title?

Section 1 is the Short Title and amendments to the Long Title are taken at the end.

The Short Title of the Bill is the Universities Bill, 1996. That excludes the Dublin Institute of Technology.

That is correct.

Then we have no choice but to vote against it.

The question is that section 1 stand part of the Bill?

Are we entitled to have a debate first?

Does the Deputy wish to speak further on this?

Yes. This is an issue which is of considerable interest to all members of the committee and the House. We have all received a number of representations. There are over 25,000 students in the Dublin Institute of Technology and degrees have been awarded to approximately 4,500 of them. There is ongoing post graduate work. In 1995 there was a review of the quality assurance procedures in the Dublin Institute of Technology. A report by the international review team suggested that the relevant authority should consider whether key features of the proposed university legislation should be extended to the Dublin Institute of Technology and its legislation amended in the light of such analysis. The team was clearly signalling to the Minister that the situation pertaining to the Dublin Institute of Technology should be given consideration in this legislation.

In the White Paper —Charting Our Education Future— there were also significant references to the Dublin Institute of Technology. The main component of this was that the funding and oversight of the Dublin Institute of Technology should be transferred from the Department to the HEA. This was to be implemented at the earliest possible date but very little has happened..

The students and the community which comprise the Dublin Institute of Technology, the largest third level institution in the country, are rightly conscious of their status and the type of work which is underway in the institute. They see the Universities Bill as their window of opportunity to achieve the status they so eagerly seek and deserve. That is why we feel that the Dublin Institute of Technology should be included in the Title of the Bill.

There are many amendments relating to the Dublin Institute of Technology and acknowledging that it should have university status. This is fundamental to the Bill and it is right that we should debate it at the beginning. Deputy Martin has referred to the great history of the Dublin Institute of Technology and when one bears in mind that it has 10,000 full-time and 12,000 part-time students, it is the largest third level institution in the State. It is on a par with St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, in terms of degree student numbers.

The report on the Dublin Institute of Technology stated that the institute demonstrated a level of maturity which justifies that it be granted authority to award its own degrees. This will happen but we should take the next step and accord the Dublin Institute of Technology university status.

We have received numerous representations and there is a wide body of opinion supporting this move. The Minister should agree to this. One of my amendments asks that this status be granted within three years and that is reasonable. Any immediate difficulties can be resolved over a period of time. I do not understand the Minister's reasoning and I hope these amendments will be accepted.

I join with my colleagues in seeking the widening of the Title of this Bill to include the Dublin Institute of Technology. The Dublin Institute of Technology is up to the required standard and there are recommendations from the international review group, set up by the Minister, which recognise its development and place in our society. Why is the Minister ignoring the recommendations of the international review group? The Bill attempts to establish certain colleges and universities as universities under the Act. We will oppose the Bill if it does not include the Dublin Institute of Technology. I cannot see how we can go any further because of the exclusion of the Dublin Institute of Technology.

I received a letter from a constituent whose son is a student at the Dublin Institute of Technology and who opted for the institute partly on the assumption that it would have been accorded university status by the time he graduated and be under the aegis of the Higher Education Authority. That judgment was largely based on the report of the international review group. Many students are very concerned.

If the college had not come up to standard then I could understand why the Minister would want more time. However, given that its position has been reviewed, it is difficult to understand why the Minister will not give it the recognition which it deserves.

Over the years the Department of Education has been slow to give university status to colleges. That resulted from an old fashioned snobbery. We must be more upfront and factual. The Dublin Institute of Technology has established itself and it should be recognised in this Bill. We cannot go beyond this stage without making that point although Deputies Martin and Coughlan have proposed amendments which will arise at a later stage.

I welcome the opportunity to be present at the committee. There has been much discussion on this Bill and I thank all those involved in the consultation process. I reject Opposition accusations that this Bill has changed, is flawed or will be rejected. All of the amendments which I propose to take on board will reflect the consultative process in which we were involved. The universities have welcomed this Bill. I do not accept that to consult is to weaken; rather it is to enrich. I am confident of the future of the Dublin Institute of Technology without seeking to include it under the Long Title of this Bill.

The White Paper in 1995 set out the overall development of the education sector and in particular, it covered the Dublin Institute of Technology. It also covered the two different systems; the universities and the designated institutions. That built on Deputy Brennan's Green Paper, 1992 in which he stated that "the distinctive missions of the two sectors should be maintained and fostered". I will not read the rest because I am sure the Deputies know it off by heart.

The 1995 White Paper dealt with the diversity and the importance of the systems. As Minister I asked the international review team to carry out its work and make recommendations on whether degree awarding powers should be given to the Dublin Institute of Technology. I am surprised that many people do not realise that the degrees awarded by the Dublin Institute of Technology are from Trinity College, Dublin.

I have no doubt that those who have sought places in any of the different institutes took them up knowing the history and the contribution which those colleges have, and will continue to make to their education. It is easy to say that the review group recommended university status for the Dublin Institute of Technology but it did not. It would be better if people read what the group said. I asked the group to advise as to whether the Dublin Institute of Technology be given degree awarding powers in its own right. The Higher Education Authority received the report and forwarded it me. The group recommended that the Dublin Institute of Technology be granted authority to award its own degrees in respect of under graduate and post graduate courses with effect from the academic year 1998/99. It also recommended that the funding and oversight of the Dublin Institute of Technology be transferred from the Department of Education to the HEA. I have signalled my intention to bring forward legislation to bring the Dublin Institute of Technology and the regional technical colleges under the aegis of a reconstituted HEA.

The relevant authorities were asked to consider whether the key features of the university legislation should be extended to the Dublin Institute of Technology and its legislation be amended in the light of such analysis. I refer Opposition Deputies to section 9 of the Universities Bill where there is a mechanism to ensure that there is nocul de sac in any part of the certificate or degree awarding status or any cul de sacs for future institutions. That work has not yet begun. I met the Director and the Chairman of the Dublin Institute of Technology and told them that I intend to make an order to confer degree awarding powers to the Dublin Institute of Technology from the academic year 1998/99 as recommended by the report. This is a further stage in the continuous development of the Dublin Institute of Technology. It was only in 1992 that it was given its own legislative base. There are a wide range of initiatives. Under section 3 I hope to spell out my very real investment in the development of the Dublin Institute of Technology to this committee and those who are interested.

I understand that, for technical reasons, an amendment to the Long Title, such as this one, is generally taken at the end and I expected to be talking about it a little later in the day. I will be opposing it but I am putting in place the mechanism to give the Dublin Institute of Technology powers to award degrees.

The Minister opened her remarks with some general points. I do not want to enter into that type of debate but I want to place on record my strong objection to the process which developed over the past number of months in relation to the Universities Bill. The Bill has changed dramatically but it has almost happened behind closed doors in one sense. There was much campaigning by Fianna Fáil and the staff of the universities.

There is something fundamentally undemocratic about heads of universities being brought in, told that they are present in their personal capacities and must obey a condition of confidentiality to such a degree that they are apparently not even allowed divulge the content of the discussions between themselves and officials of the Department with their governing bodies or the wider university community.

There is a complete lack of transparency in the process because legislative committees such as this were established to be proactive in the formulation of legislation. Ideally, the Heads of a Bill such as this one should have been before this committee from the outset. The members should have gone through brainstorming sessions and teased out the issues. I suggest that if that had been done a year and a half ago we would not be in this situation where the Minister has tabled over 100 amendments and substantial alterations to the Bill.

It says much about the lack of commitment to real Dáil reform and to the full utilisation of committees in a proactive way in the preparation of legislation. The Bill was published in August and what we are effectively debating now is a new Bill without having had the opportunity to examine the original one. It makes a mockery of the Legislature and us, as Deputies, because the Minister has come in here with afait accompli as far as she is concerned. She will have a voting majority and will push through most of her amendments. That is fine to a degree because we welcome many of them but I make the point because I want to place on record my fundamental dissatisfaction with this process from a democratic and legislative point of view. A year ago I asked the Minister to debate the position paper in this committee but that never happened.

When one compares the Dublin Institute of Technology Acts with those relating to the universities one begins to see why provision was not made for it in this Bill. Dublin Institute of Technology operates under a very restrictive legislative framework which was introduced in 1992 and the Minister has considerable powers over it. It actually operates under a framework similar to that under which the Minister wanted the universities to operate in the original Universities Bill as published. In other words, the thrust of the original Universities Bill was about more State control, ministerial interference and references to sanction being required from the Minister to borrow money, acquire land, etc. To include the Dublin Institute of Technology would have caused difficulties for the Minister because of its legislative base. In many ways, the original provisions of the Universities Bill were an attempt to introduce the type of controls which exist currently with the Dublin Institute of Technology. The Dublin Institute of Technology operates under a legislative framework which is far too restrictive and that is why the opportunity should have been taken to include it in this Bill. For example, the appointment of research fellows, research assistants and other support staff is subject to conditions laid down by the Minister with the concurrence of the Minister for Finance. Selection procedures for staff are determined by the Minister under the Dublin Institute of Technology Acts. It cannot acquire land without the Minister's approval and that is critical because the Dublin Institute of Technology's position with regard to facilities and accommodation is a difficult one. One could argue that it does not have the freedom to manoeuvre, move forward and acquire land because it is under the stranglehold of the Minister and the Government. That is why I would argue that if it were given more freedom it might be of greater assistance to the State in terms of self-development and it would have the status and capacity to raise private funding to assist its development as do the universities. The NUI, DCU and UL have done tremendously well in raising private finance. The State was left behind in that and it should learn from what universities can achieve if they are trusted to develop their policies and given freedom of action. The State should treat the Dublin Institute of Technology in the same way. It should give it the degree of trust which it deserves and requires at this stage of its development.

The Minister has said she will give it the authority to award degrees and I respectfully suggest that position has been forced on the Minister in the past two or three weeks because of the campaign which was launched by the Dublin Institute of Technology, its students, their parents and everybody who wrote to the Minister and every Deputy and Senator in the Oireachtas. I am under no illusions that the Minister would have made that announcement if Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats had not publicised the fact that they would table amendments to the Bill to include the Dublin Institute of Technology. The Minister has reacted to the campaign with what amounts to progress for the Dublin Institute of Technology but it falls far short of what it wishes to achieve.

If we take into consideration the Minister's amendments which number more than 100, the Bill now before us is considerably different from the one which was presented to the Dáil. It is extraordinary to have so many Government amendments. It is disingenuous of the Minister to talk about consultation and the strength she has gained from listening to people when the fact of the matter is that the only reason she had avolte-faceon her attempted heavy-handed bureaucratic centralist approach to the universities and tabled these amendments is that she knows, although the Government has a majority in the Dáil and at this committee to force a Bill through, the reality is that the Bill would not pass through the Seanad. That is the only reason she has changed her mind. It is not because she has suddenly realised that universities deserve greater freedom than she was prepared to give them initially. It is all because she would suffer a political defeat. Let us get the ground rules right. The Minister is being forced to radically change a Bill because the numbers are against her in the Seanad. She is trying to make the best of a political defeat.

With regard to the Dublin Institute of Technology, a colleague of mine made the point that one of the reasons the Minister does not want to create another university is it would lessen the centralised control which she and her Department exert over third level education, as exemplified by the Dublin Institute of Technology. Deputy Martin is correct in what he has said about the Dublin Institute of Technology. The only reason it will be allowed to award its own degrees is the extreme pressure put on the Minister. She has had to give ground. If she is making a virtue out of necessity, she should go further. What is wrong with the Dublin Institute of Technology that it cannot be allowed to be on an equal footing with universities? There is nothing wrong and all arguments favour such a move. For the development of the Dublin Institute of Technology and for the sake of students, graduates and education, it makes absolute sense for the Dublin Institute of Technology to be accorded equal footing with other universities.

I had the opportunity to visit the Dublin Institute of Technology last Thursday. One aspect of education in Ireland is that, despite the buildings, people do very well academically. Thank God for that because I did not realise that the facilities in the Dublin Institute of Technology were so bad and so cramped. I asked why it did not purchase the many vacant buildings adjacent to it. The reason was because, by the time it surmounted bureaucracy, it was not able to compete.

It is unfair it is so impeded, especially given its reputation nationally and internationally. Dublin Institute of Technology graduates have qualifications which are highly respected. It is unfair the Dublin Institute of Technology finds itself in a situation where it cannot compete against other universities, including those in Britain and Northern Ireland, and is not on an equal footing.

This legislation has been long awaited and is probably the last opportunity we will have in this millennium to change the university sector. The mechanism for granting the Dublin Institute of Technology university status is within the Bill but it should be used at this stage and the Minister should, on Report Stage, introduce an amendment or accept our amendments that the Dublin Institute of Technology be given university status.

If TDs and Senators had not been lobbied by parents, pupils, students' unions and academics in the Dublin Institute of Technology, this would have fallen on deaf ears. It is only because of the publicity, in the last few weeks especially, that any movement has been made with regard to the Dublin Institute of Technology. I agree that, if we are to take one step, it should be a giant one to university status.

Our colleges must, unfortunately, find private funding because there is inadequate funding for the facilities needed. If we are to keep our reputation, it is incumbent on us as legislators to ensure we do not impede the development of universities. I agree that the Dublin Institute of Technology should be included in this Bill and encompassed within the universities.

It is worth recording that the funding available to the Dublin Institute of Technology is just under £50 million for 1995-6 and nearly £51 million for this academic year. Capital funding since 1993 has been over £18.5 million. This includes phase one of the new college at Aungier Street, the major extension at Cathal Brugha Street, equipment for upgrading health and safety works and purchase of property, including a new communications system. I hereby record my confidence in that investment.

I note Deputy Martin's criticism of the Dublin Institute of Technology Act, 1992 introduced by the then Minister for Education, Deputy Séamus Brennan. It is stated in the White Paper on Education that the future of the Dublin Institute of Technology and the regional technical college sector will be in the hands of the Higher Education Authority which will loosen the day-to-day control under which for some reason that Government saw fit to put the Dublin Institute of Technology. Deputies Martin, Coughlan and Keogh should not try to read my mind as they invariably get it wrong.

We cannot read the Minister's mind as she changes it so often.

I refer the Deputy to the review committee which was set up by me in July 1995. I asked it to consider degree awarding status. I waited for its report which was accepted by the HEA. It was brought to me and I have indicated my intention. There are a number of matters to which the report asks the Dublin Institute of Technology to respond. I have indicated that, rather than waiting to see if it will be ready in 1998, I intend to move forward. That was all done prior to Christmas. If Deputies refer to the terms of reference of the review committee, it will be seen that I asked it to consider degree awarding status. It will also be seen that its recommendations are being taken on board.

It is not unusual for a number of amendments to be tabled by the Government. For the 1992 Dublin Institute of Technology Act and the Regional Technical Colleges Act, 1992, the Government tabled 89 and 86 amendments respectively. That showed a willingness on its part to respond to concerns expressed. Those Acts had a difficult but interesting passage through the Oireachtas but they did not need to encompass a diverse legislative arrangement which stretched back 400 years in one case. I make no apology for the number of amendments I have tabled and I have indicated I will be generous. It will be noted that many Opposition amendments have the same intention as mine.

Question put.
The Select Committee divided: Tá, 12; Níl, 9.

Bhreathnach, Niamh.

Kemmy, Jim.

Bradford, Paul.

Kenny, Seán.

Crowley, Frank.

Lynch, Kathleen.

Fitzgerald, Frances.

McGinley, Dinny.

Flaherty, Mary.

Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

Hogan, Philip.

Mulvihill, John.

Níl

Coughlan, Mary.

Flood, Chris.

Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.

Hughes, Séamus.

Keogh, Helen.

Martin, Micheál.

Power, Seán.

Walsh, Joe.

Woods, Michael.

Question declared carried.