Technological Universities Bill 2015: Second Stage (Continued)

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 901 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] Do we need to underline that point against the background of the housing crisis, which affects students among many others? They are desperately trying to find housing. Many assurances are required and most important, the resources, staffing and so on to ensure that this aspiration for technological universities, laudable as it might be, is not simply a recipe for more cuts, rationalisation and so on, that degrade the quality and experience of education in these technological universities.

How can there be academic freedom in the new institutions if people do not know they are going to have a job in a year’s time because they live in fear? That is not conducive to academic freedom and freedom of expression, which is the hallmark of third level education because staff are too terrified to say anything in case their contract is not renewed. Against a background where 33% of people employed in third level education are in precarious situations and that figure has been growing, the workers and the unions say it should be approximately 95% permanent tenured employment if there is to be security for the teachers and the necessary academic freedom so teachers feel confident to express their views and say what they think, which is what universities are all about. There should be adequate representation of workers, trades unions and students on the governing bodies of these institutions in proportion to the number of these institutions that may be merged so there is academic and student leadership of the universities. That is what is needed to make something more than a university in name.

As Deputy Paul Murphy said, when one considers all the references to enterprise and industry and so on in the Bill “slavish” is the right word. The Bill is saying the technological universities must serve the interests of business and enterprise. I would put it the other way around: business should support third level education, which it is not doing. Why should the universities, which educate our young people, providing a service to society and the public, be slaves to business, which does not reciprocate and where Government policy ensures it does not reciprocate? Why do the businesses not pay some taxes to fund third level education? They are its chief beneficiaries. The extraordinary profits the multinationals make per employee in this country are off the Richter scale. This is to a significant extent explained by transfer pricing, contract manufacturing and intricate tax avoidance schemes. These companies make unbelievable profits from the young people we paid to educate and who have, through their own endeavours, reached a point where they can make enormous profits for these companies, which do not feel any need to reciprocate and pay a bit of bleeding tax.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan They pay a bit.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett They do everything in their power to avoid it. The dogs on the street know it, with the double Irish, and now the knowledge box - any old excuse - and they constantly lobby the Ministers about ways to get out of tax. They are employing accountants left, right and centre to come up with new and intricate mechanisms, in many cases facilitated by the political establishment, to avoid paying tax. Talk about cutting one’s nose off to spite one’s face. The cumulative result is skills shortages because we do not have enough educated people to feed the monster of multinationals.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Is the Deputy against jobs?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett No. I am for these companies, which make enormous profits from our young people, putting something back into educating the young people from whom they extract such profits, rather than us paying for the education, and students and teachers contributing to producing educated young people and letting these lads run off with the goodies.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan We have increased tax over the past five years.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I am deadly serious about this.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I know the Deputy is and so am I.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We should be standing up for ourselves and telling these multinationals that they will have to cough up a bit of money to pay for the educated workforce from which they make so much money, with profits that are off the Richter scale. That is not a hyperbolic description of their profits. Based on the productivity per worker in Ireland, it is all made here. Could they please contribute something towards these chronically underfunded universities, where students are on miserable grants?

I say no to student loans. Has the debt economy not done us enough damage without inflicting the debt economy on our students so they will come out of third level education owing €20,000 or €30,000 to the banks? What an outrageous suggestion. The Minister should get rid of the fees and make the multinationals pay their taxes to fund our third level education.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello That was an excellent contribution from Deputy Boyd Barrett. He was very passionate as usual. I have to agree with him that there should be no student loans and that the corporate sector should make a substantial contribution to our third level institutions because more and more they locate themselves in the vicinity of third level institutions to obtain the best in research and qualified students who graduate from the colleges.

It is, however, very important to recognise the contribution that the international sector has made to Ireland. That was one of the major contributors in a period when there was nothing in the country over the past seven or eight years. Foreign direct investment was maintained at an all-time high although many punters were saying that the country was going down the tubes. The foreign direct investment and the Irish diaspora sectors were out front in ensuring that direct investment was maintained at a strong level.

I welcome the legislation and see it as a glass half full rather than a glass half empty. I do not want to see cuts and I do not believe the legislation is being introduced in any way to effect cuts to the third level sector. It is being introduced on the basis of rationalisation. When we consider the history of the institute sector we see why that is necessary. Many of the Members will remember that the regional colleges were developed at more or less the same time as we joined the European Union. We were very fortunate that the strategy and foresight of the people who were in government at the time saw the importance of having a necklace of institutes of technology, which were called regional colleges, around the country.

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