National Council for Educational Awards Bill, 1978: Second Stage.

On a point of order, before the Minister begins his speech, could I inquire from him as to the whereabouts of the explanatory memorandum for this Bill?

My contention would be that the Bill is self-explanatory.

Can the Leas-Cheann Comhairle do nothing to ensure that the Minister for Education will extend the normal courtesy to this House of supplying, with a major piece of legislation, an explanatory memorandum?

The Chair has no responsibility whatsoever in the matter. It is up to the Minister concerned to provide with this Bill, if he so wishes, an explanatory memorandum, but the Deputy will appreciate that the Chair has no responsibility and that it is not a matter for the Chair.

The discourtesy of the Minister in this matter is a matter for the Chair.

It is not and the point has been made.

It is almost unprecedented.

It is not.

(Interruptions.)

On a point of order, may we ask through the Chair for some explanation from the Minister of what I regard as a perennial practice in the Department of Education not to provide such explanatory memoranda? We are entitled to it. Every other Government Minister past and current has provided explanatory memoranda even for one page Bills. This is a major piece of legislation and we have no explanatory memorandum and, quite frankly, the laziness of the Department of Education and of the current Minister——

It is not a matter for the Chair.

They are a lazy lot in the Department of Education.

If I am allowed I will comment. I want to say that there is an old legal saying that clear words need no interpretation and it was on that basis that no explanatory memorandum was supplied.

The Minister must have no respect for his own Bill.

I wish to reject the suggestion by Deputy Desmond that the Department of Education are lazy. I wish to reject the suggestion that the Minister is lazy and to point out that if indeed the Coalition Government had given our officials any practice in legislation we might be in a better position.

Is the Minister reflecting on the competence of his officials?

Discourtesy is not meant and I know perfectly well that the Deputy who alleged discourtesy on our part was just making a little point to get a little publicity for himself.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Agus an Dára Léamh á mholadh agam don Bhille seo maidir le Comhairle Náisiúnta na gCáilíochtaí Oideachais a bhunú, measaim go mba chóir dom i dtosach báire cúlra an scéal a thabhairt i láthair.

Bhi an moladh seo a leanas i leith bunú Comhairle Náisiúnta Cáilíochtaí Oideachais sa tuarascáil a chuir an Coiste Stiúrtha ar Oideachas Theicniúil i lathair an Aire Oideachais i Mí Aibreáin, 1967:

One of the ways in which demand could be stimulated would be to give due recognition to the various awards to be obtained in the Regional Colleges. We recommend the establishment of a National Council for Educational Awards, responsible for (1) setting standards of admission to, and qualification from courses in technical education; (2) approving examination syllabuses in appropriate courses provided in Regional Colleges or other technical schools; (3) awarding certificates and diplomas to those successful in approved examinations and (4) negotiating reciprocal recognition of equivalent qualifications with other countries, particularly Britain and the EEC. At the highest levels, the Council would discharge functions similar to those of the Council for National Academic Awards in Britain, but it would also be responsible for the awards at technician and craft levels. It would be duly representative of educational and professional institutions, industrial, commercial and cultural interests and the appropriate State Departments.

Sin mar a dúirt an tuarascáil sin. Is dóigh liom go raibh an Seanadóir Ó Maolcatha ina chathaoirleach ar an gcoiste sin.

Dúirt an tÚdarás um Ardoideachas ina chéad tuarascáil, a bhain leis an tréimhse 1968-69, go mba chúis imní dóibh an dianghá a bhí le h-ardú i stadas an oideachais teicneolaíochta agus an ardoideachais ceirde sa tír seo agus le aitheantas ar bhonn náisiúnta a bheith ar fáil do bhuanna na rannóige sin den oideachas. Dúirt siad gur ardaíodar ceist Comhairle Náisiúnta Cáilíochtaí a bhunú, le linn diospóireachta a bhí acu leis an Aire Oideachais agus gur iarr an tAire orthu tuarascáil a sholáthar faoín gceist.

Nuair a bhí an tÚdarás ag scrúdú toscaí an ardoideachais i gcoitinne, adeir siad, fuair siad amach go raibh éileamh seasta ann ar chúrsaí nios aoirde sa teicneolaíocht agus i sain cheardaíochta éagsúla, agus go raibh cúrsaí den tsort sin de dhith go mór i limisteir áirithe. Taispeánadh dóibh go raibh na cúrsaí ag teastáil, agus éileamh ortha, ón lucht tionscail agus ó mhicléinn. Bhí sé sin faighte amach i dtús ama ag na coláistí teicneolaíochta, a raibh dlú-bhaint acu leis an gnó, agus do dheimnigh dhá staidéar a deineadh faoi scáth an OECD—"Investment in Education" agus "The Training of Technicians in Ireland" go raibh an scéal amhlaidh. Bhí an tUdarás sásta nár mhór an t-oideachas teicneolaíochta a thabhairt go leibhéal níos aoirde, agus a scóip a leathnú, dá mbéadh sé chun coinneáil ar chomhchéim mar ba chóir le fás eac-namaíoch na tire.

Bhí sé ina bhac mhór ar ardú is ar leathnú an oideachais teicneolaíochta, i dtuairim an Udaráis, nach raibh raon sásúil dámhachtana ar fáil i bhfoirm teastas, diplóma nó céimeanna chun freastal ar an réimse seo den ardoideachas, agus ba lú dá réir sin a tarraingt don lucht foghlama. Samhlaíodh go raibh sé mar a bhéadh i rannóig na h-ollscolaíochta dá mbéadh gan aon chéim ollscoile a bheith ann.

Is féidir gur measadh, ag an gcéad amharc, adeir an tUdarás, nár ghá ach an dlí a athrú sa chaoi go mbéadh sé ar chumas na n-ollscol céimeanna nó dámhachtana oiriúnacha eile a bhronnadh ar mhicléinn na n-institiúidí oideachais teicneolaíochta, mar go raibh cuid dá gcúrsaí inchurtha, ó thaobh ábhair agus caighdeáin de, le cúrsaí ollscoile. Bhí céimithe ins na heolaíochta, maille le hailtirí agus innealltóirí lán-cháilithe ag teacht amach as na coláistí teicneolaíochta cheana féin, agus bhí cúrsaí in ábhair speisialta ag leibhéal iarchéime 'á reachtáil iontu dá lucht léinn féin agus do dhaoine as na coláistí ollscoile. Mheas an tUdarás, mar sin féin, go raibh difríocht bhunúsach idir fheidhmeanna ollscoile agus feidhmeanna institiúide teicneolaíochta, agus go mbéadh sé cuid mhór in aghaidh nádúir agus aidhmeanna institiúide teicneolaíochta dá gcaitheadh sí a curaclam agus a modhanna oibre a chur in oiriúint do riachtanaisí ollscoile. Luaigh siad freisin nach mbíonn in-stitiúid teicneolaíochta i dtaobh le cúrsaí de chaighdeán céim ollscoile, ach go mbionn uirthe, chomh maith, freastal ar mhicléinn a bhfuil oideachas iarbhun-scoile críochnaithe acu ach nár éirigh leo coinníolleacha iontrála ollscoile a shásamh, nó nach bhfuil oideachas ollscoile uathu, agus a bhfuil cúrsaí tríú leibhéal de chineálacha eile á niarraidh acu.

Leag an tÚdarás béim air nár chóir a mheas go raibh oideachas teicneolaíochta —arna idirdhealú ó theicneolaíocht féin— teoranta do mhúineadh scileanna tion-sclaíochta no tráchtála. Ba chóir cion cuí den éigse a bheith mar chuid de gach cúrsa den chinéal sin. Bhéadh sé iontuighthe, mar sin fhéin, agus an chuid chomh-ghabhálach seo den chúrsa á eagrú, gur lena fheidhmiú i gcúrsaí tionscail, tráchtála nó ghairme a bhí an léann seo 'á chur ar fáil.

Having due regard to the considerations to which I have referred, the Higher Education Authority came to the conclusion that if technological education were properly to serve its students and function in the fullest interest of the economy, a concrete step towards this should be the establishment of a council for national awards, with the safeguard that the standard of the diplomas and degrees awarded by it be in no way inferior to those of the universities. It considered that the council should be given powers on the following lines: (1) to grant certificates, diplomas and degrees to persons who had successfully completed courses of study at third level educational institutions other than universities; (2) to determine the conditions governing the grant of such awards; (3) to approve courses of study to be pursued in order to qualify for such awards, including where appropriate arrangements for industrial and commercial experience in association with such a course.

Having considered the report of the Higher Education Authority and all other relevant considerations the Government decided in February 1972 to set up the National Council for Educational Awards. This council was established on an ad hoc basis for a period of three years from March 1972 with the following terms of reference:

General Function

1. To promote, facilitate, encourage, co-ordinate and develop technical, industrial, commercial, technological, professional and scientific education and, in association with these, liberal education;

Éigse mar a luaigh mé cheana.

Particular Functions

2. To grant and confer certificates, diplomas, degrees and other awards to and on persons who shall have pursued at educational institutions recognised by the council courses approved by it under conditions approved by it and who shall, to the satisfaction of the council, have passed examinations and/or other tests set or prescribed by the council appropriate to the courses of study as aforesaid.

3. To grant and confer certificates, diplomas, degrees and other awards to and on persons who at the time of the establishment of the council were pursuing at educational institutions courses of study approved by the council under conditions approved by it and who, subsequent to the establishment of the council shall to the satisfaction of the council have passed examinations and/or other tests set or prescribed by the council appropriate to the courses of study as aforesaid;

4. To award and confer degrees to and on persons who to the satisfaction of the council, shall have carried out research at a standard approved by the council under conditions approved by the council at or under the supervision of educational institutions;

5. To appoint from time to time such and so many boards of studies as it considers necessary for the proper exercise of its functions and to assign from time to time to these boards of studies the supervision of such areas of study as it may deem fit.

That was the brief for the ad hoc council. The ad hoc council consisted of a chairman, 21 ordinary members appointed by the Minister for Education, three additional ordinary members to be co-opted by the council by resolution and a director who would also be a member of the council. The constitution of the 21 members appointed by the Minister was as follows:

7 members holding academic posts in universities;

6 members with teaching experience in a higher education institution other than a university, at least three of whom held teaching posts in such institutions;

5 members having experience in industry, agriculture, commerce, public administration or related fields;

3 members having experience in post-primary education.

In the first annual report 1972-73 of the National Council for Educational Awards, the chairman in the foreword to the report stated that the establishment of the council marked an entirely new and very significant development in relation to third level education in Ireland. He stated that for the first time in our history it was now possible to give authoritative national recognition and status to third level non-university educational institutions and to their students who passed examinations and tests of the standard approved by the council. This recognition was to be expressed in the national certificate, diplomas and degrees which the council was empowered to award. The council believed that this would lead to a more widespread appreciation, both nationally, and internationally, of the very important contribution made by these institutions to economic, social and cultural development and would significantly enchance their general standing.

The National Coalition Government in connection with their decisions of 14 December 1974 on higher education decided that the National Council for Educational Awards should not be given the power to award degrees. The council as reconstituted in December 1975 was not formally given this power. In view of the fact, however, that a degree level course in hotel and catering management in the regional technical college in Galway was already underway at the time of the reconstitution of the council and since no university was as yet in a position to validate the course in question, the National Council for Educational Awards was empowered to award degrees to students who successfully completed this course in 1976 and 1977. This was one of the illogicalities of what I believed was a wrong decision at that time. The intention was, however, that in non-university institutions, where degrees were to be awarded to students, such awards were to be made by the universities.

This was the situation when I became Minister for Education in 1977 and my first consideration had to be to set the situation right by restoring its degree awarding function to the NCEA and establishing an appropriate basis for the establishment of the council under statutory authority. The Bill is a most complex one.

Hear, hear. I thought the Minister might call for an explanatory memorandum.

When I took office and got the necessary Government decisions I set in motion the necessary proofs for the putting together of the provisions of this Bill. I checked progress every week and I believe that the Bill is a very good one. I gave this care to the Bill because of its importance. If I should like to be remembered for anything I should like to be remembered for this Bill.

The Minister certainly will.

And I quote from a letter I received from a person who has wide knowledge and experience in the technological sector. He said that the Bill is most comprehensive, equal to, if not more significant than, the 1908 Universities Act and the 1930 Vocational Education Act. When enacted it is bound to have a profound impact on the future direction and evolution of higher education in Ireland and also on national development. He goes on to say it reflects my own deep interest in a commitment to education and suggests, and I hope he is right, that I am erecting a monument more lasting than bronze, to coin a phrase.

The Bill is a complicated one, far more complicated than would appear on the face of it.

On a point of order, would the Minister give the source of that quotation and the author of it?

I actually mentioned a distinguished person in the technological field.

Is it in order for the Minister to give a quotation which is not generally available?

Of course it is.

It is in order to mention that a distinguished person has said or done something. If the Minister were quoting from a document he would be asked to give the document but he has not said he was quoting.

The Minister was giving a verbatim quotation from a letter and a letter is a document.

A private letter to myself and I will not read a personal letter even for the delectation of Deputy Horgan.

The Minister was quoting a letter, something which is done frequently, and it is not necessary to give the source. It is not a public document.

I accept what the Minister said about the person being a distinguished person. We would just like to know how distinguished. It is a reasonable request.

All my friends are very distinguished.

It is a relative term.

I now propose to summarise the main provisions of the Bill as it has been presented. While for this purpose I shall refer to some sections of the Bill I do not propose to go into detail in relation to such sections beyond the point of indicating their relationship to the general purpose of the Bill. Such discussion in detail will be appropriate only on Committee Stage.

I should draw attention to the interpretation of institution in section 1. It is stated that an institution to which this Act applies means—

(a) the National College of Art and Design,

(b) the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin,

(c) the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick,

(d) Thomond College of Education, Limerick,

(e) any Regional Technical College,

(f) any institution specified by an order made under section 20 of the Act by the Minister.

I should state that this provision in section 1 is not directly related to the provision at section 5 dealing with the appointment of ordinary members. Since there is only one institution in existence of the kind referred to at (a), (b), (c) and (d), it is appropriate that the name of the institution should be given. In the case of (e) the individual regional technical colleges are not named as they come under the composite definition of the category of colleges referred to. The provision at (f) allows for the recognition of any other institutions specified in an order made by the Minister and is necessary to meet the situation of colleges to be included for the purpose of the acceptance of courses being followed in them by the NCEA whether these colleges are already in existence or whether they come into existence at a later date. This degree of flexibility is necessary in the existing circumstances.

Section 2 states that the council shall be known in the Irish language as Comhairle Naisiúnta na gCailíochtaí Oideachais and in the English language as the National Council for Educational Awards. It is to perform the functions assigned it by this Act.

The general functions of the council as set out at section 3 are to encourage, facilitate, promote, co-ordinate and develop technical, industrial, scientific, technological and commercial education provided outside the universities, whether professional, vocational or technical, and also in this connection to encourage and promote liberal education.

Subsection (2) of section 3 specifies some particular functions of the council. These include the function of conferring degrees, diplomas and certificates and other educational awards to persons who have attended or otherwise pursued or followed the courses of study or instruction conducted by or provided under supervision of an institution to which the Act applies and which are courses which for the time being are approved by the council.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted, and 20 Member being present,

I should like to know what number of Members constitutes a quorum.

I must be failing somewhere because I cannot count 20 Members in the House.

Surely at this stage the Deputy realises that 20 Members constitutes a quorum.

This Deputy recognises that certain rules in the book are applied and others are not.

A Deputy

Give the Deputy a lunch ticket.

They include persons who—

2. have either attained a standard regarded by the council as satisfactory in examinations or other tests of knowledge or ability set by the council or which for the time being are so approved of and relate to such courses or have performed in a manner regarded by the council as satisfactory other exercises approved of by the council.

The council may also recognise a degree, diploma, certificate or other educational award conferred, granted, or given to persons who successfully complete the courses referred to or approved of such courses of study or instruction if it is satisfied that the standard in general of both—

1. a particular course of study or instruction conducted by, or provided under the supervision of an institution to which the act applies and relating to professional, scientific or vocational education, which course may be partly concerned with liberal arts; and

2. examinations or other tests of knowledge or ability conducted in relation to such a course corresponds or is analogous to any relevant standards for the time being in force in universities.

Subsection (c) of section 3 (2) states that the council may assess the standard maintained for the time being by any institution to which the Act applies as regards any appropriate course of study or instruction.

For the purpose of promoting degrees, diplomas, certificates or other educational awards conferred by it, the council may—

1. take such steps as it considers appropriate either within or outside the State,

2. co-ordinate, or assist in co-ordinating, in such manner as it considers appropriate any two or more courses of study or instruction conducted by, or provided under the supervision of, one or more institution to which the Act applies,

3. for the purpose of enabling students to attend or otherwise pursue or follow particular courses, assist the transfer of students—that is very important—from one institution to another institution.

In this connection also it should be noted that under subsection (2) of section 3 the council may through the Higher Education Authority advise the Minister in relation to the cost of providing, or continuing to provide the financing of any courses of study or instruction approved by the council or the cost of modifying any course of study or instruction to the extent necessary to secure its approval by the council.

I may say that I attach very considerable importance to these provisions in relation to the steps which the council might take to promote its degrees and other awards within or outside the State. I may assure the council that it will have the full support of the Minister for Education in this matter and I anticipate that it will have also the support of educational authorities and other professional groups which will be affected in relation to the recognition of qualifications awarded by the NCEA. I would expect that there would be no reluctance in regard to the promotion of these qualifications and advice to students to follow courses leading to them in substitution for qualifications which may have been sought after from outside the country hitherto in the absence of the appropriate provisions for a fully satisfactory range of qualifications certified and available within the country.

I consider it also extremely important that arrangements should be worked out to facilitate the transfer of students as appropriate from one institution to another and the co-ordination of courses between the regional technical colleges and the national institutes for higher education, as well as where appropriate the National College of Art and Design, and, in certain instances, the universities, to facilitate the students and secure the maximum opportunities for advancement throughout the whole range of third-level education.

It will be generally accepted that the NCEA in planning and co-ordinating courses will need to take into account at the same time the financial consequences of such planning and co-ordination. Under the Higher Education Act, 1971, the HEA has responsibility for advising the Minister of the need or otherwise for the establishment of new institutions of higher education and the nature and form of these institutions. It must also maintain a continuous review of the demand and need for higher education. It is appropriate, accordingly, that it is through the Higher Education Authority that the council would advise the Minister on the cost of providing or the financing of courses approved by it or the cost of modifying any courses of study or instruction to the extent necessary to secure its approval by the council.

The council is to consist of a chairman, a director and 23 other members. Section 5 sets out the procedure for the appointment of the members of the council other than the chairman or the director. In this connection I should emphasise that the provision made in this section is for the purpose of establishing a council which would be best able to discharge the functions being assigned to it under section 3. I want to emphasise that the individual members are not being appointed to promote the particular individual interest of any separate institution and their allegiance is to the council and not to the institution on the recommendation of which they may have been appointed by the Government.

The details of the proposals in the section may be discussed further on Committee Stage. My concern is that the provision in the Bill would make for a well-balanced and competent council, representative of the main areas of professional and academic activities involved.

I am aware that since the Bill was published observations have been made on behalf of the National College of Art and Design. It appears to be represented that this is an institution which should be given the right to recommend one or more members for appointment to the council. It is my firm intention to consider this matter further on Committee Stage of the Bill. I welcome this opportunity to say now that the interest being expressed by the authorities of the College of Art is very welcome to me. I have intimated to the Board of the College the advantages to art education in the college, as the national college, and in the country of having their degree awards made through the National Council for Educational Awards. I conveyed my views to them in January 1978 and I am now pleased that the board are anxious for representation. Five professors and three tutors from the college have already written to me in the matter.

Section 5 provides that nine of the 23 members other than the chairman and the director shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Minister and it is subsequently provided that before making a recommendation under the section the Minister shall consider to what extent industry, agriculture, fisheries, commerce and any other professions or the staff and students of regional technical colleges need representation on the council.

I may state for the record that of the remaining members four should be appointed on the recommendation of the Governing Body of the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick, four should be appointed on the recommendation of the Governing Body of the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin, two should be appointed on the recommendation of the Governing Body of Thomond College of Education, Limerick, and that one each should be appointed on the recommendations of the Governing Bodies of University College, Cork, University College, Dublin, University College, Galway, and the Board of Trinity College, Dublin.

Section 9 provides that the council may establish boards of studies. It may request the boards of studies to make, in relation to specified subjects, courses of study or specified branches, areas, aspects or other divisions of educational research, recommendations to the council concerning any one or more of the following.

(a) courses of study or instruction therein to be followed by persons for the purpose of obtaining an educational award from the council.

(b) standards to be maintained as regards any such course or other conditions subject to or in accordance with which any such course is to be conducted,

(c) the standards to be applied and maintained in relation to examinations and tests undertaken by persons attending or otherwise pursuing or following any such course.

In relation to making recommendations to the council, the board of studies has to have particular regard to the following:

(a) the standard of work and the facilities for the time being available at any institution at which the course of study or instruction being considered is conducted or at which it is proposed to have the course being considered conducted, as may be appropriate;

(b) the curriculum and syllabus of the courses of study or instruction being considered;

(c) the requisite qualifications or the proposed qualifications of persons conducting the course;

(d) the arrangements and facilities provided or to be provided for the practical training of persons attending or otherwise pursuing or following the course;

(e) the arrangements, facilities provided or to be provided for the examination or testing of the persons concerned;

(f) the standards required or proposed for admission to such courses, and

(g) the standard required or proposed for the award of any degree, diploma, certificate, or other educational award at the conclusion or at any other stage of the course.

Debate adjourned.