Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Thursday, 25 May 1989

Vol. 390 No. 6

University of Limerick Bill, 1989: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

While not commanding the total attention of the entire House, I welcome this Bill. We should recognise, however, that in the process of accelerated legislation on which we are all agreed, there is a downside as well as an upside. It has not been possible for the Government for reasons we fully understand to introduce the kind of Bill which would have been desirable, making adequate and due provision for the structure and organisation of the two universities. In that respect the Bill is defective. I will make some suggestions in my brief remarks as to how that defect could be partially remedied within the tight time scale and by a very small amendment to the existing text.

With regard to the principle of the Bill, it may have been a mistake to have two rather than one university from the point of view of destabilishing the rest of our structure. It would be unfortunate if we end up with seven universities. It would diminish the credibility of our university system by having a university for every 500,000 people. I hope that will not happen.

Having said that, we accept these two universities. Our job now is to establish them in such a way as to ensure their credibility, their strength and capacity to do the job we are asking them to do. Two things are required for a university, starting from scratch, to achieve credibility. There must be independence of its structures and of the body which governs it. It must be independent, above all, of the State. Secondly, the university should be adequately endowed in order to have within the range of its curriculum the basic sciences and subjects upon which it has to draw for the purpose of its teaching and to have sufficient resources to undertake research in these areas, rather than being confined narrowly to teaching alone. An institution which only functions to teach without any provision for research in the basic sciences upon which it has to draw is one which could have difficulty in establishing itself adequately in the academic world here and outside our borders.

These are the two things with which I am concerned. The second concern is one we cannot deal with here. I merely appeal to the Minister to make sure the resources available are adequate to the universities in question to build up in the way any university must have a range of disciplines, such that nobody can challenge its universality, and the resources necessary to undertake the research to back up its teaching.

In relation to the question of the independence of the body, there is something we can do. Because the proposal put forward only involves a change of the name and no attempt has been made to change the structure set out previously in the 1980 Act, we are left with universities whose basic structures are not appropriate to a university. All the members of the governing body are to be appointed by the Government on the recommendation of the Minister. I know of no precedent in these islands, or even in the US where independent academic institutions exist free of State interference, for this procedure. Such a provision would make it unnecessarily difficult for these universities to establish themselves. On Committee Stage I will propose a brief amendment of four or five words which will achieve the necessary result. There is no reason why the Minister or the Government should have this function except in relation to the members they appoint directly. By deleting a couple of words the formality introduced in the 1980 Act of the Government doing the appointing will be removed. All of the other appointments are made following nomination or an election by various bodies. Let this be made crystal clear by removing the Government element from the appointments which are elective or made by outside bodies. The Government should certainly appoint their own members, whatever number it should be. I shall come back to this point in a few moments.

I would like to point out that the National University of Ireland, established in 1908 following agreement between the Irish Parliament Party and the British Liberal Party — one party totally departed and the other somewhat diminished in status — and the Irish hierarchy — quite undiminished in status — made a number of provisions. For example, provision was made for the academic staff to be represented on a reasonable scale. Indeed, it has to be said that in the Senate of the National University apart from the four Government nominees out of a total membership of 35 there are no other nominees from outside the system itself. All of the others come from within the system.

What is now being proposed is that this university be left with a structure under which 17 of the 23 members would not come from within the institution but be imposed from outside by the Government or various outside bodies. That is extraordinary retrogression, unintentional I accept because I am sure the Minister would have wished to have a more appropriate structure. What I am suggesting is that we make a gesture and remove the Government role in appointments, other than in relation to the ones they make themselves, and modify the ratio of Government appointments to academic appointments.

I am proposing, therefore, an amendment that the number of Government appointments be reduced to four, which was regarded as adequate by the British Government in 1908 for the National University of Ireland, from a figure of nine at present and that the number of academic appointments be increased to eight. Eight out of 23 is a very low ratio. No one in 1908 would have thought this number adequate.

I do not want to attempt to disturb the structure too much or start unnecessary arguments. A number of bodies have nominating powers. If one were to raise that issue now we would never get finished. Therefore, I am confining myself to proposing two amendments, the first of which proposes that we remove the role of the Government in relation to appointments other than in relation to the appointment of their own nominees. Secondly, I ask the Minister to consider a change in the ratio between Government nominees and the academic nominees to bring it nearer what it should be for a modern institution in the 20th century.

I hope the Minister will consider these two amendments. They are quite simple and would, I think, be greeted with enthusiasm in the universities in question and by the whole university sector. They would bring things a little nearer to what they might be. We will have to leave to future legislation an adequate university structure which we cannot hope to deal with in this brief debate today. I hope the Minister will take account of these two modest amendments which I hope have been circulated by now, neither of which would disturb the overall structure of the Bill in question.

Let me give another example to show how this legislation is a step backwards. Reference has been made to the 1980 legislation but in 1908 the British Government thought it appropriate to say that one of the Government nominees should be a woman. In 1980 a Fianna Fáil Government were not even prepared to make that concession. This shows how far back we had gone in 72 years. However, this is a matter which can be dealt with pending the introduction of an adequate structure. I will be very surprised if the Minister does not appoint at least one woman when she comes to making her appointments. Therefore, I doubt if the defect in the legislation to which I am referring would have any great practical effect. I think we can rely on the Minister to ensure this. Nevertheless, I urge that she should not allow this matter to be put on one side.

Having created the universities, modified the structures so that they are seen to be independent by people outside this country, having seen to it that the Government have only an appropriate limited role and not a total role in the appointments as it would appear prima facie to people outside from the 1980 legislation, and having modified the ratio between academic and Government appointments, I hope she will come back to this subject and bring in legislation to establish appropriate structures for these two universities. They deserve it. The work they have done and the stage they have reached is such that they do not need tutelage by Government which was thought appropriate in 1980. Even at that time I thought it excessive but I will not go back over that matter now. To have a university whose entire governing body would be appointed by the Government would lack a certain credibility. I hope the Minister will be able to take those two points on board. I do not want to detain the House any longer. The less time we take the more we can get through today.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to take part in this debate which I regard as a very historic one. It is 81 years since a new university was established. This is of great significance. It is a great pity that we cannot have a full debate on these Bills, on university education generally and on the place of the universities and third level education. There are only 55 minutes left and we are speaking under the shadow of a general election which may or may not take place. We are speaking in the middle of a constitutional crisis which a number of Members of this House quite properly tried to raise here but they were unable to do so. Today the Government went to the High Court virtually asking for permission to hold a general election. They were told by the High Court that "we have nothing to add to what we have already said".

It is, therefore, a great pity that there should be such an attenuated debate in which few, if any, Members of this House can have any interest because of what is going on about us and because of the constitutional chaos in which we have now been put. I emphasise the 81 years because it is an extraordinary interval to elapse before the establishment of only the second and third universities this century. For that reason it is of enormous significance.

It is with great personal satisfaction that I see the NIHE in Limerick being transformed by this legislation into a university. I have memories of it from the start. Indeed, one of my first political activities on my own behalf as opposed to on behalf of others was to appear at meetings during my own by-election in 1968 to try to defend the concept of the NIHE which was then being proposed. I was young and timorous and, I must confess, frightened because I found myself at many of those large meetings almost in a minority of one. Virtually nobody would agree with me on what was wanted. It was believed to be what was known at that time as a traditional university. I recall one lady upbraiding me that nothing was worthwhile unless it had the only three faculties which counted. When I asked her what these were she told me they were medicine, law and dentistry. Anyone who did anything else was not a gentleman and she would not have her sons going to a glorified technical school as proposed at that time by Deputy Brian Lenihan.

Not to mention her daughters.

I found it difficult at times to sustain the volume of opposition but I am delighted to stand in this House 21 years later precisely to say there is now universal acceptance, not just in Limerick and Dublin but throughout the country, of the wisdom of this concept. There is universal admiration for the way it has worked and a recognition of the valuable contribution it has made, not just regionally but nationally and internationally. What is happening today is a proper consummation of the process and I am very happy to see it come about.

The new university was kind enough to send to Deputies within the past week or so details of their present courses and on recent developments. While I was aware of most of them, nevertheless it is valuable to have them set out in this fashion. When we look at the relevance of the courses on the list one is struck by how valuable and how useful it is. When they describe what they call the new developments in 1989 we see how valuable they are. The new developments this year are the introduction of a master's degree in Japanese studies and a bachelor's degree in aircraft engineering. We are now heading into a period when the Pacific Basin — probably within the next 20 or 30 years — will outstrip Europe and the Atlantic Basin as the more important centre of the world, economically at least; it is great to see a third level institution responding to that and to the importance of Japan and Japanese studies as regularly as the NIHE in Limerick have.

It is good to see that a chair in aircraft engineering has been sponsored this year by GPA who are now one of the most important Irish companies and the world leader in their field. It is indicative of the good relationship which has first been achieved in Limerick — and hopefully will be achieved elsewhere — between industry and the academic world. I have not seen it achieved more successfully anywhere in Ireland — and perhaps few places in Europe — than in Limerick. The campus there is an outstanding example of what we want towards the end of the 20th century. It is a magnificent campus of 500 or 600 acres on which there is a vast technological industry in which approaching 7,000 people are employed either in academic or industrial pursuits. The combination is very valuable. The site is beautiful, indeed magnificent, and the envy of many universities throughout the world.

The College of Engineering and Science there is the largest in the country and the College of Business is the second largest and hugely important. The graduates are in extraordinary demand, even at a time of high unemployment, which is the case at present, and 97 per cent of them are placed within six months of their graduation. Indeed as a Deputy for Limerick I have had, several times, the difficulty of trying to persuade undergraudate students who were on co-operative education in factories in different parts of the country to return to their studies and to graduate because they were so well thought of, even in their second and third years as undergraduates, they were offered very large and — to an undergraduate — tempting sums of money to stay in permanent employment where they were and not to finish their studies. The eagerness with which they have been snapped up both at home and abroad is something that marks this institution and much the same can be said of the Dublin institution.

Great credit is due to those who have brought the institution of Limerick to the standing it has nationally and internationally today, which has directly led to the recommendations of the commission and to this Bill. One of course has to particularly identify Dr. Edward Walsh, the director, and now the incoming president of the university, who has been there from the start and who has shown enormous dedication, determination, skill and ability of lift the institution to the heights which it has achieved. The same applies to many other members of the staff who have been there since its opening day.

On a personal note, it is a happy coincidence that the Bill was introduced today by the Minister for Education because it was her brother, about whom we are happily hearing good news, who started it all off as Minister for Education back in 1968. Just after he had succeeded in that office he and a certain celebrated relative of mine — I recall meeting the two of them in Limerick when Donogh was Minister for Education — were trying to sell the concept of this kind of education. I recall in particular an incident where Donogh brought Brian Lenihan into the Brazen Head in Limerick for what is called in the best circles light refreshments. They approached the counter, Brian produced a ten shilling note and Donogh informed the barman that it was not legal tender as Lenihan had been trying to buy a drink for five years with the same ten shilling note.

I am sure that is not so.

If he can hear me in Rochester, Minnesota, I am sure he will enjoy the story and if Donogh can hear me somewhere else I am sure he will too. Those days of the late sixties remind me of the last efforts made to rationalise university education here, particularly in the city of Dublin. Unfortunately, nothing has come of that in the last 20 years and it is time to draw attention to the amount of duplication which still exists. A certain amount was done in the late sixties but nothing has been done in that direction since. The need to do it because of Exchequer constraints is huge, the need in particular to rationalise faculties where there is a huge surplus of graduates in areas where they will not have any scope whatever within this country is obvious and I would love to see that done. In this city there are three medical schools which produce perhaps 300 more doctors per annum than we need, and I wonder how one justifies that. There is a large number of law schools, university and professional, producing huge numbers of people who are surplus to our needs. Unfortunately there has not been a great tradition in this country of qualified lawyers not practising, which is a great pity. There is now an outlet for them in London, even though they are not qualified there, but the demand is so high that they are able to walk into jobs at £30,000 a year which of course was quite impossible up to even two or three years ago.

We should look at these matters. It is a pity in one way that these two institutions have to be taken in isolation but in another way I am very glad that they are because if we got into trying to update the whole NUI legislation and university legislation generally here, we would be at it for years and it would never be done. I fully approve of the manner in which these two Bills were brought forward. They are minimalist Bills and that is the right approach. It is certainly the appropriate approach given the huge constitutional cloud under which we are lingering at the moment and the fact that this House — we are told — will have expired within an hour or two of the very moment at which I speak.

One of the things I should briefly draw attention to is that, as far back as 1978, 11 years ago, a constitutional referendum was passed to enable all universities and third level institutions to be put on an equal and common footing in regard to one matter in particular, voting in Seanad elections. I do not think that voting in a Seanad election is very important as I am not a great admirer of the Seanad. However, it is indicative of the inability to make progress over the past 11 years that no legislation has been brought forward on that topic. More importantly, until today, no legislation has been brought forward, in regard to third level institutions. I do not think the existing National University set-up should be retained. I do not think it is satisfactory. The colleges within the NUI should be given an option as to what they want to do. When the Act I referred to was passed there were very small Queens Colleges scattered around the country but they are now very substantial universities in themselves. I do not think the NUI structure is important any longer.

One would like to have the opportunity to talk on university and third level financing. For example, one would like to have the opportunity to talk on the fee structure and the grant structure which gives rise to huge difficulties. One would like to have the opportunity to promote, as I would wish, the idea of loans to students within third level institutions in order to try to take some of the burden from the State while, at the same time, making some more money, which is so badly needed, available to third level institutions.

I listened to what Deputy FitzGerald had to say about the governing bodies of these institutions and I agree with him but I am not going to get involved in amendments today. This is the type of Bill that one either takes or leaves. Obviously, as Deputy FitzGerald pointed out, it is not desirable that virtually all the members of the governing bodies of the two new universities should be appointed by the Government. There should be some reasonable academic representation and some reasonable degree of independence in these respects.

Apart from whatever reservations one might have about details, it is nonetheless an outstanding day for my city. It is an outstanding day for Irish education. This Dáil has been an unusual Dáil. It has done things that no other Dáil could have attempted. It has, for example, consistently produced majorities well in excess of 100 for the Government of the day who were only elected on the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle and, subsequently, lost the support of two of the Members who voted for them. They were the most minority Government of all time with the greatest majority of all time. It was a very up and down Dáil.

They were the greatest Government of all time and the Deputy knows that.

It was a very up and down Dáil and a lot of good things happened in it. A lot of bad things happened in it but I am happy that the last thing that is happening in it is something that is worthwhile and is, for once, definitely in the national interest and in the overall public interest. I am delighted to lend my support to the Bill, to express my confidence that it will pass through the House today and that it will pass through the Seanad next week. I am delighted it will be signed by the President the week after and what has been dreamed of by many generations will have been achieved.

I agree with the other speakers. As the spokesperson for the Labour Party on Education I welcome the two Bills. In welcoming them I congratulate the students of both institutions, all the staff who worked in any capacity in them, the parents and the communities they serve. I should like to congratulate those who have led the battle for recognition which these Bills represent. The order of the people I congratulated was not accidental. Universities belong in society. Their primary function is to serve their society well.

The very definition of university, universitas, raises a number of issues of itself. For example, there is the inevitable implication of the continuity of thought, the pedagogic tradition and the necessity for research. There is another criterion, that of relevance to a sector of the economy. On Committee Stage I will be moving amendments one of which will seek to correct what I feel is a limitation on the university. One amendment will relate to the word “business”, an unfortunate usage on page three of the Bill setting up the University of Limerick. The word “economy” is not used. One is not talking about the larger world of industry in using the word “business”.

Lest I be misconstrued, I should like to declare that I welcome the two Bills and congratulate everybody associated with them on what the Bills will make possible. I disagree with Deputy Fitz-Gerald's statement that the universities were "starting". I would not have used the word "starting". The institutions have evolved, they have passed a level of achievement which is being called something else today. It is wrong to see them as starting. They have made their case on the basis of very considerable achievements. I want these universities to be full universities in the best and broadest sense. I want them, therefore, to be untrammelled by any kind of inhibition which a university in its fullest sense might acquire. It is in that sense that I have tabled an amendment dealing with the status of the academic council. In any university the role of the academic council is crucial. As I read the Bill I see it as deriving itself from the governing body but if we are to speak about a university being a community of scholarship then it must be derived generically. I am supported in my view about the academic council by the international review group which spoke of that council as the second most important institution within the university.

The next point is a very important one to me. As a person who has worked in four universities — one in Ireland, two in the United States and one in England — I am convinced that universities have at the end of the 20th century to be more democratically structured. In that regard I agree in a minor way with what Deputy O'Malley had to say. Is there any case for excluding the representation of students? Of course there is not. A university should be a community of intellectual activity, a community of relationships, of practical work and so on.

My next point is an important one in relation to the definition of these universities because they are not the same. I have looked at them very carefully. I should like to thank the new University of Limerick for the facts sheet they sent me. The historical review they gave, which was invaluable, was fascinating. It is their right to be proud of the history of achievement, of the struggle to come to this point. However, I note from the document a rather proud assertion of lack of dependence on the State. That is where Deputy O'Malley and I differ. A university has to be in a critical relationship to its society. We had useful lists on history today from the Minister and in the facts sheet from Limerick. In my view the universities have not served any fashion or fetish of the day. They have all perished in the historical review in that they have served a declining elite. In that regard I was very interested to compare the structures proposed for these universities with the developments that have taken place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the most significant developments that has taken place there in the last five years has been that it has recognised the social sciences as full sciences and, in the case of its applied sciences, it is teaching both the history of science and the philosophy and logic of science.

This makes a very important point in regard to a comment made by the Minister. Anybody who would argue that universities should serve in a narrow neoutilitarian way, having a simple relationship with business and avoiding at all costs any concept of State funding, is to my mind ploughing a narrow and very limited furrow in relation to the future of the university tradition. I make this observation as a friend of the new University of Limerick and as somebody who wishes it well. As I said, this is referred to in two lines in three documents, which I appreciate. Indeed, the documents I referred to cover an enormous range of issues.

There is another side to my argument. Does this mean that an academic critical ability can be construed as some kind of licence for irrelevancy? Of course it cannot and should not be construed as such and should not be practised as such either. What I am saying is that the good side of the argument is that many new, innovative and relevant things are included in this list. These are impressive and obviously the students are being taught by dedicated staff and supported by even more dedicated people who make universities possible.

I am coming to the end of my 20th year in a university and I want to say that it is when I have experienced élitism that I have found universities to be at their worst. As a university lecturer who founded the teaching section of the Federated Workers' Union of Ireland I, as a working intellectual, was proud to be in the same trade union as the people who cut the grass, cleaned the university and worked in the laboratories, and that is still my view.

I have some more comments to make concerning the entire concept of universities. I wish I had more time — I hope I will have it if events, constitutional and neo-constitutional, take place — to develop some other aspects. From my experience in this House and in the Seanad, when people speak of the history of education they speak of educational institutions sometimes almost as a substitute for the history of learning. These are not the same. It is a very limited view to regard an institution of learning as learning itself. I welcome these two Bills and I look forward to some Minister in the future introducing something we should have had long ago, a university of the air or a university of the skies — the development and extension of education, second chance education and so forth. I am sure Members on all sides would welcome such developments.

I believe universities are judged in terms of their contribution to the overall developmental capacity of students. I looked through the list in this historic review and took detailed notes of the Minister's speech. As I listened to the evolution of the institutions, I reflected on the institutions which were named. Institutions like anything else, no matter what status they have, are caught in a nexus between science and technology and society. That interconnection is not accidental. Anybody half literate in the history of science knows that at the end of the 19th century there was an immense battle as to who should control the Royal Institute — whether it should be the approving landowners or the new business class. The issue of power in society affected both science and technology and still affects them at a global level.

This raises the further question whether institutions can serve one master only. Institutions which have the status of universities have an enormous responsibility to society as a whole and their responsibility should be to the developmental capacity of every child. It would be a very serious diminution, should it happen in the future in any institution — and I am not referring only to the two institutions which are being discussed here today — if the day came when these institutions were privatised to the point Deputy O'Malley seems to want, where what went on became defined as the university rather than their contribution to society as a whole. The scandal is that the PAYE worker has the opportunity, in a wonderful democratic fashion, of paying somewhere between 75 and 80 per cent of all taxes but has only one-thirty-seventh of the chance of a professional person of seeing his child complete a university education. There has been enough élitism in third level education and what we need in future is more, and not less, State support for universities so that they can be moved to serve what we are supposed to serve in a place which calls itself a republic, as many people as possible who will have access to an institution which is as genuinely democratic as possible.

I often ask myself what are we trying to encourage in third level institutions. Is it to unleash some kind of individual ambition? What is excellence after all? I have read as much as anybody on the history of universities. There was a time when excellence included a social component rather than being defined as individual, aggressive, acquisitive, narrow greed. This is a lecture I would hope to give when we are discussing the National University of Ireland. As has been said, this is minimalist legislation. I welcome it but I do not want it to have to carry the burden of larger arguments which I hope to make in the future, and which I have made publicly.

At the end of the day there is — and it is time people stopped apologising for this — a big debate going on about the philosophy of education. What are we about in education? We are divided on this and a very large number of people support a philosophy of meritocratic individualism. These are like tawny frogs — why do those poor creatures which swim around in the mud in a pond put up with their existence just because one day one of their number will find his jaws distended, leap to land and become a frog? That is meritocratic individualism. There are many of us who believe in the opposite, egalitarianism. In the history of ecucation there is not a whit of proof to suggest that the people who worked within an egalitarian philosophy did not achieve more. Historically they contributed more, changed societies, built genuine republics and democratic institutions. The meritocratic individualists and their offspring were the tyrants, including the new commercial tyrants which we speak of. Let us not fudge this issue.

I wish these institutions well within an ethos of egalitarianism rather than within the barren, hopeless shores of meritocratic individualism and servitude to one aspect of performance in society. For that reason I will be insisting that my amendment which slaps the word "trade union" alongside the word "business" will be accepted on Committee Stage. This will make us realise, as the Government have realised, that the performance of people in an economy and the world of work involves the organised workers, the Government and the private business sector. If people want to use the word "business" they will have to use the words "trade union" and the other words also. They could have chosen the word "economic" but they did not and we have to rectify this.

At one stage I was indirectly involved in the case of the Limerick institute which I knew better than Dublin but with which I have become more familiar in recent years. I am delighted that Limerick has achieved university status. The International Study Group, established in 1985, which reported in 1987, advanced unanswerable arguments. I am delighted there has not been too much delay in responding to those arguments. When the Minister approached me about the suggestion that we have this quick legislation so as to enable people to benefit from the new status I told her immediately that she would have the co-operation of myself and my party in that regard.

I wanted to make these points because I believe they are important. However, I shall conclude because I think there are other speakers who may want to make a few points. However, I will list some points which are very important. I have said already that there are questions which have to be answered in the Minister's reply. One is: what now happens to the National Council of Education Awards and what are the knock-on effects in terms of the relationship of the council to the RTCs and to the different VEC colleges?

There is also the question of the inner structure of the new university. The point has been made, and I support it, that number seven in my test of university is its internal democracy, the question of the independence of the academic council. Here it would appear to me there is a flaw in the drafting of the Bill in relation to functions in that, on page 3 there are a number of different purposes specified. This is in relation to section 3 which we can look at again. For example, section 3 (a) stresses the pursuit of learning as a main objective. I ask: why are these objectives not separated from the functions which follow? Then again, one may well ask: what is the relationship of these functions to the enabling provision which succeeds it farther down the page? There is great difficulty in relation to that.

Finally there is the overall issue of consultation and participation within the university itself. It seems that the question is not only about the academic council. There is also the question of distance from ministerial authority. That point has already been made. The Minister may say — and it has been said — that no Minister who was sensible would interfere with an appointment. If that is the case, the power is redundant or eliminated. If it is not redundant, is the abuse not possible?

I shall have an opportunity on Committee Stage of going into some detail in relation to a number of the points I wish to make. I hope these universities will continue to function well. I wish them every success. I hope the remarks I have made will instigate a debate, not in these two institutions, but I am merely availing of this occasion to say I hope we shall have a fuller opportunity of debating third level education in general very shortly after the events of the next few weeks.

I should like to share the time available to me between Deputies Mac Giolla and Kemmy.

Deputy Higgins will appreciate that, whereas originally, in its sanity, the House made some agreements, subsequently it was poorly thanked for having done so. Let us be quite clear: there is an order of this House that the Minister is to be called at 5.50 p.m.

That is the reason I concluded my remarks.

In respect of the magnanimity Deputy Higgins is showing it would have been appropriate that, at the initial stage of his contribution, he would have sought the agreement of the House in so doing.

I seek that permission now.

Deputy Higgins would have been in possession until 5.50 p.m., at which stage it would have been obligatory on me to call the Minister. Is the House agreeable that the remaining time should be divided between Deputies Mac Giolla and Kemmy?

Between now and 5.55 p.m.?

Between now and 5.50 p.m. That is the time that would have remained to Deputy Higgins. Is the House agreeable?

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I might draw your attention to the fact that neither Deputy Mac Giolla nor I took any part in the disruption of the House. Indeed, neither did Deputy Michael Higgins. I wonder if the Minister would give us a few minutes of her time.

Neither did we.

The case Deputy Kemmy makes now refers to people who are absent so there is not much point in saying it. If the House is agreeable, Deputy Mac Giolla will have five minutes and Deputy Kemmy the same.

I would be quite happy with that. I wonder if there is any possibility of taking some time from the Committee Stage in view of the fact that there is one amendment only.

No, there are more; there are six.

The Chair cannot mutilate the Order of the House. When we reach the point at which I will be calling the Minister the Minister will be free then to make suggestions as to what might happen to her ten minutes.

The Workers' Party totally support this Bill although being somewhat disappointed with the title. I would not like to see DCU, UCD and DU all over Dublin. Surely something better could have been thought of, such as, for example, the New University of Leinster or something different from Dublin City University.

I am disappointed also that the legislation is absolutely minimal. It merely creates two universities and does not address third-level education at all or any other important issues Deputies have raised in relation to higher education. There is no difficulty in creating two universities. That is merely a de jure recognition of a de facto situation. The academic standards of both institutions are high both in regard to teaching and research which places in them in very high demand. Few would argue that they are not of university standard, that is apart from some of the people in the older universities and the excellent Nuala O'Faoláin who wrote a brilliant article in relation to that matter. Nonetheless I do not think there is any serious argument to the effect that they are not of university standard.

Since inception both colleges have moved some distance from their original purpose, the college in Limerick devoting their activities to certificate, diploma and degree level courses while Dublin was originally conceived as devoting its activities to the higher level work of the Dublin VEC colleges. The Dublin Institute of Technology and the RTCs are carrying out most of this work extremely well. But, in terms of finance, facilities, space, equipment, library accommodation and so on, they are a very poor relation in the higher education area.

I should like to make the point about the Dublin Institute of Technology and the RTCs, that they do undertake some degree level and post-graduate work but their statutory and administrative bases are essentially oriented toward second level which causes them great difficulty in pursuing research and consultancy activities. Perhaps some legislation could be introduced to amend that position. Having said that, it is crucial that the Dublin Institute of Technology and the RTCs do not drift away from their primary purpose merely for the sake of the prestige of having degree level courses. In the Dublin area in particular, the Clancy report made it very clear that there is a crying need for short cycle courses at third level. I do not need to remind the House of the findings of the Clancy report — that Dublin, with 19.9 per cent, has the distinction of having the lowest rate of admissions of any county in Ireland despite having far more third level places than elsewhere in the country. Indeed I believe the grants available constitute a significant factor in that low level of admission rates in Dublin. I would remind the Minister of a statement she made in reply to a question from me on 15 February last — Official Report, Column 340 — in which she said:

The level of grant applicable is another factor and there has been growing concern at the preponderance of children of self-employed people receiving third level grants to the alleged detriment of PAYE workers' children.

The Minister is aware of this fact and I think it is essential to sort that out.

I do not think other third level institutions should measure themselves by how close they come to being universities. They should do their own thing, pursue excellence in their own right and on their own terms do the job they were intended to do and be properly funded to allow them to do this. The last point I would like to make is that we should now congratulate all——

The Deputy appreciates that he is making it in somebody else's time.

The city of Waterford is the only area left without a university. The south-east deserves to be considered for a university for the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford.

I thank the Minister and Deputy Michael Higgins for his generous gesture in sharing his time with me.

You are now into the Minister's time.

The Deputy is in my time now but he is very welcome to it.

I have done the Minister a good few turns in my time. I was in Athlone recently and I said some nice things about her and about her uncle. Perhaps she will return the compliment today.

That is right.

Thank you, Minister.

The Deputy is a decent man.

This is a happy and historic occasion, not only for Limerick and the mid-west but also for education in general. I welcome the Bill before this House. The five Deputies from Limerick East and, indeed, all the Deputies from the mid-west are fortunate to be public representatives at this time because when the time comes to write the story of the long and sometimes lonely mission to establish a university in Limerick, today's contribution — the latter part particularly — will find a place in our history books. It is important that we establish that from the outset.

It is a long time ago since a deputation left Limerick in 1845 led by the Mayor of the city to go to see Sir Robert Peel in London and to request that one of the new proposed Queen's colleges, to be established at that time, would be established in Limerick. Unfortunately, the request was not granted and Queen's colleges were then set up in Cork, Galway and Belfast. But the demand for a university for Limerick did not founder and continued on for more than a century. After 100 years or so, in 1959 the Limerick University project committee was set up in that city. The rest of the story is modern and is known to most Deputies in this House. As it has already been touched on by other contributors to the debate it would be very weary and repetitive of me to go over that ground so I will skip it.

The choice of location of Plassey House, beside the River Shannon, was an ideal and excellent location as Deputy O'Malley has said. We are fortunate that Plassey House was not burned down by some of our so-called patriots who burned down Mountshannon House, the Hermitage at Castleconnell and, indeed, many other fine houses in County Limerick close to Plassey.

NIHE was then created as a technological institution with a national as well as a regional perspective. Its establishment followed changes in the economy with a move towards free trade and a more open economy. These changes were also a boost towards our entry into the European Economic Community. This also led to the setting up of AnCO — later to be known as FAS — in the regional technical colleges. These changes in our education and training were brought about by the changed economic climate which needed workers to prepare themselves for the increased skills demanded in the workplace in the new conditions. There is no mystery whatsoever or no miracle about the setting up of NIHE. It was done for good economic reasons. A technological education should give a full and broad knowledge of the most modern, relevant, scientific and commercial principles. I emphasise the words "full and broad". Unfortunately, I do not have time to give a detailed analysis of all the courses which are available in NIHE. I would like to talk about them at length but I will have to skip that part also.

As I live in Limerick I am well aware of the good solid results achieved by NIHE over the years but a university for the future must do even better than the past. One of the objectives of technological education should be to solve problems, human and industrial, in our society. NIHE's record is quite good in finding employment at home and abroad for graduates in native Irish companies and in multinational companies but this achievement is not good enough. The new university much have broader and more ambitious objectives. It must begin to help solve the problems of unemployment, emigration and poverty which are so rampant in our society.

Not enough money is being spent — I think everyone in this House would agree — by companies, Irish and multinational, in technology in terms of research and development. That is an area in which the university could play a key role. With the help and encouragement of the Minister and the Government there is no reason it should not do so. If only a fraction of the money which is going out of the country by way of the so called black hole — the profits of multinationals — was spent on research and development what a transformation could be brought about in employment and job creation in this country. As I have said I welcome the Bill.

The Deputy must conclude now.

I have just one other point and I will finish then. I would like to sound a few warning notes. The University of Limerick must be a properly instituted university and not some sort of second class institution. It has also been said by some people that many universities polish stones and dull diamonds. I would hope that our new university in Limerick would not be one of those, that it will turn out to be a different kind of institution. The new university must have no Government or ministerial intervention. It must be internally democratic and the Limerick staff and other staff concerned and the students must be allowed to play a full part in the decision making of the university.

I intended saying much more but I will confine myself to saying that I hope also the the new university will not re-enforce social inequalities in our society but that it will play a greater role in Limerick life. I would also like to see the workers' education centre restored there. I wish I had more time to speak on this Bill. I am sorry I have had to truncate my remarks to a rather garbled short account. I welcome the Bill and I hope it transforms education in technology not only in Limerick and the mid-west but in the country as a whole.

Ordinarily I should have called on the Minister five minutes ago but we have made some re-arrangement.

With your permission may I share the five remaining minutes and give myself ten minutes to wind up — with the permission of Deputy Birmingham — and allow the two Deputies behind me, Deputy O'Dea and Deputy Barrett to contribute.

Deputy O'Dea and Deputy Barrett have two and a half minutes each.

I would like to place on record that were you not in the position in which you are now you would have, in accordance with a wish you expressed earlier this week, contributed to this debate.

The Chair hopes that from the ingenuity he has learned he might be able to contribute on Committee Stage.

You could set up a precedent and go from there.

As I have only two and a half minutes I must be brief. I unreservedly welcome this very necessary legislation. Deputy O'Malley made the point that the time given for the debate is short but if the time is short, in the context of what is happening, at least this legislation represents the culmination of a campaign of respectable antiquity which began, apparently, in 1845. As Deputy Kemmy, Deputy O'Malley and others have said, this is a proud day for Limerick. In saying that I do not grudge our friends in Dublin what they have achieved but I am here today to speak more specifically for Limerick. I thank the Minister for the tenacity and the determination she has displayed in getting this matter through the Civil Service and through the Cabinet, bringing it into this House and ensuring that it became law within the lifetime of this Dáil.

We could not have arrived at the position we are at today without the sheer determination, the doggedness, the political astuteness and knowhow of one man and that is the President of the new University of Limerick, Dr. Edward Walsh. Dr. Walsh was supported by a very able team. I should like to mention in particular a former member of the Oireachtas, Professor Noel Mulcahy, Dean of Science and Engineering who with others, from humble beginnings, in 1972 when the first 100 students were taken into the campus, built the college of engineering to be the largest college of engineering in the country and, if I may say so, the most successful also. I will not insult the Minister if I say——

You have now moved into NIHE, Dublin, time.

I welcome the legislation for NIHE, Dublin but I want to say that this is a proud day for Limerick. The legislation is not only in the interest of Limerick and the mid-west region but of the country as a whole. From humble beginnings in 1972, the college has arrived at this stage and I know the University of Limerick will go from strength to strength.

I thank the Minister very much for giving me a few minutes. It was a disgrace that what went on here today prevented us from having the proper time allotted to us. I know that you, Sir, join with me in congratulating the Minister because both of us represent the constituency where the NIHE, Glasnevin, is located.

I compliment the Minister because from the outset she showed a tremendous interest in achieving what she has achieved today — that the status of university would be conferred on the NIHE in Glasnevin. In particular, I would like to thank Dr. Danny O'Hare the director of NIHE because he has done a tremendous amount of work for the students and for the college. Indeed, the pressure that Dr. O'Hare put on us meant that we, in turn, put pressure on the Minister.

I thank the Minister for the courtesy and co-operation she has shown to me when I was making representations to her and indeed on the occasion she invited me to her office to discuss the matter. I am delighted for Dr. O'Hare and his staff and, indeed, for the students. I know that all the people of the area are delighted that we have a university.

I thank the Minister for giving me these few minutes.

Mr. Noonan

(Limerick East): I am not going to take up the time of the House, but I would ask the Minister to give me two minutes.

In the spirit of the university of co-operation I will give the Deputy two minutes.

Mr. Noonan

(Limerick East): I thank the Minister for giving me the two minutes. I welcome the establishment of the University of Limerick. I thank the Minister for bringing this matter to a conclusion, but I think I should note also the work done by her predecessors, Deputy Cooney and Deputy Hussey, who did all the preparatory work, putting the international validation committee in place which recommended university status for the college, when they were Ministers for Education.

I would like to pay tribute to the staff of the college and in particular to the president, Dr. Walsh, to the chairman and members of the board who not only presided over the growth of the college but have established a university which already has a very good national and international reputation. I must declare my interest — my eldest daughter is a student at the University of Limerick. I am sure that people in the region and nationally will remember this day, and not because the Dáil was dissolved thus starting the general election campaign. When the hussle and bustle of the hustings is behind us, this day will be remembered in Limerick as the day on which the University of Limerick was founded.

I would like the Minister to have a look at the position of Thomond College at some future time. Thomond College and the University of Limerick share the same campus and a situation is emerging where there are two boards of management, two chairpersons, two bureaucracies and there will be two validation procedures all on the one campus. The demographic projections for the nineties suggest that fewer teachers will be trained in the physical education, metalwork or in the rural science divisions of Thomond College and it seems to me that Thomond College will have decreasing numbers. I think the Minister should at some future date — I know she cannot do it today — consider opening discussions with a view to integrating Thomond College, as a separate department, within the remit of the University of Limerick——

Mr. Noonan

(Limerick East): I thank you, Sir, for allowing the time to be provided to me. I would like to congratulate everybody involved. It is pleasant to end a Dáil session, when you represent Limerick city, by welcoming the establishment of the first new university since the foundation of the State and to be in a position to note that it is in one's native city and in one's constituency. I thank the Minister.

First, may I thank you, Sir, for your indulgence and the way in which you permitted the debate to develop beyond the time appointed. It was in keeping with the topic. It seems to me that I will have to get a university in Athlone — it is very much up our side. That is how it should be. Everybody feels very proud, particularly the Deputies who represent the constituencies where the new universities are sited.

I thank the Deputies who have contributed, Deputy Birmingham representing the Fine Gael Party and Deputy Garret FitzGerald, Deputy Des O'Malley for the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Michael D. Higgins for the Labour Pary and Deputy Tomás Mac Giolla representing The Workers' Party, Deputy Jim Kemmy representing his inimitable self and his party. Deputy O'Dea from Limerick spoke, representing himself and, of course Fianna Fáil as well as Deputy Michael Barrett from the constituency where the Dublin City University is situated and Deputy Michael Noonan from the constituency of Limerick. I think it augurs well for the tenor of the debate that so many people took part and indeed were obviously brimming over with more to say than they were able to say in the time allotted to them.

I will deal with some of the matters that arose in the course of Second Stage debate. Deputy Birmingham gave it a very fine welcome and in the course of his contribution other ideas were opened up as to the role and status of the remaining recommendations of the report on the Technological Commission. As I have said many times in the House, the Government will engage their attention in the future deliberations of that report and indeed we have made much progress in the preparation of legislation in my Department. As Deputies may know, there is an interdepartmental committee sitting on the question of third level institutions, which was mooted previously, and we are awaiting the views of that committee. However, I am also working on forthcoming legislation for the colleges.

I was very pleased with Deputy Fitz-Gerald's welcome. He spoke of the wider points of legislation which perhaps will arise in the NUI legislation. As I have said publicly on many occasions, I await with great interest the deliberations of the NUI on their future role. Coincidentally I had a meeting today with the NUI on a completely different matter between 2.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. This meeting was arranged some four weeks ago, not to coincide with this debate but it just happened that way. I was most interested to hear that they had given some perfunctory and early consideration to their own position with regard to future legislation and they were considering the various avenues along which they might travel. Quite obviously they are thinking on this and perhaps the enactment of this legislation will facilitate fertile debate which I hope will end in much fruitful work. Whether it will be myself or some other person, I am sure the Minister will look forward to hearing the NUI's views on how they might fit into the overall structures of university education.

Deputy FitzGerald commented on the members of the governing body being Government appointments on the recommendation of the Minister. Under section 5 as it stands, ten of the 23 ordinary members of the governing body to be appointed by the Government on the recommendation of the Minister are, in fact, nominated by interests outside the Government. As the Deputy may know, you accept the nominees put forward by those nominating bodies and I have never heard of anybody interfering with the nominations

I did not suggest that.

I will come to this point in the amendment but I am just making a passing reference to it. Deputy Des O'Malley has long connections with Limerick and with education. He spoke in a most passionate and warm way about Limerick and the need for a university in Limerick, about where it is going, and how it had gone about its business. I thank him for his support.

Deputy Higgins spoke, as is his wont, with great feeling about the whole concept of a university and what it should mean to people, to life, to social structures and to the philosophy of education. I would have welcomed a much longer contribution from him but time did not allow it. He expressed his enthusiasm for the idea and asked particularly about the role of the NCEA in relation to the RTCs and the DIT. It will not be affected by this legislation. It will continue in its present role under the NCEA legislation in regard to the validation of courses and the awarding of degrees, diplomas and certificates to students in all the VEC colleges.

Deputy Mac Giolla welcomed the Bill and spoke of how each third level institution develops it own ethos and role. He did not want to see the new universities as in some way conforming with or aping another institution but rather developing their own rules and guidelines as regards what they teach and the courses of their work and disciplines. I share many of these ideas. He praised the role of the VEC third level sector and what they have done in this regard, and nobody would quarrel with that.

Deputy Kemmy spoke of his long connections with the city on the Shannon. He welcomed the Bill in general and what had been done in particular. He hoped that one of the tenets of this university would be work for the elimination of inequality. Deputy O'Dea, who has always been to the forefront in requesting this legislation, welcomed it in a very broad and open way, as did Deputy Michael Barrett. Both Deputies, and others, pursued me from time to time about this legislation and wanted to know when it would be introduced. Deputy Michael Noonan likewise contributed.

It is curious but very correct that democracy, as expressed by the people who sit in this House representing the cities and areas where these new institutions are to be set up, was at work in this case also. The Deputies who have spoken in the main represent these constituencies and through them to the voice of the people working in these institutions and the areas they represent, has found its way to the floor of the House. If we were looking for lessons in democracy and seeking to have the old precepts applied in a real sense, we have it here in the voices of the people who have spoken on this Bill. I too would like to speak for so much longer. I welcome the contributions to date. I thank the Members of the House and you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, for your indulgence in these matters.

Question, "That the University of Limerick Bill, 1989, and the Dublin City University Bill, 1989, be now read a Second Time," put and agreed to.