Private Business. - Regional Technical Colleges Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

I was looking forward to speaking on these Bills but Senators will understand that when one is interrupted after ten minutes it is difficult to resume one's train of thought. I moved the suspension of the House at 3.30 because the President was to address a sitting of the two Houses. At another time in history, the man who put all education systems in place, the Chief himself, was interrupted in 1923 and when he came back to O'Connell Square he said "As I was saying when I was interrupted". I would also again like to put on the record this evening Dr. Paddy Hillery's major role. The worth of a Minister's contribution in education may not be seen until many years later. I hope the Minister, Deputy Aylward, will go to higher positions as Paddy Hillery did. I am not talking about the Park; I am talking about a senior cabinet position.

It is nice to have stitched into the record of the Seanad on this day in July 1992 the names of Eamon de Valera, Paddy Hillery and Liam Alyward.

I understood the regional colleges were and are a success under vocational education committee management, but I come back to what I said earlier today. I must ask myself why all the changes. Has the Minister decided on the eight regions? There are 38 vocational education committees. Is it going to be eight regions, or how many will we have? What constituencies may go together? As one who served for many years in health and local government, I have a holy horror of regions. We have made mistakes before in regionalising Departments. I presume there are people wiser than I who are again going down the road of regions. If I were on the Opposition Benches this evening I would have more to say on that.

During the recent Maastricht debate we told our people that some of the power was to be left at local level. Those of us who vigorously campaigned for Maastricht — and people did go out and vote because they trusted and believed us — talked a lot about subsidiarity. That word was used a lot. I do not like the word "power" but I have to use it here because we must give the say or the power back to the people who serve and know the local scene. I worry that we are moving from the vocational education committees and the people who have given dedicated service and have an extraordinary knowledge of what is needed for our students.

The Culliton report referred to job training for the future and tied it up with vocational training. However from talking to persons concerned about vocational education, I know there is still confusion. We are always confused now. I accept that Minister Aylward and his senior officials have tried to explain this Bill. I must pay a tribute to the team who backed the Minister on these Bills. I am talking more about the Regional Technical Colleges Bill than the Dublin Institute of Technology Bill because I am more familiar with it. I cannot talk about a Bill if I am not close to it and if I am not convinced that I should contribute to it. The two Bills are being taken together and I have no trouble wishing the other Bill well.

Before the Adjournment I put down a marker for Minister Brennan. I want to put it down for the second time: the bottom line is that the students are well served by the system. It should not be changed just to suit somebody's whim or because vocational education may not be their bailiwick. Great people have gone to all the nations of Europe and to the United States having been educated under the system that is in place. Before he takes Report Stage next week, the Minister might talk to two or three vocational education committee chairman. This would be worthwhile if it convinced them that the amendments put through the Dáil were what they wanted. It would be better if he explained what was in his mind when he was making these amendments in the Dáil.

I find myself talking about mental handicap because I served for 25 years as chairman of a voluntary body and I am familiar with local government because I have served there for 35 years. I find it is easy to relate to people in those two fields. The Minister might consider speaking face to face to two or three chairmen of the vocational education committees and tell them what he has done. It might be a worthwhile exercise. I leave that to the Minister's judgment.

The vocational education committees devoted themselves to the creation of a system of higher education through regional technical colleges and Dublin Institute of Technology colleges and they have had unqualified success. The vocational education committees have much more to contribute to the ethos and mission of these colleges and I ask that they should be let do so. I understand that the amendments have given a lot of what they asked for back to them. I would like to make sure that the Government do the right thing.

I have served in the Seanad since 1977. In the early years it was all on party lines, but in the last ten years the Seanad is playing the role for which it was initially set up. It reviews legislation and less politics are played here than in the other House. I do not see anyone playing party politics in this Seanad. That is something I feel strongly about.

The Minister in his speech said:

The growth of the colleges has been phenomenal. In the period since 1980 wholetime student numbers in the regional technical colleges has risen from 6,500 to almost 20,000 an increase of over 200 per cent. In the same period, wholetime enrolments in the colleges of the Dublin Institute of Technology have risen by over 100 per cent from 4,000 to 8,800. The vocational education committee third level colleges therefore have over 28,000 wholetime students which represents almost 40 per cent of the present total enrolment at third level in this country.

That is the situation as we take this legislation through the House this evening. Why are we changing it when it has been so successful? The Minister also said:

The governing body of the Dublin Institute of Technology will consist of a chairman, 18 ordinary members and the president of the institute.

The ordinary members will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the appropriate vocational education committees in accordance with the following...

Does that apply only to the Dublin Institute or to both the institute and regional technical colleges?

I welcome section 12 of the Regional Technical Colleges Bill and section 13 of the Dublin Institute of Technology Bill. These provide for matters relating to existing staff who will become staff of the colleges or of the institute. The Minister should deal carefully with the changeover of staff because, as a Senator on the other side of the House who is a member of a trade union said, there may be trouble with that unless it is very carefully handled.

I welcome the provision that the governing bodies will annually prepare and submit to the vocational education committees operational programmes and budgets. I understand that the vocational education committees will have some, if not all, the say in how the money is spent. Whoever is responsible for spending the money has clout.

I am glad the Minister paid tribute in his address to the existing colleges. The Minister said:

It is fitting, therefore, that the role and ethos of the vocational educational committees will continue to be strongly reflected through the provision of these Bills.

The Minister has done a lot of public relations work already and has been gracious with his time even at weekends. I know how much time he gets off; he does not get any; but maybe he will get to the odd match between Tipperary and Kilkenny.

Or maybe Wexford.

We heard in a contribution today that the vocational education committees are still very unhappy. That sentence alone in the Minister's address would help enormously if it were relayed to them.

No matter what Government are in however —and I hope to stay on this side of the House if I survive after today — when I see a Bill with words such as, the Minister, by order, may do this and that, I get the shudders.

As regards the membership of the board, I do not know why we enact legislation which does not allow Senators become members of boards. I have strong views on this. The sooner we as elected people decide that we have a right to put ourselves forward, the better. I am not talking about every Senator but Senators who have served for up to 15 to 20 years on existing boards. In this Bill it is stated that Members of this House cannot be on these boards. The Minister will say it is because of this, that and the other. In the early years I used to apologise for a rise in pay, for not being on a board or not trying to get on a board. When I look around me I see geniuses who should not be on any board and I wonder what we are at. We must go before the people to get elected to the Seanad; yet, after serving here for 15, 16 or 17 years we are not eligible for a board. The Minister should not look at me, because I do not want to be on a board. I am talking about the principle involved. You do not get elected to the Seanad unless you know your business.

The provision in the Bill that worries me most of all is the appointment of chairman. I do not think it is democratic or correct. No matter who is in power, it is wrong that under this Bill the Minister has the power to appoint a chairman. The reason I worry about this is that if a person is appointed chairman who may not be familiar with what the rest of the board are doing, there may be a reaction to that. It sounds daft that a Minister would make that kind of an appointment, but I prefer to have harmony between board members. The Bill states that the chairman shall be appointed by the Minister and may be removed from office by the Minister. Has this been done before? I know the Minister will tell me in his reply.

We have a great educational system. I hope that these two Bills will add to that system and that young people will benefit from what we are doing here today. Senator Raftery, who was a former MEP and hopes to be again — rather like myself and the Chair — has seen our well educated students in Europe.

I thank Minister Aylward for listening to me and for the amendments he made to the Bills. I thank the Chair for his patience. When a Government Bill is going through this House I am usually more convinced they are right than I am about these two Bills. I saw the other system work at first hand. I saw the extraordinary dedication and commitment of the men and women who served on vocational education committees. They did not do it for the few bob in expenses they received. There are some people who would never have been educated were it not for the vocational education committees.

I want to pay tribute to the former members of the vocational education committee in Clare. Nobody will understand this better than the present Minister. My late husband, who was educated at St. Flannans College, and Tadgh Mac-Namara believed in vocational education and I would hate to undo the good they did years ago.

I thank the Minister and his senior officials for their patience and kindness to the deputations they met at very short notice, and with great graciousness.

I agree with much of what is in these two Bills. I welcome some of the changes proposed therein but I disagree profoundly with the manner and speed with which the Bills were introduced and with the fact that there is a guillotine on the debate on these two most important Bills. Why did we get these Bills in the same week as we got the Green Paper on Education? It would appear that we are putting the cart before the horse. Why are we amending part of the jigsaw before we have the total picture? We are dealing already with the detail of the plan and I think it is the wrong way to go about doing business.

I agree with Senator Honan that the vocational education committees have done a marvellous job in this country. Although I have never been a member of a vocational education committee, I worked with them in Munster, with the exception of Clare Vocational Education Committee, for more than 20 years when I served as a member of the adult education committee in University College, Cork.

UCC pioneered adult education in Munster, starting with the late Dr. Alfred O'Rahilly back in the forties. We could never have achieved anything without the full support and co-operation of the vocational education committees, which we always got with the utmost sincerity and enthusiasm. Small though our programme was, I believe it made a significant contribution to education in Munster, particularly for those who did not get a chance in their youth and for those who wanted to go back for the love of it.

The vocational education committees also made another strikingly important contribution and that was when there was an explosion in the numbers of students entering third level education. In the 1960s there were about 25,000 students in third level education. Today there are more than 70,000 students in third level education and between the Dublin Institute of Technology and the regional technical colleges there are about 28,000 students. That meant we had a phenomenal growth in numbers, particularly in the regional technical colleges. The vocational education committees did a good job and the students acquitted themselves very well and got good employment. As Senator Honan said, those who went to Europe to work acquitted themselves very well. I have often said that the Irish politicians in Europe may not be the best, but the administrators and the people in the Commission and the Parliament are among the best and I am very proud of them. We have a good education system and in that the vocational education committees play a very significant part.

Having said all that and recognising the contribution made, I am amazed at the manner in which they have been treated by the Government under these two Bills. They have been literally ignored. The record shows that the IVEA in November 1982 made a detailed submission with the aid of senior counsel setting out proposals for a legal framework for research and consultancy; no reply was received. In March 1985, the association made a detailed submission to the Department of Education to establish autonomous management structures in the colleges; no reply was received. In October 1991, the association sent the then Minister for Education details of over 50 amendments to the Bills, and no reply was received. In December 1991, the IVEA asked the Secretary of the Department of Education for clarification of the vocational education committees' role under the colleges Bill, and no reply was received. On 6 May 1992, the IVEA presented the Minister for Education with a summary of essential amendments, and again no reply was received. The Minister gave an assurance on 6 May 1992 that the IVEA would be consulted after he had considered the amendments, but there was no consultation of any kind.

This is a despicable way to treat committees which have given extraordinarily committed service to education, and in more recent years to third level education. I am deeply concerned at the way elected public representatives are being treated in this matter. The college principals and the TUI can get changes and assurances but elected representatives are treated with scant regard.

In introducing the Bills it was indicated that they would (1) retain the colleges within the vocational education committee structure; (2) provide a framework for the operation of the colleges within which policies and an operational programme and budget could be drawn up by the governing body for each college in agreement with and subject to approval of the appropriate vocational education committee; (3) give each college through its governing body the responsibility and the necessary authority to implement approved policies, programme and budget; (4) require the approval of the vocational education committee for any deviations therefrom; (5) give the vocational education committee, in addition, appropriate representation on the governing body of the colleges; and (6) provide a statutory basis for the participation of the colleges in research and development including, where appropriate, participation in limited liability companies for the purpose of exploiting results of their research and development work.

That was fair enough and the IVEA had no fundamental disagreement with these objectives. The amendments introduced, virtually by sleight of hand, are the most serious assault on vocational education committees since their establishment. In fact, I could say without reservation, that virtually all vocational education committee influence in the colleges has been clinically removed. That is regrettable because, while there is a lot of good in the Bills, it is a matter of concern that these committees should be treated with such contempt.

History is one thing, but the future requires something else. I am glad to see the colleges getting increased autonomy. I am glad to see many other things in the Bills but I am concerned that there is a tendency for centralisation of planning at the time when we, as a nation, preached the virtues of subsidiarity, knocking at doors during the referendum campaign, speaking at meetings and preaching in public at hurling matches, after Mass and so on.

During matches.

I got a good reception in Thurles. Again and again I emphasised the necessity for subsidiarity and the fact that this was the first time it was written formally into a Community Treaty. Here we are at home undermining the very principle which we found so admirable in European legislation.

It is inevitable that for the future we will have continued growth in third level numbers and continuing growth in adult education and continuing education. I understand there are about 130,000 people taking adult education courses now, and that will inevitably grow. It is a growth industry in countries like the United States and I believe it will be a growth industry here too. I welcome that. There will be need for a continuing and an increased contribution by regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology.

In relation to other items mentioned in the Bill — I promised Senators Ryan and O'Reilly that I would be brief to allow them contribute — I am very happy to see that written into it is the idea of co-operation with other institutions, both inside and outside the State. Indeed, there is already co-operation inside the State and it is increasing. My college, and perhaps Senator Ryan will refer to this later — whether he agrees with me I do not know — is now committed to more co-operation with the regional technical college in Cork. This will be to the mutual benefit of both institutions and their students.

What is new in this proposal is co-operation with institutions outside the State. Many years ago, as a member of the Higher Education Authority I suggested that we should be co-operating with Coleraine and Queens Universities. That was in the seventies and, I am sorry to say, at that time it got a very cold reception from the Higher Education Authority. We have come a bit of the way since and I hope we will go further in co-operating with outside institutions, particularly on this island, and after that throughout the rest of the Community.

Research and consultancy are mentioned, and this is as it should be, but I do not think Eolas is mentioned in the Bill. They should be listed among the institutions that should be involved. Limited liability companies are mentioned, and this is fair enough. Research is important and getting moneys for research is important, but an institution could reach a point where it would be overly dependent on those who want research done. The figure for research grants in UCC last year was of the order of £7.5 million; we are taking about 20 per cent of total college income. We could find ourselves doing work because the money was there; this would not contribute much to the national interest but could contribute a lot to the interest of companies outside of the State. We could go too far down that road and we would want to be careful about it. On the other hand it is good to see Departments within colleges and universities competing openly and successfully with other institutions throughout the community.

Limited liability companies have their usefullness too and UCC was probably the first college in the country to establish a limited liability company on campus. The situation will grow as it has done in the United States and in Britain. There are certain dangers there but they can be avoided.

Mention was already made today of giving regional technical colleges the right to award degrees and in the longer term I think that would be an admirable step. We will have to remember however that gaining international recognition and respect for regional technical college degrees will be a slow process. Perhaps we should examine it carefully every year and as soon as it is possible I would be happy to see it happen.

I am unhappy about the manner in which this Regional Technical College Bill was introduced and about the fact that the vocational education committees have been to a large extent ignored in it, or so they say. I am also unhappy that we did not have this debate after the Green Paper was considered, with more time to tease out all details of this Bill.

As somebody who works in a regional technical college I am happy with the general philosophy behind the Bill, but I am as concerned as many of my colleagues about the apparent haste to get it through. There are serious issues that need to be discussed relating to the philosophy of education contained in the Regional Technical Colleges Bill. Some of the values about third level education contained in the Green Paper betray a certain ambivalence.

I find it offensive, as I think most Members of this House will, that the third reason one could lose one's position on the governing body of a regional technical college — one reason is bankruptcy and another is imprisonment — is if one becomes a Member of Seanad Éireann, Dáil Éireann or the European Parliament. Somebody must have a strange notion about politicians because regularly in the making of rules bankrupts, convicts and politicians are grouped together. It should not happen in any legislation. I can be on the governing body of UCC by a variety of means. I can be a member of the Senate of the National University. Senator Murphy can be on the governing body of UCC as a member of staff, Senator Raftery can be on it as a member of staff; but I cannot be on the governing body of my own institution where I was a member of the board of management before this ridiculous prohibition came in. Now I am told I am not fit to be on it.

If Senator Ryan were a county councillor he could.

Some county councillors have degrees also.

I deplore that categorisation and I will invite the Minister, however late it is next Friday, not to tell me that this has always been done up to now but to explain to me why it has always been done. I am sick of people saying, "We have always done it this way, therefore we will continue to do so". There is no rationale to that; it is the antithesis of rationality. Education for a Changing World is the title of the Green Paper but on this there will be no change but a boring repetition. That is meaningless. It is grossly offensive to be categorised along with bankrupts and convicts as one of three categories of people prohibited from being on the governing body of an regional technical college. It is time we did away with this clause.

I want to mention differing perceptions of third level education, the first of which is the perception that there are different kinds of education involved. No amount of philosophical talk about the equality of different strands of third level education will convince anybody. I do not begrudge UCC a penny, but all one has to do to understand how this perception arose is to walk through UCC and then walk into the Cork Regional Technical College. There are two different categories of third level education in terms of funding, standards of buildings, support, student facilities, staff facilities, security and a host of other features.

The Cork Regional Technical College operates with four security staff. An institution with about 3,000 students and 400 staff cannot ensure that all of its entrances are manned by a security person. It is possible to walk in and out of about ten different doors of the institution unchallenged. There can be no sense of equality in third level education while that continues. When one walks in the door of an regional technical college one is made aware of different standards of acceptable building standards conpared to UCC. Those are the sort of things that matter.

There are philosophical views about universities that need to be sorted out. I have a great belief in the importance of third level education for fostering freedom of thought and expression. There is a mystique however about degrees and their alleged superior status to all other forms of qualifications. What is the difference between a pass university degree and a diploma degree from a regional technical college other than mystique? What are the superior job opportunities for somebody who gets a pass degree in science by comparison with somebody who gets a credit or a distinction or diploma in some area of applied science? There is no distinction that I know of in entry standards, monitoring etc. The distinction is a mythical one. If we are in earnest about integrating different types of third level education we should forget that distinctions. Degrees are nothing more than a higher level of qualification to something else. It would be more logical to classify pass degrees as diplomas than to pretend that there is a suite of progress from certificate to diploma to degree. There is no difference between a pass degree and a diploma that I can see; no logical rational distinction that can be made between them. The solution is to equate what are of equal value.

Another topic surrounded by mystique comes up in the Green Paper, on page 197, where there is mention of something I have never heard of before called "academic drift" in the non-university sector that causes problems. I gather it is a sort of inertia which keeps things going. I am intrigued that "academic drift" only occurs in the non-university sector. One gets the impression reading through the Green Paper that the writer is treading around the delicate sensitivities of the universities. There are many references to their being consulted, to their views being sought, but there is a much blunter approach to the State sector of third level education, as if the same delicate sensitivities did not apply. As one who works in the State sector of third level education I would advise the Minister and the Department of Education not to allow themselves to be bluffed by either the tradition or the perceived status of universities. Their degrees should be examined to know if they really make a difference. Is the country served by producing hundreds if not thousands of pass science degree holders every year who are not really qualified to work as technicians or as process chemists because no industry will recruit them on the basis of a pass degree? They can only end up aspiring towards second level teaching, which may not be their vocation.

In the Green Paper there is much talk of quality assurance. The best quality assurance is in the marketplace. Does the market want to recruit the people with pass university degrees? On that criterion, the regional technical colleges have been vindicated because their graduates are recruited consistently and new positions have been created within companies to avail of their skills. We in the regional technical colleges do not need any lectures about the need for some sort of semi-State quango of bureaucrats to assess the quality of our graduates. We will know soon enough if industry does not want to recruit them and at present overseas companies are coming to recruit them.

On the question of status, I have a throw away but interesting comment to make. The professor of, say, Latin, in University College, Cork, is paid more than the principal of the Regional Technical College Cork. I do not begrudge the professor of Latin a penny of his salary, but I resent the implication that there is a relative pecking order of academic status. That matter needs to be sorted out.

There is much to be said about this legislation and most of it has been elaborated to a considerable extent in the Green Paper. The distinction between the research that universities will do and the research that non-university third level institutions will do was, in my view, thought up by someone. Distinctions between applied research and fundamental research, between regional and national research are not valid. Those distinctions came out of someone's head and have more to do with the universities keeping a firm hand on most of the funds available for research than with rationally based distinctions.

I am happy with the Bill which may do much for the non-university third level sector but it is riddled with requirements for the permission of the Minister. Could the Minister tell us how many clauses and sub-clauses have ended with "with the approval of the Minister"? I would not mind if Minister Aylward or Minister Brennan made the decisions but we know that some middle ranking to junior civil servant will make many of these decisions according to a written set of criteria.

If the criteria are written down, decisions could just as easily be made locally as nationally. It is a bit of a myth that the Minister will decide all those things.

I invite the Minister to give me one convincing reason the chairman of the governing body of every regional technical college should be appointed by the Minister for Education. It is either an example of gross patronage or a gross offence to the good sense of members of the governing body that the Minister should believe that a governing body cannot appoint the best person from their own membership as chairman. That requirement is offensive and should be taken out.

Over the past three years I have been willing, able and glad to give an unqualified welcome to Bills that have come before us from the Government side. There have often been points on which I might have differed or modifications that I would have suggested. We have had a good record of legislation, of worthwhile, useful and important Bills. This Bill is also useful, worthwhile and important but it gives me cause for regret that there are certain aspects of it which could be better. It is an important Bill giving education the recognition it deserves and needs.

Education, including third level education, should be a basic right of the individual. People often talk about rights and the right to knowledge and to education is unquestionable. A more practical prosaic point is the need to educate people to the maximum of their potential. That is particularly necessary in this country. We have just had the Maastricht Treaty referendum and if the Treaty is finally approved, we will find ourselves in a market of 300 million plus. If it is not approved, we will still be competing in a very harsh world. There is no way we can hope to compete with a poor education system or poorly educated people. We have to be capable of competing for the upper market niches, for the highest levels. We have many things against us but one thing we have in our favour is that so many Irish people down the generations have been gifted with flexible minds. Irish people are capable of getting tremendous benefit from education and of using those benefits to write novels, plays, television scripts or whatever and in business and technology to compete in our competitive world.

We have a good record on education but we need to make more third level education opportunities available. I do not like to talk of levels because education should never stop but should continue through one's lifetime. Here we tend to look upon education as something with a brief timespan. We are competing more and more with Germany, Holland and in due course with Switzerland and France where formal education tends to go on longer than it does here. One meets German students in their late twenties who may have moved from one university to another, who may have attended the technological university in Hanover. Theirs is an ongoing system of education. There is also a series of ongoing education systems in various industries and Ireland is beginning to move in that direction. This is excellent but, unfortunately, many young people, capable of benefiting from further education, are not getting that opportunity. We have been unfortunate that until relatively recently our idea of third level education was an extraordinarily narrow and warped Victorian one where people were educated to become colonial administrators and where subjects of practical nature, such as science or business, were looked down on. There were extraordinary ideas current that unless a sort of liberal arts college was a feature of a university, then it was not a university. I remember one distinguished, and at that time important, person say that one could not have a university with only one faculty. That is rubbish. Some of the greatest universities were one faculty universities. I accept that there are many advantages in having many faculties but thank goodness that narrow view is changing.

There are still unfortunate aspects to our education system such as the points system. Many students choose to study subjects simply because they have the points to admit them and infinitely more students are deprived in one sense or another because sufficient places do not exist for them. There is little excuse for that.

Senator Ryan and I do not always agree with each other but I almost had to pinch myself when I heard him referring to the marketplace. The marketplace does sort it out. If an excess of students want to do engineering or some form of it it does not take long for the message to get through from the marketplace; it comes through quicker than any sort of attempted bureaucratic control. Sadly, there is far too much of the heavy hand of bureaucracy evident in this Bill, and I say that with great regret.

I have served on the governing bodies and on academic councils of universities and medical schools and I am at present a member of a vocational education committee. One of the most worthwhile of these bodies has been the vocational education committee and I commend the work being done by our fellow councillors on these committees. Often, by virtue of who they are, committee members know best what is required in a given area and more than the most well informed, well briefed and well intentioned member of the Department. We have an excellent Department of Education, but I think we are setting up something here which we are going to greatly regret and which will probably have to be changed in due course. I am certain of what I say and I would like to see, at some stage, a redress for this.

Local councillors down the decades have given valuable service on vocational education committees whether paid or unpaid and that in practice, will now be lost. That is a matter not only of personal regret but an extremely retrograde step which cannot be justified on either academic or practical grounds.

I am concerned also about certain other aspects of a bureaucratic nature, some of which have been mentioned. I am concerned about the effective powers being given to directors. We are fortunate in our vocational education schools to have had many excellent principals doing excellent work. With the removal of an input from the public through public representatives, directors will have excessive powers. The title "director" itself is significant and most regrettable. I do not see why they could not have been called principals and be proud of that but the title of director is being given and judging by the considerable powers they will enjoy, a governing body only in the most exceptional cases will be able to oppose them. That situation, should not arise.

The balance between the academic council and the director is unfortunate. The statement in the Third Schedule says:

The director of a college shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, control and direct the activities of the college and shall control and direct the staff of the college in the implementation of such activities.

It goes on to say that the director shall be responsible to the governing body "for the efficient and proper management of the college". Yes, we must have efficient and proper management of a college but this Bill gives inappropriate and excessive powers to the directors, summed up in the title. This is not justified on academic or practical grounds.

Otherwise, the Bill is excellent in raising the status of Irish education. It begins to bring it all together so that greater equity of status can be achieved and it is a shame to see these flaws in an otherwise admirable Bill.

I welcome the Minister to the House and wish him luck in his relatively new appointment.

I am annoyed that the Bill is effectively being guillotined. This debate will conclude on Friday and with the Dáil going into recess, it is unrealistic to expect amendments to be taken on board. It is also a source of regret to me that the IVEA believe corporately and individually — I have spoken with them today and with their general secretary — that while they have had recent consultation, they have not had adequate consultations throughout this process and that it has all been hurried for them. They were not part of the slow, consultative process that could have taken place.

With regard to the question of regional technical colleges and their position, Senator McKenna when he addressed the House this morning, gave eloquent testimony to the merits and achievements of regional technical colleges — and chronicled their achievements over the years. That chronicle of achievements of the regional colleges was continued by a number of speakers. I concur with the opinion that the regional colleges have been an absolute success on a number of levels. They have been successful because of their democratic nature ensuring accountability; they have been successful as egalitarian institutions in that through ESF funding and other devices, they have attracted a range of students from across the social divides. They provided third level education and training and personal development for students whose aptitudes and abilities would not necessarily have fitted them to attend traditional universities.

There can be no question that the regional colleges responded well to the needs of local industry and communities. They have been a focus for change and development and have aided the democratisation of education by providing courses for people who would not normally apply to universities and who may have psychological barriers about attending universities. That has been part of the regional colleges' achievement.

Relations between the regional colleges and the regional technical colleges have been good and I agree with Senators Raftery and Honan and other speakers who noted the achievement of the vocational education committees down the years. There can be no doubt that many members of vocational education committees worked very hard; expenses were not a major consideration with them and there was considerable commitment to the job. A number of people outside formal party politics were members of vocational education committees and very committed to that process. In County Monaghan a reverend gentleman was chairperson of the vocational education committee for a number of years and made an almost complete life commitment to vocational education.

Vocational education committees have had and still have a great diversity of local personnel on their boards, reflecting all political parties, social classes and interest groupings. The link up between the regional colleges and vocational education committees was productive. I am not convinced that it is prudent to go down the road proposed in this Bill. It seems that colleges want effective independence from the vocational education committees — this seems to be the aspiration of college principals and academic staffs — so that they can become more academic and more university like, with greater independence and status. Colleges argue that research facilities and so on will enable them to expand their role and that is being granted with modifications by the Minister and the Department. It is questionable if we should allow that to happen when one considers the role played by regional technical colleges in the past number of years.

In my area regional college education was the ultimate achievement for many people and had marvellous effects on many families. Nobody would have contemplated leaving the area to attend a university. Attendance at the regional technical college, was sufficiently daunting and was a major breakthrough for families who would not have had much contact with formal education previously. If we were to change the profile and nature of these colleges, perhaps change the names and, as Senator Conroy correctly points out, change the titles of the school principals to some other modern titles, we would take away the democratic quality of the institutions and leave it without that quality of accessibility and attractiveness for the students in the other socio-economic group who do not traditionally go to our universities. That would be regrettable.

There is no case for the Minister, whatever Government he belongs to, appointing the chairpersons of these governing bodies to rule the colleges. I will be putting down an amendment to oppose that. It might be argued by a Minister that the logic in his appointing the chairperson of the body is that it will now have a national dimension. There is no reason why a competent governing body should not do this. I have slight reservations as to what degree this is an advance on what was a happy situation, responsive to a community need in an area, to local industry and to society.

The role of Dundalk regional technical college in my region and that of the Cavan College of Further Studies is fantastic. The regional technical college in Dundalk has a fantastic rate of success in terms of providing a good educational service, motivation, reaction and participation in the area. It has increased enrolment and anxiety to get in there. The same is true of Athlone regional technical college. In Cavan town we have an excellent College of Further Studies with a great level of participation. It is run by the local vocational education committee, has a tremendous teaching staff and courses and provides third level education to people in this catchment area who may not have the financial ability to go and live in a university or regional college town.

I am not sure there was need for change in the first instance, but if we accept the reality that change is taking place it is an absurdity that there is a need for the chairperson to be appointed by the Minister. Hopefully, that can be changed on Friday by amendment, without difficulty.

The Senator is right.

The Bill refers to six vocational education committee nominees. Those nominees will not come from the parent county, as in the case of Dundalk vocational education committee. Some Sentors who are very au fait with the legislation will know this.

They may not.

In general they will not. The nominations will be dispersed among the counties in the catchment area, which will mean that the vocational education committee chairperson or one other person will be the sole representative.

I taught in a primary school for a long time and I have the privilege of being an INTO nominee in the Seanad. Primary education is very much part of the educational continuum and is a critical part of it. If we are forming governing bodies I see no reason that there would not be a representative of the primary school interest on the governing body. People involed in primary education would have a relevant input to educational policy in their area. While it is an advance to have the six places for vocational education committee members, it is still not adequate.

There is a provision in the legislation that every year the colleges will present to the vocational education committees their accounts for the year. While on the face of it that would appear to give democratic accountability in relation to the colleges, I would ask the Minister in his reply on Second Stage to give the House an assurance about what will happen in reality. What will the scenario be if the college ignores the request and refuses to give adequate information to the vocational education committees? Will there be any legal provision to ensure that they do this? I get the impression that over a period of time the colleges will progressively ignore the vocational education committees. We know that the background to this is the friction between the principles and the vocational education committees. If that is the case, the college principals will not be anxious to be very co-operative with the vocational education committee sector they have sidelined to give them detailed audited accounts and ask for vocational education committee approval. It would be interesting to know how the Minister proposes to achieve that.

I would like to make a general point. Most people familiar with the legislation would be aware of this but it may not be known to the public. There is a huge interest in it and a lot of the public will be listening to this debate——

You would be surprised.

In our area we never interfered with the functioning of Dundalk or Athlone Regional Technical Colleges. I am a member of my vocational education committee and have been since 1985. We did not interfere with the functioning of Dundalk or Athlone vocational education committees in any petty way. Theee was no question, as somebody suggested today, that they would have to ask for permission to buy a bar of chalk. While that may have been the theoretical situation, in reality it never was the case. There was never such a level of interference.

It is not always prudent to rush towards change for change sake. We should acknowledge that what exists at present is not an unhappy or unworkable situation. I do not accept that they cannot do their research and expand their research facilities. There are people more clued in to the third level sector than I, but it does not seem logical to say that people could not pursue research projects or that academic staff would need changes like this to allow them to do so. In any case, the IVEA argued that they were preparing a legal basis to allow them to do their research. Is it Máirtín Ó Direáin who has the poem about destroying things unnecessarily? I get the impression that there is an element of that involved here, that we might be changing for the wrong reasons. All we can do now is amend the legislation on Friday. I hope the Minister will agree.

I would like the Minister in his reply to detail to the House how he proposes that the vocational education committees will maintain their role and how this will improve the lot of the college and students.

I would not be surprised if the upshot of all of this is the creation of another set of miniature universities aping the universities. A number of vocational education committee schools have gone too far towards becoming academic in recent years and this point was also made in the Culliton report. Second level vocational education committee shools have tried to ape the local secondary schools. I hope the regional technical colleges will not now ape the universities, and Dundalk, Tralee or Letterkenny regional technical colleges will not try to become mini-Oxfords. That is exactly what is not needed in terms of job creation, of the sociology of the area or of participation in Europe. It is culturally wrong also. I hope they will not get involved in such bizarre nonsense and I would like an assurance from the Minister on that. The Minister must also give the House a definite assurance that the colleges will not lose their democratic quality and responsiveness to local people.

I dtosach báire, ba mhaith liom fáilte mhór a chur roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach. Tá sé anseo an lá uilig agus is dócha, ag an bpointe seo, go bhfuil sé bodhraithe ag éisteacht lena bhfuil le rá againn i dtaobh na mBillí seo. Ach é sin ráite, ba mhaith liom tagairt do rud nár chuala mé mórán Seanadóirí eile ag tagairt dó go dtí seo agus is é sin an stádas oifigiúil atá tugtha don Ghaeilge sa reachtaíocht seo. Mura mbeadh ann ach é sin chaithfinn a rá gur dul chun cinn mór a bheadh ansin. Ceann de na fadhbanna atá againn i dtaobh na Gaeilge ná nach bhfuil go minic stádas ceart institiúideach aici, agus tá sé sin tugtha di sna Billí seo. Ach, thairis sin, caithfimid anois díriú ar cé an chaoi na gcuirfear na forálacha atá molta i bhfeidhm go praiticiúil.

Tá sé ráite sa reachtaíocht go gcaithfear aird a thabhairt ar chothú na Gaeilge agus chothú an chultúir dúchais sna coláistí seo. Tá sé sa dá Bhille, an Bille um Institiúid Teicneolaíochta Bhaile Átha Cliath agus Bille na gColáistí Teicniúla Réigiúnacha. Tá mé an-sásta go bhfuil sé sin ann, ach ba mhaith liomsa moltaí a fheiceáil ag teacht chun cinn ó na coláistí féin, cén chaoi a gcuirfear é sin i bhfeidhm go praiticiúil. I leith na hinstitiúidí tríú leibhéal i nGaillimh cuireann sé as dom go mór — agus thar na blianta rinne Coláiste na hOllscoile i nGaillimh iarracht mhór — nach bhfuil aon stádas oifigiúil ceart tugtha don Ghaeilge go minic i ngnáthimeachtaí laethúla na gcoláistí réigiúnacha, go háirithe i gceantair go bhfuil cuid mhaith scoláirí Ghaeltachta ag freastal ar na coláistí seo.

Ba cheart go mbeadh dualgas ar na coláistí faoin mír seo sa Bhille, plean praiticiúil — agus tá mé ag caint ar phlean praiticiúil — a chur ar bun le féachaint chuige go mbeadh an Ghaeilge ar fáil agus in úsáid go rialta sna coláistí seo. Tugadh dea-shampla i gColáiste na hOllscoile nuair a chinn Aontas na Mac Léinn ar pholasaí iomlán dátheangach a chur i bhfeidhm. Mar shampla, bhí an lámhleabhar a d'fhoilsigh siad i mbliana déanta acu go dátheangach. Cosnaíonn rudaí mar sin airgead, ach, má chosnaíonn, is ceart agus is cuí go gcuirfí a leithéid ar fáil.

Tá samplaí an-mhaith de céard is féidir a dhéanamh le polasaí teanga a chur ar fáil. Sa Bhreatain Bheag, áit a bhfuil polasaí teanga leagtha amach i gcomhréir leis an méid Breatnaise atá in aon cheantar, téann siad as a mbealach lena chinntiú go dtugtar cothromas don dá theanga ansin, agus caithfimidne an rud céanna a dhéanamh. Go minic, dar liomsa, bímid ag caint ar an Ghaeilge, ar mhanaí agus ar dhea-mhéin, ach ní dóigh liom go leagaimid amach go praiticiúil céard atá i gceist againn le polasaí mar seo a chur i bhfeidhm. Tá mé an-sásta go bhfuil na míreanna seo ann ach tá súil agam go gcuirfear i bhfeidhm i gceart iad, agus go mbeidh sé le feiceáil go suntasach sna coláistí réigiúnacha go bhfuil polasaí ceart dátheangach i bhfeidhm agus go ndéanfar freastal ar lucht labhartha na Gaeilge.

Tá an cheist seo ag éirí i bhfad níos tábhachtaí i gcomhthéacs líon mór na ngasúr atá anois ag fáil a gcuid oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge ag an bunleibhéal agus anois iad siúd atá tosaithe ag fáil a gcuid oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge ag an meánleibhéal. B'fhéidir go dtiocfaidh an lá nuair a bheidh institiúid tríú leibhéal amháin sa tír ag feidhmiú trí mheán na Gaeilge. Má táimid praiticiúil agus réalaíoch faoi líon na ngasúr a bheidh ag teacht amach as an gcóras dara leibhéal de thoradh ar an méid atá cheana féin sa bhunchóras, beidh éileamh ar a leithéid amach anseo. Ní mór dúinn breathnú amach faoi seo agus tógáil go leanúnach ar an bhunsraith atá curtha síos.

Maidir leis na Billí iad féin agus an díospóireacht mhór leathan atá ar bun faoi ról na gcoistí gairmoideachais, ról na n-ionadaithe tofa, rinneadh pointe an-mhaith, nach bhfuil ciall dá laghad le Seanadóirí bheith dícháilithe ó bheith ina mbaill de na governing bodies. Ní fheicim cén fáth go bhfuil a leithéid de riail ann. Sílim nach gcuireann sé as d'eagraíocht mar sin go mbeadh ionadaithe tofa orthu agus creidim go bhfuil rud éigin ait ann más féidir le duine a bheith mar bhall de choiste gairmoideachais mar Sheanadóir ach nach bhféadfadh sé bheith ar choiste stiúrtha sna coláistí seo. Níl aon chiall leis agus bheadh súil agam sa phlé leathan a bheidh ar bun maidir le cúrsaí oideachais amach anseo de thoradh an Pháipéir Ghlais a foilsíodh go bhféachfaí go mbainfí as a leithéid d'fhoráil. Tá go leor plé déanta faoi ionad daoine tofa sa chóras oideachais agus, b'fhéidir, ó tharla go bhfuil na Billí seo go héifeachtach níl mórán deise praiticiúla anois le leasú a chur orthu. B'fhéidir gur rud é seo go gcaithimid anois dul siar agus breathnú air i gcomthéacs an Pháipéir Ghlais.

Caithfimid breathnú ar cén áit atá ag an phobal i gcúrsaí oideachais, cén áit a mbeidh siad bainte le cúrsaí oideachais ag gach leibhéal. Ní mór dúinn a aithint as an nua gur ionadaithe poiblí iad daoine atá tofa ar chomhairlí contae agus, go hindíreach, ar choistí gairmoideachais. Tá siad tofa ag an bpobal agus tá an prionsabal á cheapadh anois gur féidir leat a bheith tofa ar choiste bainistíochta sa scoil áitiúil mar ghnáthbhall den phobal, gur féidir leat bheith ceaptha ag ceardchumann i ngeall go bhfuil tú i do mhac léinn nó i do mhúinteoir, ach gurb é an t-aon dream go bhfuil amhras mór fúthu ná ionadaithe poiblí atá tofa go daonlathach de réir an chórais is oscailte dá bhfuil ann, sin córas toghcháin na tíre. Is ceist bhunúsach í seo agus is ceist í a bhaineann leis an stádas a tabharfaimid do na hionadaithe tofa poiblí atá againn.

Rinneadh tagairt ansin maidir le cúrsaí curriculum. Is cosúil go mbíonn brú ann i gcónaí dul ag plé le cúrsaí acadúla. Tá sé intuigthe cén tslí ar tharla sé seo i gcomhthéacs na scoileanna gairmoideachais. An rud atá tarlaithe ansin agus, b'fhéidir, an rud a bhain d'fheidhm na scoileanna gairmoideachais sa ghnáthchiall gur bunaíodh iad sna bailte móra, ná nach ndearnadh cónascadh i gcásanna áirithe. Sna scoileanna cónasctha, caithfimid a admháil, gurb é an córas acadúil is treise iontu agus níl fágtha mar scoileanna gairmoideachais astu féin i go leor contaetha ach na scoileanna beaga tuaithe. De bharr go gcaithfidh siadsan freastal ar chuile aicme taobh istigh dá bpobal féin, is cineál scoileanna pobail iad níos mó ná ceardscoileanna nó scoileanna gairmoideachais. I ngeall air sin tá brú síoraí seasta freastal ní amháin ar dhaoine atá ag dul ar aghaidh le ceardaíocht ach freisin ar na riachtanais acadúla i saol scoláirí as na ceantair seo.

Tá brú breise ann i ngeall ar an gcóras iontrála sna coláistí tríú leibhéal. Má tá córas na bpointí i bhfeidhm, cinnte beidh scoláirí agus tuismitheoirí ag brú go láidir go mbeidh cúrsaí acadúla in uachtar. Chuala mé ráite in áit éigin le gairid, agus dúradh i mBéarla é, that parents are the most strategic planners you ever have, agus más rud é gur le leas na ngasúr, dar le tuismitheoirí, rud a dhéanamh, más le leas gasúir, mar a fheictear do thuismitheoirí é, más i ndul chun cinn atá i gceist dul agus cúrsaí acadúla a bhrú ar scoileanna agus ar cheardcholáistí, sin a dhéanfaidh siad. Déanfaidh tuismitheoirí an rud a cheapann siadsan atá ar a leas féin. Caithfimid, mar sin, breathnú, ní amháin ar sheasamh siar ach ar cén brú atá ar thuismitheoirí, cén brú atá ar dhaoine sa chóras dul i dtreo cúrsaí acadúla an iomarca agus féachaint cén bealach is féidir linn imeacht uaidh sin trí credit breise a thabhairt do rudaí praiticiúla.

Cinnte, is é ceann de na heasnaimh is mó sa tír seo ná daoine atá cáilithe sna gairmeacha. Tá go leor gairmeacha nua ann agus glacaim leis nach bhfuil siad go díreach faoi réir an Bhille seo, ach é sin ráite, tagann siad go díreach agus go hindíreach faoi réir réimse oibre na gcoláistí seo. Tá go leor gairmeacha ann nach bhfuil stádas oifigiúil acu sa tír seo. Tá líon, mar shampla, na ngairmeacha gur féidir printíseacht a fháil iontu anteoranta le hais mar atá sa Ghearmáin. Nuair atáimid ag caint ar ghairmeacha, táimid ag caint, mar shampla, ar an nuatheicneolaíocht, go bhfuil páirt lárnach le himirt ag na coláistí a bhfuilimid ag tabhairt stádais reachtúil dóibh anseo. Ach, chun sin a dhéanamh, caithfimid a chinntiú go bhfuil córas cáilíochta ann ceart agus go mbeidh seasamh idirnáisiúnta i dtíortha eile ag na cáilíochtaí sin. Sin rud go mba mhaith liom a fheiceáil staidéar á thabhairt dó mar sílim, má tá an seasamh ag rud,, ansin beidh tuismitheoirí sásta go ndéanfaidh a gcuid clann plé leis na hábhair seo.

Mar a deirim, ba cheart dúinn plé iomlán críochnúil a dhéanamh ar chúrsaí oideachais san fhómhar. Nuair a bheidh an Páipéar Glas á phlé, tá súil agam go ndéanfaimid plé cuimsitheach, iomlán ar ról na n-ionadaithe poiblí sa chóras oideachais trí chéile, i gcóras na n-ollscoileanna, i gcóras na gcoláistí tríú leibhéal taobh amuigh de chóras na n-ollscoileanna; i gcóras an dara leibhéal trí chéile agus, ar ndóigh, i gcóras an bhunleibhéil. Mura mbeidh plé bunúsach ar na ceisteanna seo agus mura ndéanfar ar bhealach leathan é, ní dhéanfar go cuimsitheach agus i gceart é.

Ar deireadh, ba mhaith liom tagairt a dhéanamh do chúrsaí airgeadais agus do chúrsaí airgeadais chóras an tríú leibhéal. Is léir, mar a dúradh cheana, go dtugtar i bhfad níos mó airgid per capita do na hollscoileanna ná mar a thugtar do na coláistí tríú leibhéal. Tá a fhios ag an saol é sin. Mar dhuine, a thagann ó chúlra láidir ollscoile, déarfainn nach bhfuil an cothromas ceart ansin anois. Caithfear féachaint chuige go bhfuil cothromas, ó thaobh cistíochta de, ag an gcóras tríú leibhéal, go mbeidh a sciar ceart féin den airgead ar fáil ag na hinstitiúidí seo. Is é an bharúil atá agamsa ná, go minic, de bharr go bhfuil acmhainní ag na hollscoileanna le bheith ag déanamh cáis le haghaidh a thuilleadh acmhainní a fháil, gur ar an gcaoi sin a fhaigheann siad na hacmhainní sin. Agus is amhlaidh an scéal go minic, is é an té is láidre a éiríonn níos láidre, agus an dream atá lag agus nach bhfuil na hacmhainní acu bheith ar thóir na n-acmhainní, go mbíonn siad siar leis go mór. Go mórmhór, creidim go bhfuil sé sin fíor i gcás chúrsaí taighde. Caithfidh positive discrimination bheith i gceist lena chinntiú go bhfaighidh na hinstitiúidí seo a sciar ceart féin den airgead.

Mar a dúirt mé, ní inniú ná amárach a chríochnófar díospóireacht bhunúsach ar na Billí seo. Ba mhaith liom go ndéanfaí tuilleadh seo ar chúrsaí cistíochta agus ionadaíochta poiblí sa chóras oideachais trí chéile, agus ar smacht an chórais phoiblí agus smacht rialtais áitiúil ar an gcóras oideachais trí chéile.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Teach. Níl sé i gceist agam mórán a chaitheamh ar an ábhar atá á phlé againn. Tá anmheas go deo agam ar an obair atá á déanamh ag na coláistí réigiúnacha agus ar a bhfuil curtha i gcríoch acu i gcaitheamh na mblianta tar éis a mbunaithe. Ar ndóigh, d'eascair sé sin as an saothar a rinneadh sna ceardscoileanna ó bunaíodh iad sna tríochaidí. Maidir leis an mBille seo, tagaim le go leor atá ann agus is beag foráil ansin a gcuirfinn ina éadan. Tá cuid againn ag caint faoi na boird bhainistíochta, cé chomh láidir nó cé chomh daonlathach is atá siad, faoina struchtúir, agus tá aidhmeanna an Bhille faoi chaibidil againn freisin, ach tá rud amháin curtha ar ár súile dúinn, an tsárobair go deo atá déanta ag na coláistí réigiúnacha timpeall na tíre.

Is é an feall atá déanta, dar liomsa, ná go bhfuil an t-iarthar fágtha ar lár sa Bhille seo. I gcás Chaisleán an Bharraigh, bhí gluaiseacht ann le dhá bhliain déag ag éileamh go gcuirfí coláiste réigiúnach ar bun ansin. Le linn an ama sin tháinig Airí agus Airí Stáit ón Chomhrialtas agus ón Rialtas in a dhiaidh sin agus gheall siad go gcuirfí coláistí réigiúnacha ar bun, ceann acu i gCaisleán an Bharraigh. Gach maidin Domhnaigh imíonn 3,000 scoláire leo ó Chontae Mhaigh Eo — an contae is measa maidir leis an bhfadhb seo — go Ceatharlach, chomh fada le Leitir Ceanainn, agus ó dheas go Luimneach agus Trá Lí.

Bhí mé i láthair ag cruinniú an tseachtain seo caite i gCaisleán an Bharraigh agus bhí sé plódaithe le muintir an iarthair agus iad ag impí ar an Aire Oideachais agus ar an Aire Stáit go gcuirfí coláiste réigiúnach ar bun. Ní bheadh a lán le rá agamsa in aghaidh na mionphointí atá á n-ardú, an bhfuil an bord seo i gceart, an bhfuil an comhdhéanamh sin i gceart, ach is é an rud is tábhachtaí i dtosach báire ná go mbeadh coláiste réigiúnach i gCaisleán an Bharraigh agus nach mbeadh iarthar na hÉireann bánaithe arís, gan aon deis acu——

Senator Ó Foighil, it was agreed on the Order of Business that we would adjourn the debate a 10 p.m. Could I ask you to move the adjournment of the debate?

Tá mé sásta go gcuirfear ar athlá é.

Debate adjourned.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 tomorrow morning.