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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Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I move amendment No. 10:

In page 21, to delete lines 25 and 26 and substitute the following:
"(iii) be published in such manner as the technological university considers appropriate jointly agreed by the parties concerned.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I know the Minister is not going to take on board any of my proposed amendments to the Bill but I hope some of the concerns we are raising today will at least be addressed on Report Stage.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I have taken a note of the indications Deputies O'Brien and O'Sullivan have given of some amendments that they might put forward. We will examine those during the time between now and Report Stage as well as the ones of which we are already aware.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I indicated on Second Stage that unless some amendments are made to the legislation that we could not support it, even though we support the concept of technological universities. As the Bill currently stands, some changes must be made to it.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I understand the Deputy's point and, as I said, I have taken notes on the extra issues that have been raised today.

Section 22, as amended, agreed to.

SECTION 23

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I move amendment No. 11:

In page 22, to delete lines 12 to 17 and substitute the following:
"(2) A member of the academic staff or a student learner of a technological university shall not, subject to the provisions of any enactment or rule of law, be disadvantaged, or subject to less favourable treatment by the technological university, arising from his or her questioning and testing received wisdom, putting forward new ideas or stating controversial or unpopular opinions in his or her teaching, research and any other activities either in or outside the technological university.".

I will not go into the detail of the proposed amendment because the Minister will not be supporting it. It proposes to delete lines 12 to 17 and substitute the text set out.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan This amendment is about academic freedom. The principle of academic freedom is a defining characteristic of high quality, higher education and research throughout the world. The Bill rightly ensures that academic freedom shall apply in technological universities in the same manner as it applies in universities. However, it is understood internationally that academic freedom applies to academic staff of higher education institutions and both this Bill and the Universities Act 1997 reflect that understanding.

Amendment No. 11 in extending academic freedom to students would put technological universities in a different position to their peers, both within the State and internationally. That would be a real issue in terms of how we are consistent across the sector. That is my concern there.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien What is the disadvantage to it?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The principle of academic freedom is a very cherished one in terms of academics being able to express viewpoints that may be contrary to Government or to the leadership in the particular academic institution and that is really valuable. If one was to change that in any way, we would need to have a conversation across the sector and engage with the entire sector.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien We are not proposing to change it but to add a provision that students can also have that same freedom.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan If one were to say that for technological universities, one would have to say it for all universities and all institutes of technology.

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

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan One would have to amend other legislation as well as this legislation. I do not think that we are in a position to do that in the context of what is relatively narrow legislation in that this is specifically about the establishment of technological universities.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Deputy is the Minister and she can amend any legislation she wants.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan It is a matter that can certainly be discussed. As I said, other Bills are coming down the tracks in regard to this whole sector. This is an example of one of the areas where I said at the outset that some of the proposed amendments relate to the entire sector and that it would not be appropriate to have what they propose apply only to technological universities and not to the other institutes of technology or universities.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I indicate that I intend to bring forward an amendment in this respect on Report Stage. I want to press this amendment but clearly it will not be accepted.

Chairman: Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy Perhaps the clerk to the committee would clarify the position. If the Deputy presses his amendment, he cannot submit the same amendment on Report Stage.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien It would be a different amendment because I would include all the other items of legislation to which the Minister referred.

Chairman: Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy I do not know about that.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I would like clarification on that point.

Chairman: Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy We will not be able to get it at this time but it is my understanding-----

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The Chairman is saying that if I press this amendment I cannot bring forward an amendment on Report Stage that would be-----

Chairman: Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy That would be very similar.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien -----more extensive with respect to including other legislation.


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