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 Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith] I know that Cavan Institute, a college of further education in my county, has given many students the opportunity to go on to institutes of technology or universities and complete their primary degree courses and, in many instances, many of those students have gone on to complete a master's degree. That progression from further education through to third level is vitally important. The further education sector is also one that needs to be adequately funded. The further education sector and the colleges of further education were put in place to meet the emerging needs of the economy in those local areas. I agree with Deputy John Paul Phelan's point that the institutes of technology or the colleges of further education should have a good working relationship and close collaboration with industry in their area. When I chaired the board of management of the then Cavan College of Further Studies we were cognisant of ensuring that courses that tapered in with some local industries were provided, where we had some particular strengths, and young people were equipped with skills to meet the job opportunities that might arise in their own areas.

An area that is worth considering is the agricultural colleges. While I have not given this any detailed thought, it should be noted that they are also a great resource. I was involved in Ballyhaise Agricultural College in my own county some years ago. It linked up with Dundalk Institute of Technology and provided a degree course in food and farming. The young students could do their first year in Ballyhaise Agricultural College, and some of them may not have had the points to go directly into an agricultural science course, but they were able, on successful completion of the relevant certificate in agriculture at the agricultural college, to go on to Dundalk Institute of Technology and complete a degree course in food science or food and farming. Many of those people are now gainfully employed in our agrifood industry, which has experienced substantial growth during the past decade. The agricultural colleges are an important resource and they should not be left out of the further and higher education sector, nor should they be left to stand alone. There may be an opportunity to develop a greater synergy between the agricultural colleges and the institutes of technology.

Deputy Eamonn Maloney: Information on Eamonn Maloney Zoom on Eamonn Maloney I welcome the Bill and the Minister should be commended on bringing it forward. I listened to her opening statement on the monitor. I do not agree with everything she said but I agree with most of it. In many respects what is being provided for in this Bill in the third level education sector is historic. Collectively, if we succeed in achieving what the Minister wants to achieve in the technology sector together with the raising of the status and quality of education in that sector, this will have been a good day's work.

There are many divisions in our society, be it in health or other areas, but the sector that most reflects the divisions in society is the education areas, and there are many examples of it. Deputy Smith rightly pointed out that since the institutes of technology have evolved they have offered students from working class areas the opportunity to have their first introduction to third level education. I am one of the lucky ones because there is a very good institute of technology, Institute of Technology, Tallaght, in the constituency that I represent, which is the third largest centre of population in the country. It is worth noting that 30 years ago within the wider community in Tallaght - approximately 100,000 people live there - only a little more than 2% of students who left second level school went on to third level. Today that figure is 22%. It has taken the best part of 30 years to raise the percentage of students from working class areas who go on to a third level institution. I repeat the point Deputy Smith made, namely, that those students are the first members of their family, having regard to their parents and grandparents, to get their foot in the door of a third level institution. We still have a long way to go in terms of the difficulty that was illustrated by other Members, in that, if one's parents are lucky enough to have the required disposable income, one is pretty much guaranteed from birth to get a place in a third level institution and one is guaranteed a better standard of living and a better education. Those are the types of barriers we should be trying to break down. We should make third level education not a privilege for some in society but open for all in society who complete their second level education.

The Institute of Technology, Tallaght has done tremendous work in the manner in which it has developed during the 20 plus years that it has been established. Its catchment area is not only south Dublin, it also has an intake of students from Kildare and further afield. It has a very good reputation and has made great progress in the quality and variety of courses it offers. It has quite high standards, which is a positive development. There is a strong attachment to the institute because of what it has managed to do for many families in giving many working class students the opportunity to get a third level education.

One or two Deputies became very exercised about the cuts in education. I acknowledge there were cuts in education across the board. Unfortunately, that is history. Sometimes when people speak in this House they choose to forget what happened in 2007 and 2008 as if the collapse in the economy never happened. When the Minister was being criticised about the cuts in education neither of the Deputies referred to the fact that there was no cut in the €100 million subsidy that is given to private schools. It may have something to do with the fact that those two Deputies, who come from the great and the good, the privileged, went to private schools. I did not see them becoming exercised about calling for the abolition of the €100 million that goes to those small number private schools, which could be distributed among the institutes of technology about which they got so agitated. However, that is the nature of politics.


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