Technological Universities Bill 2015: Committee Stage (Continued)

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Select Sub-Committee on Education and Skills Debate
Vol. 2 No. 23

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Section 1 agreed to.

SECTION 2

Chairman: Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy Amendments Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I move amendment No. 1:

In page 9, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:
" "academics" means tenured officers of the institute;".

I think the amendments are self-explanatory. They seek to insert definitions.

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I thank the committee for its pre-legislative scrutiny. Many of the points made at the time have been taken on board in the drafting of the Bill. A number of amendments relate to more general issues rather than to the specific purpose of the Bill and certainly will be considered in the context of other legislation. It is probable that there will not be any other legislation in the lifetime of this Dáil but certainly the Quality and Qualifications Ireland Assurance (Education and Training) Act has to be amended and a higher education reform Bill is planned. They may be appropriate places for some of the points that will be raised during the course of the debate. For the technological universities and the consortia that are interested in becoming technological universities, they need this legislation before they can move to the final stages.

As the Deputy has said, he is seeking to insert new definitions into section 2 while amendment No. 6 would have the effect of deleting the phrase "or appointed" from the definition of "student" as currently set out in the Bill. However, amendments Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 would insert definitions for words which are not actually used in the Bill nor in any of the other amendments tabled by the Deputy, and for that reason I believe they are unnecessary. Amendment No. 3 would insert a limited definition for the word "programme", a word which is used in the Bill. However, the term "programme of education and training" is defined in the Bill, by reference to the extensive definition of the term set out in the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act 2012. Introducing an additional definition of the word "programme" would, therefore, introduce uncertainty with regard to the correct definition of the term. Amendment No. 6, which would have the effect of deleting "or appointed" from the definition of "student", would unnecessarily limit the scope of that definition. For these reasons, I cannot support the amendments.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I will be pushing the amendments.

Chairman: Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy Does the Deputy have any further questions or comments?

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien No.

Chairman: Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy Does any other Member wish to comment?

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan Following on from the Minister's general comments, I understand - correct me if I am wrong - the mergers can go ahead but there is no guarantee they will get the status of a technical university following the merger. Therefore, is there a possibility that we could have mergers without status?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The criteria originally announced were that there were various stages that had to be gone through. One of the stages is the merger of the relevant institutes of technology. The stage beyond that is attaining the status of a technological university. It was always very clear in the criteria that the mergers would happen prior to attaining the status of a technological university. As people will have a very good idea of how they are progressing, I do not think that should be a deterrent to the progress of the institutions that want to become technological universities and are progressing well.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan There is a danger they could merge and not get technological university status and then the smaller ITs would be subsumed into bigger ones. There is that possibility.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan When institutes of technology were invited to consider this proposal, they would have been fully aware of the criteria. I do not think it is appropriate that we would change the criteria at this stage.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien One would have to acknowledge that the criteria have caused huge issues particularly among staff.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We will address the issue further when we discuss amendments on issues that are of concern to staff. I do not know how much further the Chairman wants this conversation to continue, as we will come to it later.


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