Tá an ceart ag an Aire nuair adeir sé nach gá cuspóir an Bhille seo a mhíniú. Tugann sé caoi dhúinn tagairt a dhéanamh d'aon chuid d'obair an Stáit dar mian linn tagairt a dhéanamh. Tá faill ag lucht na Dála a dtuairimí a nochtadh ar na meastacháin i rith na bliana ach níl seans mar seo againn-ne acht amháin ar an mBillc seo agus ar Bhille amháin eile. Ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh do chúrsaí oideachais agus go háirithe dos na deontaisí atá ann i gcóir na gColáistí Ollscoile, is focal baochais a rá leis an Aire.
This Bill, as the Minister has said, needs no explanation but it does give an opportunity to the Seanad to discuss any particular piece of the work of the State to which Senators desire to refer. The Dáil can do that throughout the year in the discussions on the Estimates. We get this opportunity to do so and we get a similar opportunity on the Appropriation Bill. Apart from the general aspect of the measure, I should like to make specific reference to the moneys contained in this Bill which are being given by way of increased grants to university colleges. The Minister, in the Bill now before us, has increased these grants from the 1st September, but the actual increase is 50 per cent. in the rate of yearly grant to each of the university colleges. The grant to Trinity College, I think, does not become operative until next year.
The essentials of any educational institution, whether primary, secondary or university, is a staff and students. Buildings, equipment, materials, and so on, are necessary, but the essentials are students and teachers. University teaching has been a great many years one of the lowest-paid occupations in the country. University professors, lecturers or assistants, would be very foolish if, when entering upon a university career, they thought they were ever going to be wealthy.
Apart from making them wealthy, they should be relieved in regard to certain necessities, so that they could do their work rightly and so that their contact with the students would be such as to give the students the maximum benefit that could be derived by them from actual teaching and from other contacts which certainly ought to exist in the university.
University salaries have always been low. The present salaries in the National University have not been increased since 1926, so that what is happening now is long needed. I should say at once that it is very welcome and what is more important than the actual sum of money voted in this particular Bill, negotiations of a very satisfactory and very cordial character have taken place with the Department of Finance and with the Minister, as far as the colleges of the National University are concerned, and there has been an extremely good attitude on the part of the Minister. We should welcome that attitude and be grateful for it.
Lest anyone should think that university salaries can compare with the new Civil Service salaries it must be said that they do not compare with them in any sense. The £900 basic becomes, under the new consolidated salary in the Civil Service, £1,395, which is much higher than that of the average university professor. The £1,000 becomes £1,525, the salary of an assistant secretary in the Civil Service, and £1,525 is considerably more than any university professor will get. The £1,200 basic, which is the salary of all the secretaries, with the exception of a few which are higher, becomes £1,774, which is a salary no one but the presidents of the three colleges could hope for.
I know that comparisons are not always sound and I do not want to institute a comparison between the Civil Service and university teaching, but when one considers that nearly all the higher civil servants come from the university colleges, obviously the Civil Service is a career of greater promise financially than a university career. There is considerable leeway to be made up with regard to equipment in the universities for laboratories. As that becomes available, we understand that money will be available for it. There is a certain amount needed for certain new Chairs that are necessary in the university colleges and there is the subject of buildings which was alluded to by the Taoiseach in the other House and on which a beginning is to be made. The amount of money for that is considerable, but it will fall to be spent over a period of years.
What makes the attitude of the Minister so completely satisfactory is that only one condition was attached to these negotiations, namely, that the fees charged to students should be raised. Apart from what one would think about the amount by which they should be raised—I have my own personal view—the Minister is absolutely within his rights when he is giving money to say that the fees should be increased. There is a very sound case for raising the fees and the Minister is not in any way transgressing the principle of university independence or autonomy when he asks that they be increased.
There is a case for raising them, in so far as everything else has been raised. There is one difficulty, that is, that a great many people who are sending their children to the university are barely managing it and it is somewhat harsh on them if they have to pay, at very short notice, extra fees to the extent of 50 per cent. for studies of children of theirs who have already entered upon a university course and for whom a certain budget has been prepared.
A more important point than that is one which concerns the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Education and the Minister for Local Government; and I think it no harm to draw the Minister's attention to it publicly, as it is a matter in which he is bound to have an interest. When you raise university fees, no matter how necessary it may be and how good a case can be made for it, you make it more difficult for the children of poor parents to get a university education and you prevent the poorer students of exceptional ability—and there are some such students, though not as many as one would think—from going through the university as easily as they might. That raises at once the question of scholarships. I do not know if it is realised that there was hardly ever a period in which less provision was made for the boy of exceptional ability whose parents cannot afford university education for him. There was hardly ever a period in which that was more difficult to obtain than the present. Everything has increased—fees, books, lodgings. In 1906, more than 40 years ago, there were scholarships to Trinity College, founded by Sir John Nutting, and given on the results of the intermediate examinations of the day, at £50 a year. In Trinity College very considerable additions to that sum could be had.
There were scholarships founded by the Catholic Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland, which were tenable at University College, Dublin—what we called the old Jesuit College, before the establishment of the National University in 1909—and these were £50 a year. At that time, it was a considerable sum of money. The student could get a scholarship at that time in open competition, without a means test, on the senior grade examinations. He was bound to win some sum in addition—say £20. It was possible to get £40 on the senior grade, in addition to the £50 scholarship. That is to say, a boy went into University College with a £40 exhibition and with an income of £70 or £80 for the three years in which he would be doing his course. It was an immense sum of money in that period. No unskilled labourer was getting 30/- a week and very few, if any, skilled workers succeeded in earning over the whole period of the year as much as 30/- a week. Books were extraordinarily cheap and plentiful by contrast with the present position. A book prize of £4 went a long distance to supply books for the two years. I had experience some years ago myself, in the case of my own son entering in first arts, that his books cost more then than mine cost for the whole four years.
The present position is that the scholarship is £80 and there is a means test. Even for a student living at home in Dublin, £80 is a very small amount. He will have to pay at least £20 in fees —which will probably be £30 in future— and everything else will cost more, so that £80 will not suffice to maintain him. If he comes from the country and gets the £80 and has to live for 30 weeks in Dublin and pay for lodgings, the sum is insignificant. It is quite impossible for the student of exceptional ability, who has no money of his own, to accept a scholarship. He must have some assistance, whereas, 40 years ago, it was quite possible and, one might say, probable, that it was profitable for such a student to accept such a scholarship. May I say, Sir, that on this question of scholarships, I do not argue that we should give scholarships to universities for the sake of the pupils but from a rather different angle altogether? The main asset of this country, after all, is its people, and if there are students of ours who have special abilities it is our business to see that they are trained in the best possible way for the benefit of the State and for the benefit of our people. I do not, for a moment, accept the view that a democratic university is a place where everybody can get in. That would be a foolish view, but it is certainly a place for a person who has no money but has ability. Whatever arrangements are made should be with the view of seeing that everybody who has ability, special ability, should be given an opportunity of developing it not only from the point of view of the individual himself but from the point of view of the community at large. There are at present some negotiations going on about this between the university colleges and the county councils. They will have to adopt, perhaps, a different standard for county council scholarships. Certainly they will have to raise the amount of the awards.
There is also for university scholarships a means test. It all arises on this question of university grants and I suppose we will not have another opportunity of discussing it. Speaking from experience, as a person who went into a university, and certainly could have passed in under any conceivable form of means test, I have a strong view as far as a means test is concerned. I raised this question before in connection with scholarships to secondary schools and I do not want to go over it all again but I do want to say this. It leads to deceit and to great unevenness and has very unsatisfactory results. A civil servant's salary is easily ascertainable and if the means for a scholarship is £500 a year, a civil servant with that salary has no possibility of getting a university scholarship for his son. On the other hand, a boy whose parents have an income of much more than that but which is not so easily ascertainable as the income of a civil servant or a corporation official can get the scholarship. It is an important matter and one which must be considered very carefully. The test might be abolished altogether and if not the limit should be certainly raised considerably. So far as I am concerned I would like to make it clear that investigations have disclosed that when you have 1,000 students in university colleges you have a certain number who have got scholarships. But when you have, say, 3,000 students in the university you have not got three times the number you had capable of winning scholarships. I do not think that any student should be helped into a university for the purpose of doing a pass course. He should be the kind of student who will do an honours course, a good course. If he can do that, he should be helped. I feel that both the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Education and the university colleges will have to come together and find a suitable plan to see that the persons with the best ability in the country who desire to go into a university can go and that the absence of means will not be a barrier.
It would be no harm to say one word about the importance of our universities in the national scheme. They are important for the work of our educational machinery. All our secondary teachers and many of our vocational and primary teachers have been through the universities. In fact you cannot become a registered secondary teacher without a university degree. So it is of great importance that the universities should give education of a high standard to people who will become teachers. I have said here before and I do not want to stress it now that I have always felt, especially since I was Minister for Education, that our primary teachers should get a university degree rather than get a narrow professional training. I am confident that this would improve primary education, improve life in the country, and would have many repercussions of a very desirable character. It is from the university that the bulk of our higher civil servants come. It is upon university research in agriculture that there is some promise of improvement in our agricultural methods at a certain level and of a certain character. I think this particular matter is being discussed with the Minister for Finance at the present time. It is upon universities that all industrial research depends. We had a Bill here some time ago dealing with industrial research and standards and the Minister for Industry and Commerce was quite clear about the importance of pure science, unapplied science. You can have no improvement in industrial processes and industrial methods unless universities make available facilities for research and unless people can get preliminary training which is absolutely essential for any kind of applied research later on. There is, of course, a new world before us and we will have to equip ourselves to meet this new world and its new problems.
But apart from science, universities also have the function of enabling us to make our own contributions as Irishmen and of making us conscious of being Irishmen and of making us conscious of being Europeans. At the time when Ireland was most Irish it was most conscious of being part of Europe. Nothing could be more foolish than the idea that an Irish Ireland is something that is going to close us in and cut us off from the rest of Europe and the world. Apart altogether from the classes leading to diplomas and degrees, I would like to see the universities come into contact with ordinary adult education, that is, education for its own sake and not for the sake of getting degrees or posts or anything of that kind. I know that in University College, Dublin, certain steps have been taken in this direction so that members of the staff without fee or reward are taking part in this work. I think it is desirable that the university staffs should be in the position to be able to give their services free for such work. One of the things we need here most is adult education. I do not mean by that that a man is educated for a position and thinks that if he had a higher degree he would get a better position. I rather mean the education of a person who is genuinely seeking knowledge.
Even this new grant will, by no means, put university professors and teachers generally on anything like a high level, but it is a satisfactory and very welcome addition. I think that the Minister deserves congratulations on the nature of the negotiations which have taken place, and which are still taking place and give promise of sound results.
On the other matter of the Bill generally, I would like to make one remark. This is an enormous bill, to which there must be added the big sums raised through the local rates. The Minister's revenue is buoyant. Either he or the Minister for Industry and Commerce pointed out recently that a good deal of that revenue comes from imported luxuries, if tobacco can be described as a luxury. The bill before us can be met only on two conditions. One of these is that international peace can be preserved, and the other is that we can have more production at home. One of the most remarkable things of recent years, particularly since the war, is that all the political and economic theories which were preached, particularly by politicians, and which were advocated as a means towards the millennium, have all disappeared. The British Government have recently issued a White Paper in which they make no mention of nationalisation but which reads like Samuel Smiles' Victorian book, Self-help, or the sayings of Poor Richard: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” The Minister for Industry and Commerce has said something of the same nature to us here. The fact that it has been said before, and the fact that it has been derided, unfortunately does not take from its truth. It has, one might say, eternal efficacy.
With regard to the first point, international peace, I see no objection to our spending a certain amount of money on it. I know there are people who object but the fact is that our people are very far-flung from this island. We have a very complicated and interesting history and we should not miss any opportunity of taking some part in international affairs, not as wishful thinkers but as realists, in doing everything possible to try to make this world in which we live the best that we can.
With regard to the other point—production here has been hindered by politics, by political speech-making and by propaganda, by promises to the people of the millennium on various terms. We are now in the position that if we cannot increase our agricultural production we cannot pay this bill this year or pay any other bill. It is quite clear that our problems cannot be solved by Parliamentary debates alone. Parliamentary debates of a certain character, of a co-operative character, can be of assistance. Walking into the Division Lobby in Parliament can be of no assistance either. I think we ought to realise that we need something more than mere debate, something more than mere Parliamentary divisions and something more than scoring political points off one another: we need skill, experience and united effort, and I think that we can supply these. I think that we have, through our own history, both remote and recent, plenty of examples to show that we can supply them. We supplied them during the emergency, but we are now in a more real emergency than we were at any time during the war.
We are increasing our social services, which means increasing our Civil Service. My friend, Senator Douglas, reminds me that there was a time when he was working in the White Cross in 1920 or 1921, when you could walk into any town or village and get assistance of all kinds from the people—free, gratis and for nothing, from people of different ancestry, people of different religion and people of very, very different politics. I wonder whether we could not, in spite of the fact that the other thing is easier, although more expensive, make some endeavour to renew and revive that spirit of service? We did see it during the war. We saw it in a very remarkable way in bodies like the L.D.F., the A.R.P. and the L.S.F. I think that we could supply it again. If we cannot supply it again, and if we cannot eliminate matters about which we disagree, and concentrate upon the essentials, how are we going to remedy our present very great difficulties? Unless we do that, I think we are not going to fulfil the traditions which have kept us where we are, and built up Irish institutions here. We should endeavour in this House—may I say that it has got a very good example from the debate that took place in the other House last evening—to see whether there is not something that we actually could do, apart from pointing out where someone is wrong: to see whether there is not something we could actually do in way of co-operation and assistance to preserve our own existence in this country, which is now, I think, in grave peril.