Amendments Nos. 2, 93, 96, 99, 102, 266, 267, 269, 273, 274, 275 are cognate, and amendment No. 264 is related. These amendments may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 17, to delete "The" and substitute "the".
What is the purpose of these amendments?
They are technical amendments. They ensure that "The" at the beginning of the titles of the constituent colleges, which will become constituent universities, will be deleted. The title of the constituent university at Maynooth of the National University of Ireland will be National University of Ireland, Maynooth.
The Minister is deleting the word "The"?
Thirteen of them.
We are substituting another "the" without the capital letter?
We are removing "The" from the title in the text.
Amendments Nos. 3, 87, 92. 308, 312 and 315 are consequential on amendments Nos. 19 and 23. Amendments Nos. 29 and 30 are related. Amendments Nos. 3, 87, 92, 308, 312 and 315 are related and may be taken together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 6, subsection (1), between lines 20 and 21 to insert the following:
"‘Dublin Institute of Technology' means the institute established by the Dublin Institute of Technology Act, 1992;".
We had a discussion on the Dublin Institute of Technology at the commencement of this debate. We tabled the amendments to the Bill because we felt this Bill offered an opportunity for Dublin Institute of Technology to be recognised as a university and to be given a new statutory framework to allow it to develop into the next century. The process involved in bringing in this Universities Bill has been a long and difficult one which caused considerable controversy. I am not too optimistic about the prospects of a similar type of Bill emerging — certainly not in the lifetime of this Dáil or in the foreseeable future.
If one looks at the Order Paper for the past two years there were about five Bills promised but this is the first item we have had from that list. We were promised legislation on school attendance and higher education grant reform but we have seen very little of it. The Minister has given a commitment that other legislation is in the offing in the context of regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology but we know from discussion with those sectors that there are many different perspectives and views emanating from within the regional technical college itself.
The community in Dublin Institute of Technology would be understandably unhappy about being offered some form of legislative framework in the future. The education review committee said Dublin Institute of Technology should be considered in the context of this Bill. Dublin Institute of Technology is unhappy with its present statutory framework. I referred earlier to the 1992 Act. It was an important stage in the development of the Dublin Institute of Technology but just because something happened in 1992 does not mean we must all stick to the letter of the then law. The situation has moved on. The Dublin Institute of Technology feels that for it to move forward it requires a new statutory basis. I have made the case that the Universities Bill was originally about centralising control in many respects and exerting ministerial and State influence. I felt the reason the Dublin Institute of Technology was left out was that it would have been impossible to marry the two. To bring the Dublin Institute of Technology into the Universities Bill would involve a relaxation of the centralising thrust of that Bill. The thinking which went into that Bill — this idea that there must be control mechanisms in place all along the line — is similar to the mentality in the Departments of Education and Finance which gave rise to the original Universities Bill published in August.
The reality is that the most important developments in university life over the past 10 to 15 years have by and large happened without State leadership, patronage or involvement. There have been tremendous advances in research funding. Universities have changed dynamically over the past 20 years. Their role in economic life has been quite astounding and we all celebrate the news in recent months that major electronics companies have opted to come to Ireland. It is no surprise that one of their first reasons for coming is the advanced state of the third level sector and the strengths and quality within the universities. I would argue that the universities created that momentum themselves and drove change forward. They pioneered many third level developments and that illustrates the need to trust people and allow them freedom. The Government should tell universities' and Dublin Institute of Technology staff that it is giving them certain latitude. There are obviously mechanisms for accountability in existing legislation but it wants them to be innovative and radical and to lead the sector into the next century, and it will not have an overbearing influence on its development. The Dublin Institute of Technology needs that type of approach. It needs room to develop, the State needs to trust it and say that it is interested in partnership.
The Minister outlined earlier the level of investment in the Dublin Institute of Technology but members met the music students who picketed Dáil Éireann only two weeks ago about appalling accommodation and library facilities. Throughout the institute there are real problems with regard to facilities and investment is obviously required. The Dublin Institute of Technology requires State assistance but it is also anxious to seek private funding and the present situation is far too restrictive for them.
From the students' perspective, we must always recognise what is actually happening within a college. The present status, title and basis on which the Dublin Institute of Technology is constituted does not reflect the reality of the academic work which is now under way in the institute's constituent campuses. That must be acknowledged and these amendments recognise the reality of what is now going on within the Dublin Institute of Technology. The thousands of students involved deserve the type of recognition which these amendments seek to impart. It is not good enough to say that they knew what they were getting into. That is not the point. They are pursuing very valuable programmes.
Deputy Woods made an important point earlier. The world is changing. The old lines of demarcation and academic snobbery must end. Education has broadened considerably and the type of activities which are ongoing at the Dublin Institute of Technology are very valuable. The fact that they are of a specific nature does not of itself exclude them from university status, which should be broadened to encompass the Dublin Institute of Technology's valuable and diverse programmes which are significant to the economic development and manpower needs of the country.
I do not wish to labour the points I made before when we referred to the Dublin Institute of Technology under the first section of the Bill. I referred in passing to amendment No. 30 which would insert the following subsection:
"(5) The Government shall, no later than three years after the commencement of this Part, make an order providing that the Dublin Institute of Technology shall be a University for the purposes of this Act.".
I said that if the Minister feels there are some inhibiting factors which would prevent the recognition of the Dublin Institute of Technology, three years would be a reasonable period of time to accommodate those difficulties. The Minister did not express any particular difficulties. She has just decided she will not award university status at this time. It is not clear what will happen in the future but she may wish to make it a little clearer at this stage.
Deputy Martin outlined the argument well. There are practical issues to do with the freedoms which appertain to a university as opposed to an institute such as the Dublin Institute of Technology. We know the institute has good links with the private sector but it cannot have visiting professors or professors associated with industry and that is a big drawback for an institution which has strong links with industry in Ireland and abroad.
There are other practical matters, such as the perception of the institute. Call it snobbery or whatever one likes, if an institute is designated as a university it is given a higher status of which the Dublin Institute of Technology people are very conscious. The Dublin Institute of Technology is looking for this status for a number of very complex reasons. For the sake of the students and the level of academic achievement of the institute, if that is the wish of an institute which has passed all the examinations with regard to standards, it should be acknowledged in this further way.
Amendment No. 19 in the name of Deputy Martin and Deputy Coughlan is a key amendment. Its effect on section 4, which states "Without limiting its general application, this Act shall apply to — (a) the constituent universities, (b) Dublin City University," would be to insert "(c) Dublin Institute of Technology,". The section then refers to Trinity College, the University of Limerick and "such universities, if any, as are established under section 9, as constituted from time to time.". The Minister has told us to rely instead on section 9, that something will be done in the future under section 9.
Section 9(1), which relates to the establishment of additional universities, has its own conditions. It states:
The Government may, at any time, appoint a body, the membership of which shall be recommended by An tÚdarás and shall include international educational experts, to advise the Government on whether, having regard to the objects and functions of a university under sections 11 and 12, an educational institution should be established as a university.
That would take time and there would be consideration of that and the politics concerned.
There are other related considerations. After considering the advice of the body and any recommendations of An tÚdarás, the subject of subsection (3), the Government may, by order, provide that the institution should be a university. Will the Minister tell us why she will not recognise the Dublin Institute of Technology now? The opportunity exists so why not do so? What is wrong? From reports and reviews which have taken place, we know the Dublin Institute of Technology has reached a very high standard. It has postgraduate students. It is very anxious to be recognised internationally. Such recognition and status is important. It might be said that it ought not to be but the reality is that it is and the Dublin Institute of Technology wants that status now, not just for the membership of the board but for the students. If this is examined on a human level, it will be seen that students wish to have such recognition. The Dublin Institute of Technology wants the recognition so that it is not an offshoot of another university. It is grateful to Trinity for awarding degrees and for recognising it when others did not.
My difficulty is that this option is placed before us today by Deputies Martin and Coughlan tabling an amendment to include the Dublin Institute of Technology. Why should it not be included now that there is an opportunity to do so? If the Minister wants to wait until Report Stage to say she will include the Dublin Institute of Technology, that is fine. That is part of the normal process of a Bill. However, I find it hard to understand why the Dublin Institute of Technology is not included now.
I was interested to hear the Minister talk of consultation because, as a public representative living in a city which has two very worthwhile third level institutions, I was inundated with correspondence, oral and written, from both those working in the institution and those with members of their families in it.
I agree with the Minister that consultation should always be enriching. However, I am a little concerned at a throwaway remark of the Minister's about what she referred to as an enormous amount of photocopied correspondence from students and parents of students attending the Dublin Institute of Technology. It appears that the only value the Minister attaches to that level of representation and correspondence is nuisance value. It is a matter of great concern to me that any Minister for Education would choose to be so patronising to people who went to much trouble to set out their case and who, for convenience purposes, having held meetings with students and parents in every county, decided to lobby public representatives. It was largely because of that, as Deputy Coughlan said, that we began to sit up and realise there was an issue which should be addressed.
This form of legislation comes but few times a decade. It is a long time since we had university legislation and it will be well into the next millennium, perhaps, before we have more. It is far easier to have comprehensive primary legislation rather than attempting to amend it in the future. This would result in having consolidating legislation to bring all the different elements together. I am more in favour of ensuring that, as far as possible, primary legislation is comprehensive.
I am interested in the Deputy Woods' question. I want to know why the Minister seems to have a hang up about the Dublin Institute of Technology and refuses to give it university status. Dublin Institute of Technology has more than proved itself. It has 25,000 students. It has developed and been seen to develop. There are other developments which it must now make and it is prevented from doing so because it does not have university status. I support the amendment and ask the Minister if it is a policy or ideological difficulty or if it is one within the Department? Do the heads of universities not want the Dublin Institute of Technology to be given university status, something I do not believe? I am anxious to tease this out. I do not intend to read the Minister's mind for the same reason Deputy Coughlan mentioned a while ago. It is reasonable to ask the Minister why the Dublin Institute of Technology cannot be given recognition now. Under section 9, someone will recommend in the future that this be done resulting in the Minister having to introduce amending legislation and this would be a waste of time.
As it is now 12.45 p.m., I am obliged to bring our proceedings to a close.
A comment was made about photocopied letters. All those letters were identical. I received 18 of them today. I referred only to those ones and no others. I say this to clarify matters.
I thank the Minister, her officials and Members of the committee for their contributions. We shall resume consideration of the Bill at 11 a.m. on Thursday, 23 January 1997. I wish all Members of the committee a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
The Select Committee adjourned at 12.50 p.m.