Dáil Éireann - Volume 313 - 03 April, 1979

Supplementary Estimates, 1979. - National Council for Educational Awards Bill, 1978: Committee Stage.


Minister for Education (Mr. Wilson): I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, subsection (1), line 23, to delete “an”.

This is a drafting amendment to fit in with the amendment proposed for line [989] 24. There is also an amendment to section 5 (1) and (2)—amendment No. 36—which is connected with this.

Mr. E. Collins: I accept this drafting amendment but, on a point of order, I should like to point out that I have just received two further Ministerial amendments. Are they in order? Due to the postal strike I had the courtesy to put down my amendments in plenty of time and I should like to know what the position is in relation to the Ministerial amendments which have just been circulated.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is usual to accept amendments up to the last minute, almost. The amendments refer to later sections.

Mr. E. Collins: Due to the postal strike I did not have an opportunity of obtaining a copy of the Ministerial amendments until I arrived in the House today. Out of consideration for those Members who must travel a long distance to the House the Minister should have had the courtesy to circulate his amendments last week so that we could have had an opportunity of considering them. Due to the postal strike some different procedures must be adopted in the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Wilson: I move amendment No. 2:

In page 2, subsection (1), line 24, to delete “the National College of Art and Design” and substitute “an Coláiste Náisiúnta Ealaíne is Deartha”.

The amendment seeks to delete “the National College of Art and Design” and substitute “An Coláiste Náisiúnta Ealáine is Deartha” which is the statutory title of the institution. It may be better known by the title, the National College of Art and Design, but the statutory title is that which is set out in the amendment and is as set out in section 2 (2) of the National College of Art and Design Act, 1971.

Mr. E. Collins: I have no objection to [990] the Irish version of the name of the college being inserted but since the other colleges have the name in English would it not be more logical to have named them all in Irish or in English. It is incongruous that one should go in in Irish. When the NIHE Bills come before the House the Irish name for the National Institute for Higher Education in Dublin and in Limerick will, no doubt, be in those Bills. The Minister should accept that and put in the NIHE title in Irish also.

Mr. Wilson: We are dealing with a problem of popular title and statutory title. Although we usually refer to the National College of Art and Design by its English title the statutory title is An Coláiste Náisiúnta Ealaíne is Deartha. It is with a view to bringing it into line with the statutory title that the amendment is moved.

Mr. E. Collins: Do I take it that the English version is not the statutory title of that college or equal to the Irish version? It is specified in the Bill in the English version.

Mr. Wilson: I should like to refer the Deputy to section 2 (2) of the National College of Art and Design Act, 1971 which states:

As on and from the establishment day, the college shall be known as An Coláiste Náisiúnta Ealaíne is Deartha.

Mr. E. Collins: I have no objection to this amendment but why not carry on the tradition of putting in the title in Irish?

Mr. Wilson: The anomaly is that the Irish title is used in the English version of the 1971 Act.

Mr. E. Collins: Ba mhaith liom gach aon ainm as Gaeilge san mBille seo.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. E. Collins: I move amendment No. 3:

In page 2, subsection (1) (f), line 29, after “institution” to insert “of higher education”.

[991] I merely want to specify that the colleges and institutions, to which we are referring, are colleges of higher education and that this Bill should be confined to colleges of higher education. It should be specified that that is what we are doing under this Bill. The interpretation may be loose at the moment. Under section 20, to which paragraph (f) refers, the word “school” appears. Obviously we can have a school of higher education as well. My amendment seeks to insert after “institution” the words “of higher education” so that it is quite clear that we are confining this Bill to the higher education section. I consider that “any institution” should have been coupled with “college”. My amendment seeks clarification of the type of institution we are referring to.

Mr. Horgan: I sympathise with the spirit of Deputy Collins's amendment but I have some difficulty with its substance. It seems to me that a middle line has to be drawn between the situation in which we are giving National Council for Education Awards a carte blanche permission to organise everything and anything in education that they choose to organise or, on the other hand, restricting them so much that they are unable to intervene in areas in which they might genuinely have an interest in intervening.

It does not strike me as impossible that at a certain stage in their development the NCEA might award qualifications for students who are students at second level institutions. We have been complaining for long enough inside and outside the House about the way in which the leaving certificate, which was originally a general examination designed to assess the degree of success with which a student had completed a second-level course of education, has been turned into the handmaiden of the university system. We should be, if anything, importing more flexibility into the award system at second as well as at third level if we are to avoid the intense pressure which builds up within the second level educational system to make it conform to one sector of third level [992] education rather than to the real needs of the student. While I sympathise with Deputy Collins's desire for clarification, the amendment as drafted would present me with certain difficulties.

Mr. Wilson: I do not believe that it is necessary to define the council further or the institutions by putting in the words “of higher education”. In the Bill the Minister is given discretion with regard to the institutions which he can nominate under section 20. The whole idea behind the council was to use them as a vehicle for the promotion of technological education and commercial education. I do not believe there is any need to be more specific than the actual words of this section are.

The point made by Deputy Horgan was a good one. I also decry the developing situation where the universities on a points system have undue influence on the terminal examination for secondary or post-primary education but that should be dealt with otherwise than by using such a council as the NCEA to remedy emphases, biases or exaggerations which are developing. I have outlined to the House on another occasion my intention in that regard.

Deputy Collins is concerned with it being clear that it is higher education that is involved. Deputy Horgan expresses his dissatisfaction with what is happening at the terminal stage of the post-primary examinations but he is not keen on the council having a function in the matter. I agree with him in relation to that. I believe that it can be remedied and it is not beyond the resources of the Department of Education to do that. That Minister is given in the Bill full power with regard to the designation of the institutions. As its purpose is the promotion of technological education, commercial education and so forth, I do not consider that there is any need to worry about its misuse and its being fathered on institutions that would in some way work against the purpose of the council and this Bill.

Mr. E. Collins: We are agreed about one thing. The present university bias in the terminal examination at second level [993] has the total disagreement of the spokesmen here. I do not believe it is the intention of the NCEA to go into the question of the leaving certificate or the examination at the terminal position in second level education. If the Minister intends to allow the NCEA to give some awards in respect of examinations at the end of second level I would like him to say so.

Mr. Wilson: It is not.

Mr. E. Collins: It was my understanding also, that this Bill is merely concerned with technological and third level non-university education. It was simply to make that doubly clear that I put in the words “of higher education”. I will not push the amendment. I fully appreciate that the Minister or any Minister is not out to abuse the system. I put down the amendment to make it crystal clear that the NCEA are confined to involvement in education after school life. In view of what the Minister has said I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

Mr. Wilson: I move amendment No. 5:

In page 2, subsection (1), between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following new definition:

“ ‘staff’ means academic staff or administrative staff;”.

This definition become necessary by reason of amendments which I will be moving to section 5 providing for possible representation on the council of the staff of certain institutions. It is necessary then to have a definition “of staff” in the definition section.

Mr. E. Collins: Could the Minister clarify what he is referring to in section 5?

Mr. Wilson: Amendment No. 36.

Mr. E. Collins: I am not too happy about the concept in amendment No. 36 in the context of this definition amendment [994] here. I would have thought that the members of the staff referred to would be members of the academic staff. I did not think the Minister was suggesting that administrative staff would be represented unless referring to principals of colleges. I am not quite clear what the Minister intends.

Mr. Horgan: While I think I see what the Minister is at, I do not know if it goes far enough. We are in somewhat of a difficulty here in that we are discussing a definition that relates to a later section in which there are other problems and on which we shall be putting down amendments when the time comes. The Minister's amendment extends, I presume for the purpose of avoiding ambiguity, the definition of staff to include professional teaching and professional administrative staff. The main difficulty with one aspect of section 5 relates more to the exclusion of management and specifically to regional technical colleges in subsection (2). I suppose we can leave that argument until we get to it. So far as the Minister's amendment is for the purpose of clarification it does not seem to me to present any major difficulty.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Mr. Horgan: There is one fundamental omission that we need to thrash out in order to get some indication of the Minister's mind on an important issue relating to the development of technological education, namely, the omission of any reference to the Dublin vocational education colleges that are carrying out third-level work at present. If it is the case, as the Minister has assured us, that it is his intention that all non-university qualifications should effectively be validated by the NCEA, what will happen henceforth to the students of the Dublin VEC colleges who are at the moment grouped within an organisation and institution known as the Dublin Institute of Technology? What is the Minister's attitude to this institution? Does he accept that it exists in a valid way? Will he propose at a later stage to designate it under the Bill when [995] it becomes an Act? What will happen in the interim to the students who are currently receiving qualifications from these institutions? Will they continue to be NCEA-validated qualifications even though the institutions at which they are studying have not been designated under this section?

Mr. E. Collins: The position with regard to the Dublin Institute of Technology has not been clarified in the Bill and that is most unfortunate. The Minister had the opportunity of designating the institutions as regional technical colleges or making special reference to them under section 1 but he has failed to do so. He has also failed to resolve the position in relation to awards. He has not told us what is the position vis-à-vis the NCEA. We are entitled to an explanation of the Minister's intentions in this matter. I ask him to make a statement clarifying the matter.

Mr. Wilson: I wish to draw the attention of the House to the powers conferred in section 20 which enable the Minister at any time to designate an institution, so that the institutions named, either specifically or generally, between (a) and (d) of section 1 are not exclusive of others. The regional technical colleges are done generally and under (f) there is reference to any institution specified in an order made under section 20. Deputy Collins stated that the Dublin colleges could have been designated as RTCs. I wonder if the Deputy knows if the City of Dublin VEC desire RTC status. I am not aware that they do. There are powers and facilities under this Bill for the colleges to apply for validation of courses if they so wish. Needless to say, the NCEA are in a position to assess and make awards in those colleges. Related to this, there is also the NIHE, Dublin, which is mentioned and which will have its awards made by the NCEA.

Mr. E. Collins: I am not aware that the City of Dublin VEC wish to have their colleges designated as regional technical colleges. I do not have to be aware of that when discussing a Bill [996] dealing with general education. I am aware of the difficulty arising between the Minister and the City of Dublin VEC with regard to the transfer of third level courses to NIHE, Dublin. The position has not been resolved; indeed, it has been exacerbated by recent statements. Leaving those matters aside, I am entitled to pose the question what will happen to the colleges in Dublin. In this Bill the Minister has not taken the opportunity to clarify the position. It is an important aspect in relation to the greater Dublin area.

Mr. Horgan: We have an extraordinary situation here in that in this Bill we are designating the National Institute for Higher Education, Dublin, which to the best of my knowledge has not got a single student to its name, and we are not talking at all about the VEC colleges that have a huge number of students at third level, some of whose qualifications are apparently being validated by the NCEA and some of which are not being validated. It is all very well for the Minister to refer us to section 20 and his power to designate the institutions, either severally or individually, at any time in the future if he so chooses. But this is not a mere administrative convenience. What we are talking about here is a matter that is fundamental and germane to the whole development of techological education in the country, and more especially in the capital. I do not think it is good enough that the Minister should keep us totally in the dark as regards his intentions in relation to these colleges and their courses as presently constituted.

In reply to questions at Question Time some time ago, the Minister gave it as his intention that all third level courses which are currently being conducted in the Dublin VEC colleges would eventually be validated by the NCEA. Could he explain what this means in terms of designation of these colleges? What does it mean for the future of the Dublin Institute of Technology?

Mr. Wilson: May I have the exact quotation of my reply?

[997] Mr. Horgan: I am not in a position to supply the exact quotation, but as it was delivered in response to a supplementary to Deputy E. Collins, he might be in a better position to give the exact reference.

Mr. E. Collins: I do not have the reference but it was made quite clear that the NCEA would validate all third level courses on offer by colleges under the City of Dublin VEC and there was an article on it in The Irish Times the following day. The Minister must be aware of his own contribution.

An Ceann Comhairle: I would remind Deputies that we are on the definition section. These matters might be more appropriately raised on other sections.

Mr. E. Collins: With respect, Sir, we are simply querying the absence of the inclusion of Dublin colleges. This is an omission as far as we are concerned.

Mr. Wilson: Deputy E. Collins said there was some difference between me and the Dublin city colleges. There is no such difference. The purpose of this Bill is to provide an assessing and award making council in the third level non-university section. The ulterior purpose is to promote technological and allied education and the Dublin city colleges are involved in that task. There is not, and there cannot be, any conflict between the activities of NIHE Dublin and the work of the Dublin colleges because they are working to the same purpose, for the same objective. They are trying to provide places for students because there is very heavy pressure for places, which are far too few. Consequently, I refute the suggestion that there can be any conflict of interest seeing there is such a high demand. This Bill, with the council, NIHE Dublin, the new institution, and the colleges of the City of Dublin are working for the advancement of technological education.

Mr. E. Collins: Why was reference not made in this Bill to the Dublin Institute of Technology?

Mr. Wilson: I do not think the Dublin [998] Institute of Technology was in existence when the draft heads were put together.

Mr. E. Collins: It is in existence now and was in existence before this Bill was printed.

Mr. Horgan: The Minister may have missed the point being made on this side of the House. We are not alleging any conflict of interest.

Mr. Wilson: Deputy Collins was.

Mr. Horgan: I do not necessarily allege any conflict of interest between the DIT and NIHE Dublin.

Mr. E. Collins: I never alleged any conflict of interest; I alleged division in regard to what should be done in relation to the colleges as between the Minister and the VEC——

Mr. Wilson: There is no such division.

Mr. E. Collins: There is.

Mr. Wilson: It is subjective, not objective.

Mr. Horgan: In relation to what the Minister said, I am sure he will agree that we are really talking here about Hamlet without the prince, if we are talking about an NCEA Bill and designating institutions while totally ignoring, for some politic reason or other, the largest single group of colleges which, are providing awards—awards which, perhaps, this council is going to designate. When I referred, purely from memory, to something I understood the Minister to have said in reply to a supplementary question at Question Time, the Minister asked for the source and I was not able to provide it. But that is a fact and we want to know the Minister's intention on the matter. Is it his intention, as I originally understood it to have been, that the NCEA will validate the greater part of third level awards currently being awarded by the Dublin VEC colleges? If it is, what does he propose to do about designation of the colleges concerned under sections 1 and 20? If it is not, what is the alternative structure and schema he has in mind?

[999] Mr. Wilson: If, in the morning, Bolton Street or Kevin Street asked to be designated under section 20, the answer would be immediate and prompt, and it would be yes. The NCEA would be asked to do the assessing and awarding of certificates, diplomas and degrees, where relevant. As the Ceann Comhairle mentioned, this is the definition section and we will be dealing with this point under section 3. I am recommending section 1 to the House.

Mr. E. Collins: The Minister has introduced a new element and I would like to query it. He said “If Kevin Street or Bolton Street asked to be designated”. There is no reference to a request for a designation under section 20, but the Minister may so designate. The phrase “asked to be designated” should be clarified.

Mr. Wilson: Would the Deputy recommend imposition without request? Would he rather a ukase from the Minister?

Mr. E. Collins: In the context of the Minister's desire to have all non-university education come under the auspices of the NCEA, the position would seem anomalous if he is not the initiator of designation.

Mr. Wilson: No award will be given until the course is assessed. For the course to be assessed by the council, the initiative will have to come from within the institution.

Mr. E. Collins: If Bolton Street did not submit a course for assessment to the NCEA but submitted it to Trinity College or University College, would that be satisfactory? Is it intended that this choice will remain?

Mr. Wilson: This comes under section 3.

Mr. Horgan: We need to be clear about this. Is the Minister telling us that he will not designate under section 1 (f), for example, any component part of the Dublin Institute of Technology without its consent?

[1000] Mr. Wilson: He is not saying what he will or will not do, but he will use section 20 when appropriate in relation to a technological institute.

Mr. Horgan: Did the Minister not chide Deputy Collins with suggesting that the Minister should impose a ukase and compulsorily designate certain colleges? Is he not now ruling out that course of action for himself?

Mr. Wilson: I do not believe that in the educational process any good purpose is served by dictating to people, and neither does the Deputy. He cannot have it both ways.

Mr. E. Collins: For instance, if the College of Technology in Bolton Street decide not to seek assessment of courses or not to seek designation under section 20 or in relation to section 1 (f), can I take it that the Minister will not be interested in so designating that college and that the college can continue to seek recognition for courses outside the NCEA and within the realm of the universities, as some of them have being doing?

Mr. Wilson: There will be no interference with existing colleges.

Mr. E. Collins: So they can continue to get recognition from universities?

Mr. Wilson: There is nothing in the Bill to prevent it.

Mr. E. Collins: Can a college choose to have some of its courses accepted by the NCEA and some by, for instance, Trinity? Can they continue or, if an institution is designated, must it have all its courses validated by the NCEA?

Mr. Wilson: There is nothing in the Bill to prevent courses being validated otherwise.

Mr. Horgan: It should go out from the House, on foot of this interesting discussion, that the fact that an institution [1001] is not designated under any of the paragraphs here, does not mean it can subsequently be designated with or without the Minister's consent.

Mr. Wilson: That is correct.

Mr. Horgan: Clarification of that has been a useful exercise. I had a problem during the Second Stage debate and perhaps the Minister has thought about it since. I have not framed a specific amendment. It is a question of the NCEA being given power to designate individual courses in institutions which have not been designated by the Minister under the Act. I raised the question of the Ecumenical College at Milltown which has had one of its courses validated by the NCEA but which presumably considers it would be unwise to apply for total recognition. Has the Minister addressed himself to this question?

Mr. Wilson: The procedure is simple. There is no problem. The Minister has the power to designate under section 20 and this enables the NCEA to assess and to award. Specifically, in the case the Deputy mentioned this procedure can apply.

Mr. E. Collins: Therefore a college course or portion of a course would be validated by the NCEA?

Mr. Wilson: That is right. The NCEA will have to assess the courses submitted to them.

Question put and agreed to.


An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 7 is related to No. 6.

Mr. E. Collins: I move amendment No. 6:

In page 3, subsection (2), line 5, after “acquire” to insert “, lease, rent”.

The word “acquire” seems to me to mean to buy, purchase or hold title to. [1002] My amendment would simply be giving the council power to lease and to rent.

Mr. Wilson: In regard to No. 6, I am advised by the draftsman that the wording used is standard, that it is often to be seen in the Statute Book. The word “acquire” carries the meaning of acquiring an interest in, a leasing interest or a renting interest. Consequently an amendment is unnecessary because the word “hold” in amendment No. 7 would cover the point. The subsection would then provide power to acquire, hold and dispose of land, and that would make assurance doubly sure in regard to the word that is worrying Deputy Collins.

Mr. E. Collins: For that reason I am happy to withdraw amendment No. 6.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Wilson: I move amendment No. 7:

In page 3, subsection (2), to insert “,hold” before “and” in line 6.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.


Mr. Horgan: I move amendment No. 8:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 11, after “technological” to insert “, art, design,”.

An Ceann Comhairle: Amendment No. 11 is an alternative; amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 12 are related; amendments 10 and 26 are cognate and amendments Nos. 11 and 27 are cognate, and No. 25 is related. Therefore, amendments Nos. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 25, 26 and 27 may be discussed together.

Mr. Horgan: Amendment No. 8 seeks to deal with a problem in a section like this in Bills like this in the matter of the specific powers and provisions enumerated at a certain level, and one could argue that in this section we [1003] should include everything the NCEA may address themselves to at any stage in the distant future. One could also argue that the simplest thing to do is to insert a portmanteau provision saying the council may interest itself and facilitate, promote, co-ordinate and develop anything it likes. This section as originally drafted is a compromise between those two positions.

The amendments we are discussing are related to the argument we had on Second Stage and, in particular, to the position of the National College of Art and Design. Amendment No. 8 relates to the need to make specific provisions for art and design. Amendment No. 10 substitutes the word “business” for the word “commercial”. We do not need to have a long argument about this. I am not prepared to press the point if the Minister, when he replies, will advert to it and give an indication of his reasons for preferring the original wording.

In relation to the question of art and design I am glad that the Minister has met the spirit and the letter of the criticisms made of the Bill on Second Stage by advancing his own amendment in relation to this specific area of the council's activities. I will have no problem in withdrawing my amendment No. 8 in favour of the Minister's amendment No. 11.

Mr. E. Collins: In putting down amendments Nos. 9 and 25 I felt that the subsection needed to be more comprehensive. I do not like the word “commerce”. It is out of date in its own context and I am advised that modern usage would be something along the lines of “commercial education” and “business and management studies”. The question of philosophical studies was raised by Deputy Horgan. In regard to agriculture and fisheries this is an area in which the council would be interested and I would like it to be specified that they have a function in this field lest some other body might try to use their muscle to keep them out.

The question of catering covers such areas as Cathal Brugha Street and so on but it should also be specified. Legal [1004] studies is an interesting area in which the NCEA could have an important part to play in coming years. Public administration is a course which is provided and yet it is not specified. I have included art and design in line with what I said on Second Stage.

“Complementary studies” is a more up to date rendering of the words “liberal education”. I included an important item which relates to apprenticeship courses. I will deal with this question in view of the fact that my amendment No. 29 has been ruled out of order. Obviously the Ceann Comhairle has his reasons for doing so; it may have involved potential charges on revenue. That is fully understandable and I have no quibble with it. There is a need for a recognition of apprenticeship courses in Ireland. The London City of Guilds which has been a traditional supplier of awards in technology is being phased out of the Irish scene. There is a need for a national awards system for apprentices. There is no reason why we should have to call on anybody outside the State to grant awards to apprentices when the NCEA are being set up on a statutory basis. The making of such awards would fall to them as part of their activities.

My observations on this matter are allied to my concern and reservations in relation to the AnCO apprenticeship courses which are currently in force. The courses provided do not meet the educational needs of young people. They may have direct relevance to the needs of employers. That must be kept in mind but there is serious need to protect the educational needs of apprentices. The courses directed by AnCO are not satisfactory from an educational point of view. The NCEA are an ideal vehicle through which to ensure the educational content of such courses.

I should like the Minister to consider specifying apprenticeship courses. He could bring in his own amendment. I would have no quibble with that. I am asking him to say now: “Yes, the NCEA are the vehicle to make awards to plumbers, bricklayers and so on, on completion of their courses”. Why should they not have certificates? The certificates should be such as to be applicable [1005] both nationally and internationally as is intended in the Bill. We should not be dependant on foreign bodies to award certificates and diplomas. We have our own statutory body to do so. It is a serious matter and I would like the Minister to make a statement on it in a positive way.

In relation to amendment No. 9 “.... and shall promote and encourage the availability of recurrent education”, I am suggesting that the NCEA would have an interest in the question of recurrent education until such time as we have a Bill which would establish a council for adult education which would take over this function. I put down this amendment as a holding amendment.

In relation to amendment No. 25, I am deleting on page 4, lines 18 and 19, the words “relating to technical, industrial, scientific, technological or commercial education”. I do not see why they should be specified. It would be much cleaner if it read “for the furtherance of higher education outside the universities”. It makes the functions of the council open-ended rather than getting involved in specifying certain areas.

I am pleased that the Minister has decided to include in his amendment the words “and education in art or design”. This is a reaction to a deeply-held conviction especially among those involved in the NCAD that the omission of their role in the non-university sector was regrettable to say the least. The wording proposed both by Deputy Horgan and by the Minister meets the point but I prefer my amendment because it is comprehensive. It was tabled after consultation with a number of people involved in various colleges and institutions who were offering these types of courses which they would like to have specified in order to ensure that this legislation would apply to them. More than anything else I would ask the Minister to consider the question of the recognition of apprenticeship courses with a view to allowing the NCEA to devise a system of awards in that area.

Mr. Wilson: Regarding the detailed amendment proposed by Deputy Collins [1006] I would draw the attention of the House to the two amendments in my name which I think meet the points of the Deputy's amendment. Deputy Collins has said that there is serious need to protect the educational content of our apprenticeship courses. I would accept that and that there is a certain onus on me as Minister and on the Department regarding the direct content, though philosophically it is difficult sometimes to distinguish between what is referred to as education and what is referred to as training. In some instances at least there is developing a false kind of distinction. This is encouraged by certain thinking in the EEC.

Deputy Collins suggested that we should not depend on foreign bodies such as the City and Guilds. At no time were they involved in the whole spectrum of apprenticeship courses. They were involved only in specific areas but in many instances they will be replaced by the NCEA.

On the question of art and design I may have said at Second Stage that when we were putting the draft heads together there was no indication that the NCAD wished to be a designated institution. We thought that it would have been proper to so designate it and we so argued, putting the points before the board. Our thinking was strengthened by the need for the reorganisation of art education and the linking of the national college with other colleges providing art education. The NCEA which should have a national role seem to be the ideal vehicle for the rationalisation, reorganisation and co-ordination of art studies in the regional technical colleges, for instance, and in any other colleges operating at that level.

The NCEA are involved in the apprenticeship field in so far as they are providing courses say, at certificate level, which provide for apprentices. I do not think either that the national council should have any specific role regarding the input of education except in terms of their role of assisting courses in the various institutions but, as I said at the outset, the Department and I have an obligation to ensure that the specifically educational part of the apprenticeship [1007] courses is adequate and suitable. Educationalists maintain that this is becoming more important daily because of the well-known speed at which technology is developing. What the young citizen is left with is the solid basis of education when a change in training, a change in role is demanded. I am fully conscious of this and, consequently, I have no intention of being remiss in my duty in this area.

Mr. Horgan I should like to refer in more detail to amendment No. 12 in the name of the Minister which proposes to delete the words “in association with the aforesaid education”. This seems to be related in some sense to amendment No. 20 in the name of both the Minister and me. Earlier in this discussion the two points emphasised by the Minister were that the Bill is for the purpose, first, of giving statutory recognition to the NCEA and, secondly, of providing for an improvement and for the further development of technological education. He is now proposing an amendment to the effect that the functions of the council shall be generally to encourage, facilitate, promote and develop as proposed and to encourage and promote liberal education regardless of whether such education is associated with any of the other sectors or educational activities described earlier in the subsection.

I am wondering whether the Minister is consciously widening the scope of the Bill by this amendment. What precisely does he understand by “liberal education”, a phrase that is used so often that I suspect it may mean something different to different people? In relation to this amendment is the function of the NCEA to be more limited in regard to liberal education by the fact that in relation to liberal education they are only to encourage and promote whereas with all the other forms of education, they are not only to encourage and promote but to facilitate, co-ordinate and develop? Perhaps the Minister would expound somewhat on amendment No. 12 in terms of the actual effect he would anticipate it having on the workings and on the priorities of the council.

[1008] Mr. Wilson: I have not moved amendment No. 12 yet.

An Ceann Comhairle: It may be discussed with the amendment that has been moved.

Mr. Horgan: I should be happy to dispose of the discussion on it at this point.

An Ceann Comhairle: We will be disposing of the amendments in numerical order but there will be no further debate on them when we reach them.

Mr. Wilson: Earlier in the discussion Deputy Horgan touched on the case we were trying to cover when, at Second Stage, he mentioned specifically the School of Ecumenics. Under the original wordings, it was felt that we would have to install machinery in the School of Ecumenics and have the rattling of the mills of God. The amendment was tabled in order to free such courses from the necessity of being in association with the purely technological or commercial.

The Bill is designed for action in the technological field and I hope the council will resist any take-off in, say, a purely liberal arts college context. However, there are worthwhile areas to be covered in the assessment, validating and awarding field, such as the one mentioned by the Deputy, and it was thought that the wording should be sufficiently flexible to cover them.

Mr. Horgan: I am glad that the Minister has clarified the purpose of this amendment in this way because it was a problem which occured to me as one which would need to dealt with differently in the Bill. I have no hesitation in welcoming the Minister's explicit reference to the fact that validation by the NCEA of a course of the School of Ecumenics will not be threatened by the passage of this Bill. In passing, it might be noted that not only are the mills of God involved but that when William Blake referred in his famous poem to the dark satanic mills he was not referring to the industrial development of his time but to the churches of his time. Whether or not that would be regarded as technology, I do not know. [1009] The other interesting point we have had from the Minister this afternoon is his explicit desire that this should not be regarded as a take-off point for hosts of institutions and organisations of every kind, some of dubious worth, looking to the NCEA to validate their courses. The Minister will agree that it is difficult to make an exception in the Bill for an institution, however worthy, such as the School of Ecumenics, without at least opening the NCEA to pressure from other liberal arts institutions to follow the same path. In the last analysis we shall have to leave it to the good sense of the NCEA to decide on the appropriate balance of regulations and validations. Ultimately, it will also be up to the Minister of the day to decide in terms of designations because I presume that the NCEA will not be allowed to validate institutions and courses which the Minister has not designated. Effectively, it will be a double check on the activities of the council in this regard.

Mr. E. Collins: It is important that what the council validate has national, international, or regional implications and that courses would not be validated for the sake of being validated, which would be an abuse of the Bill.

In regard to apprenticeship courses, it is a fact that the City and Guilds are phasing out their awards. A great number of teachers in the technical sector hold qualifications from the City and Guilds and they are of excellent standing. I was not reflecting on the holders of City and Guilds awards but was simply saying that the phasing out of these awards created a vacuum. The Department award technical certificates which are also of good standing. These awards should now be transferred to the NCEA.

In view of the fact that amendment No. 29 has been ruled out of order, I wish to retain the right to move an amendment relating apprenticeship courses even if it means moving amendment No. 9 again on Report Stage to emphasise the need for the recognition of apprenticeship courses.

Mr. Horgan: I should like to draw the attention of the House to one possible [1010] anomaly, that is, that if a liberal arts institution is enabled by virtue of the passage of the Minister's amendment No. 12 to apply for designation by the Minister and apply for fresh or continued validation of its courses by the NCEA, and if such an institution happened to be the School of Ecumenics, there would be an anomaly in that as things stand at present it would be the only institution to be designated which is not in receipt of any public funds. While I would not be so uncouth to ask the Minister for a commitment——

Mr. Wilson: The Deputy would not get one.

Mr. Horgan: I have been long enough in this House to know that I would not get a commitment from the Minister in a matter of that kind. In relation to the question of designation, would he look sympathetically to the possibility of even partial funding by way of grant aid to this institution at some time in the future?

Mr. Wilson: Where we have technical education at third level and where the courses are accepted for certificate and diploma awards, that is, technician and higher technician courses, the NCEA have a role, as Deputy Collins knows.

With regard to the final statement of Deputy Horgan, I want to tell him that it is the Goddess Pallas Athena and not Mammom that presides over this Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Ceann Comhairle: Would Deputy E. Collins formally move amendment No. 9 which has already been debated.

Mr. E. Collins: I wish to resubmit this amendment on Report Stage.

An Ceann Comhairle: Then it is not moved for the moment.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 not moved.

Mr. Wilson: I move amendment No. 11:

In page 3, subsection (1), to insert [1011] “, and education in art or design,” before “provided” in line 11.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Wilson: I move amendment No. 12:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 13, to delete “in association with the aforesaid education”.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Horgan: I move amendment No.13:

In page 3, subsection (2), lines 15 and 16, to delete “Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section”.

This is an important amendment because it relates to the purpose of the Bill and to the way in which we draft legislation generally. It is quite in order to set out in general terms in a section or subsection of a Bill what the functions of an organisation like the NCEA should be. The normal practice then, unless I am very much mistaken, is to further provide that the specific way in which they will implement these general purposes is along certain lines. In section 3 as drafted there is a general overall subsection relating to the functions of the council. One would have expected that section 2 would read as follows: “In pursuance of the functions enumerated in subsection (1) the Council may....” The formulation used is very much broader and states as follows: “Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) of this section, the Council may....” I doubt that I am wrong in assuming the phrase “Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1)” means that the activities which are conferred on the council in the remainder of the section are not exclusive and that the council may do anything they like as long as it can be brought under the general umbrella of subsection (1), regardless of whether it has been specifically referred to in subsection (2). The whole purpose of specific references in subsection (2) is that people will be clear as to the specific ways in which the council will be carrying [1012] out their functions. If people are not clear about this, they will be very much in the dark. They will be open to iniatives by the council, of which they may have no prior knowledge or warning and which will make their own planning and course construction that much more difficult.

My amendment, while not at all weakening the council, makes it quite clear that the council's functions are specific and establishes the appropriate relationship between the general subsection about the functions of the council and the more detailed subsection in relation to their activities.

Mr. Wilson: I do not share Deputy Horgan's view as to the effect of subsection (2). Subsection (1) sets out the general functions of the council and subsection (2) particularises them. It is important that the words should be included lest subsections (1) and (2) be thought of as operating independently. We do not want any clash between the general functions referred to in subsection (1) and the particular functions referred to in subsection (2) and the formula “without prejudice to the generality” is the best way to see to it. The mothers of some animals eat their young and here there might be a question of the young eating the mother if there were not the coverage of this part which Deputy Horgan wants to excise. Subsection (2) emphasises the functions as set out in subsection (1). If the words were omitted there would be difficulty of interpretation and it could be read as ousting subsection (1).

Mr. Horgan: I accept part of the Minister's argument. If the words were omitted and nothing else substituted there might arise some risk that the two subsections would appear to act independently. It is no part of my desire that the two subsections should act, be seen to act or be open to the interpretation of acting independently, much less that they should act in conflict with each other. As it is worded at the moment, there is a distinct danger that under subsection (1) the council may act independently without relation to subsection (2). I believe it was probably the intention [1013] of the draftsman to ensure that subsection (2) flowed from subsection (1), was related to it and dependent on it. However, the words “without prejudice to the generality” seem to give carte blanche to the council under subsection (1). While I am disposed to withdraw the amendment as it stands, it would be in order on Report State to re-insert a form of words which would make clear the nature of the dependent relationship between subsection (1) and subsection (2).

An Ceann Comhairle: I take it that subject to re-submitting it, the Deputy is withdrawing the amendment.

Mr. Horgan: Yes. The re-submission may not be in exactly the same form.

An Ceann Comhairle: It may be in a revised form.

Mr. Horgan: Yes.

Mr. Wilson: We do not want subsection (1) to be grounded by subsection (2), to use an aviation term.

Mr. Horgan: It is important that it should be.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. E. Collins: I move amendment No. 14:

In page 3, subsection (2), line 17, after “give” to insert “primary, higher and honorary”.

The intention is to make it clear that the council would have the power to give primary, higher and honorary degrees. The last line of amendment No. 15 which is to be moved by the Minister states that a programme of research may be carried out under the aegis of the council and perhaps it is intended that higher degrees may be awarded. The question of honorary degrees has not been clarified.

Mr. Wilson: The word “degrees” is used without clarification. It does not exclude higher degrees, provided certain other conditions are satisfied. If other [1014] conditions can be satisfied within the terms of the Bill, I cannot see that it would exclude honorary degrees. Amendment No. 15 in my name makes provision for awards for prescribed programmes of research and that, together with the word “degrees”, covers what the Deputy is looking for.

Mr. E. Collins: Will the Minister accept that it might be wiser to specify that the council are empowered to award primary, higher and honorary degrees, lest at some future date some oddball might challenge the right of the council to award an honorary or a higher degree? The word “degrees” seems to say primary degrees. It might be wise in the context of parliamentary draftsmanship to specify the council's right simply to avoid any confusion that might arise at a future date. What I am proposing in the amendment is reasonable and necessary to protect the council in awarding degrees.

Mr. Wilson: Initially, the council will be mainly involved with primary degrees. In fact, certificates, diplomas and degrees in the technological field are the prime business of the council. I am satisfied that the subsection will allow the council to award higher degrees. The council will not be involved to any great extent with honorary degrees but provided certain conditions are met I cannot see how they may not be able to award honorary degrees as well.

Mr. E. Collins: From the way the Minister spoke I gather that he has a slight doubt about the clarity of the wording of this subsection. I would impress upon the Minister the need to have a look at this in order to protect the council. Perhaps the Minister will reflect on it and will table an amendment for Report Stage. I am satisfied to withdraw my amendment at this stage, reserving the right to re-enter it on Report Stage either in its present form or in a revised form, if that is acceptable to the Ceann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle: Does the Deputy make the proviso that if the Minister does not——

[1015] Mr. E. Collins: I would like the Minister in the interests of clarity and in the interests of protecting the council to have a look at this aspect and perhaps put down an amendment for Report Stage. If the Minister does that I will accede to his amendment but either way I am satisfied to withdraw my amendment if I can re-enter it either in its present form or in a revised form on Report Stage.

Mr. Wilson: Amendment No. 15 seems to satisfy the substance of the Deputy's amendment. The Deputy adverted to the words “programme of research” in the second last line of the amendment, and this covers the type of degree he refers to as a higher degree. The word “degree” is not hedged in in the actual Bill; there is plenty of latitude in the word. To make assurance doubly sure amendment No. 15 talks about awards to persons who have carried out a prescribed programme of research.

Mr. E. Collins: I do not wish to be contentious in this matter. In line 17 of section 3 the word “degrees” is used but the word “diplomas” and the word “certificates” are also used. If we wanted to be silly about the thing we could equally interpret the position so as to have ordinary diplomas, higher diplomas and honorary diplomas or ordinary certificates, higher certificates and honorary certificates. Obviously, that it not meant in the ordinary usage of the words. We may award a diploma with distinction or a certificate with distinction but it is not intended to have higher diplomas or certificates. In that context the word “degrees” is not as clear as I would like it to be. I am merely seeking to protect the council in a statutory form by having the matter clarified. The words used in amendment No. 15 to which the Minister referred are not strong enough and do not make the case clear enough.

Mr. Wilson: I take the Deputy's point about the ordinary meaning of words and so on but in the very same context when one talks of a programme of research one is usually not talking about primary degree level. The very same [1016] kind of understanding of what one is at obtains there. The words quite clearly refer to the award of a higher degree.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is amendment No. 14 withdrawn?

Mr. E. Collins: I explained to the Ceann Comhairle just before the Leas-Cheann Comhairle came in that I was asking the Minister to reconsider his attitude. If the Minister introduces an amendment I will accede to it, otherwise I withdraw my amendment reserving the right to re-enter it on Report Stage either in its present form or in a revised form.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Fair enough.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Amendments Nos. 16, 17 and 18 are related to amendment No. 15 and may be discussed together.

Mr. Wilson: I move amendment No. 15:

In page 3, subsection (2) (a), lines 19 to 32, to delete sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) and substitute the following:

“(i) (I) the Council is satisfied have attended or otherwise pursued or followed courses of study or instruction conducted by, or provided under the supervision of, an institution to which this Act applies and which are courses which for the time being stand approved of by the Council, and (II) have either—

(A) attained a standard regarded by the Council as satisfactory in examinations or other tests of knowledge or ability which are either prescribed or set by the Council or for the time being stand so approved of and relate to such courses, or

(B) performed in a manner regarded by the Council as satisfactory other exercises which both so relate and for the time being stand so approved of,

[1017] or

(ii) have either attained a standard regarded by the Council as satisfactory in examinations or other tests of knowledge or ability or have performed other exercises in a manner regarded by the Council as satisfactory and who have carried out, under the supervision of an institution to which this Act applies, and in a manner regarded as satisfactory by the Council, a programme of research approved of by the Council,”.

Various representations were made to me in relation to this subsection and for the purpose of clarifying the points and ensuring that there will be no doubts at all as to the provision in the section, I decided to recast the section. In subsection (2) (II) (A) I am providing that the council may confer educational awards on persons who have carried out prescribed programmes of research. In the context of higher studies it is clear, generally, that a programme of research resulting in an award is in the field of higher degrees.

Mr. E. Collins: I want to say at the outset that I object to the powers being given in this Bill to the council to set their own examinations. I put down an amendment to delete the words “set by the Council or”. So did Deputy Horgan. I firmly believe the concept of the NCEA was that of a validating body. In that role they must be independent of examinations being set. Their powers must be seen quite clearly to be validating. In the context of the original Bill and the Minister's amendment they have power to set examinations. That is not acceptable to me or to a number of people directly involved in the technological sector and directly involved in the regional and technological colleges.

This is one basic point on which I received a number of representations from different people serving in different capacities in the technological sector. We are quite firmly convinced that the council should not have power to set examinations. They must have the power to validate and, in that context, they must assess courses, monitor standards and ensure that a financial, technical and [1018] lecturing input is made into the giving of courses at any level, certificate, diploma or degree. They must assess courses minutely, and validations and awards. Giving power to the council to set examinations defeats the objective of the council being a validating body. They should not have the power to set examinations because they would be validating examinations they set themselves.

Traditionally examinations in regional and technical colleges have always been set by the college authorities in consultation with extern examiners. That has been the practice to date. It is also the practice in universities. It ensures that college authorities, college principals and academic staff within the colleges know they have an involvement with their own colleges in standards and in the development of their own courses and the development of the examination structure. To move that out of the colleges is dangerous. It is a move which is designed to reduce the standing of college principals, heads of departments, lecturing staff and academic staff within the colleges. That should not be done. It should not be an objective of this Bill. It should not be part of the Minister's policy for the developing technological sector.

There must be academic freedom within the colleges, and it must be seen. There must be respect for the staff of the colleges. They are concerned about the welfare of the colleges. They are also concerned about changing times and changing needs. In their concern for those matters they must be free to speak with extern examiners of their choice. In that way they will be seen to have responsibility for the destiny of their own courses. In that context, giving the council power to set examinations is a regressive step, a retrograde step. It will cause concern among many people in the technological sector. It will cause concern and disappointment to principals, heads of departments and lecturing staffs.

This aspect of the Bill is unacceptable to me. I will have to call for a division on this amendment although I know I will be defeated in the lobbies. There is an onus on me to make it quite clear that [1019] this part of section 3 is obnoxious in the extreme. It goes against the tremendous work which has been done in the technological colleges by heads of departments, by academic staffs and by principals. Those people have not worked in the context of being paid for setting examinations or to see that standards are maintained. They have not even got a proper management structure within the colleges as the Minister well knows. Here we are taking away power from people who have been seen to be the most concerned people in the whole of the technological sector. I cannot accept that. I will not accept it.

Whoever advised the Minister to allow the council to set or prescribe examinations has seriously ill-advised him. He has been wrongly advised. He is doing damage to many genuine people in the technological sector. The Minister said a programme of research approved of by the council indicates that it may also refer to higher degree diplomas. I want to impress on the Minister that he is not strengthening——

Mr. Wilson: I thought we had moved on from that one.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are dealing with amendments Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18. Amendments No. 15 is before the House but we are discussing the four amendments together.

Mr. E. Collins: I am saying that that reference in the amendment is not strong enough and I would ask the Minister to look more specifically at that matter. I object strenuously to the concept of the council setting their own examinations. That is wrong.

At the beginning of my Second Stage speech I said the Bill was sloppy and badly composed. I said it was the sloppiest Bill to come before the House for quite some time. That is proved by the number of amendments I have seen fit to put down, a number of which are consequential, the number of amendments Deputy Horgan has seen fit to put down, and the Minister's own amendments. They prove that the Bill was hastily conceived, [1020] hastily drafted and hastily presented to the House. That is unfortunate because it is important when bringing a Bill before the House that the policy of the Bill is seen and appreciated. The reason for that is the reluctance of any Minister to accept amendments from the Opposition. There is always an unfortunate reluctance on the part of Ministers to accept amendments, but the fact that the Minister himself has had to introduce so many amendments is a reflection on the quality of this Bill.

The powers being given to the council to set or prescribe examinations is damaging to the whole technological sector and the people involved in it. For the sake of the goodwill which exists within colleges and institutions, I ask the Minister to look again at the powers he is giving the council to accept the input that has been made by the staff of the colleges throughout the country, to understand their feelings about this matter, and to take away from the council this power to set examinations. It is a very damaging power, no matter what goodwill the council may have in the matter of setting examinations. I am not saying that they are going to set bad examinations or poor standards or anything like that. I am not reflecting on what the council will do but I am making it clear that the powers he is giving them are resented deeply by many people I have spoken to who are involved in the technological sector.

Mr. Horgan: The provision in the section which is repeated and extended in ministerial amendment No. 15 which we are now discussing is a major innovation in higher education here. One could make a political point of the fact that the National University of Ireland technically set the examinations for the constituent colleges of that organisation and that the model we are adopting here is to some extent similar. However, that does not really meet the situation. Anybody who knows the reality of the third level education situation in this country will know that there has been a very strong tradition for third level institutions to set their own examinations, subject to whatever corrective action extern examiners or similar [1021] structures may import into such examination system.

It is extraordinary that we should now, in the name of developing, encouraging, facilitating and promoting technological education, allow an organisation to assume, octopus-like, so many powers to itself, and especially now the power of setting examinations. The Minister in proposing this amendment made what was, in effect, a drafted speech. Perhaps it was proper for him not to refer to the substance of the section as repeated in his amendment, and the main substance of the section is the intention to give to the Council the power to set examinations. One might be forgiven for thinking that we have already enough examinations without setting up another institution who will have the power to set examinations. This is not just another institution as such. It is not a teaching institution. One might argue that the National University of Ireland, which has an umbrella function, is a teaching institution, but in no way are the NCEA a teaching institution. Nowhere in section 3 (1) will we find the words, “encourage, facilitate, promote, co-ordinate and develop”, nor do we find the word “provide”. The NCEA are not to be a provider of education although it is proper for them to be a validating institution. There seems to be absolutely no reason why they should be an institution who also set individual examinations.

The Minister may make the point that in relation to second level, for example, the Department of Education set examinations although only in very rare circumstances do they provide directly second level education. Even in second level education there has been a strong and professionally-based reaction against the idea of a centrally-set examination as the most appropriate mechanism in all institutions and at all times to determine an individual pupil's academic attainment. That reaction, which is embodied in the report of the Committee on the Intermediate Certificate Examination, has still not yet found very many or very sympathetic echoes in the corridors of power in Marlborough Street. If this amendment [1022] and the section which it repeats are anything to go by, we have evidence that, if anything, the trend of opinion is the other way and that the Minister and the Department will resist any attempt to remove examinations from centralised institutions or to give individual institutions which provide education any real flexibility and permission to innovate in this area.

It might be argued again that the NCEA power to set examinations might be a useful way of resolving problems in relation to individual institutions, but this is conflict management of the worst kind. It is all very well for the NCEA in conflict with a particular institution to say, for example, “Not only will we not validate your examination because we do not agree with it but we will set up our own examination”. It is a big stick but is meaningless because it would be possible for the NCEA under this amendment to set up examinations, which, because of the conflict with the institution concerned, not even one student would sit for. If this Bill is to mean anything it should be reasonable and confer only reasonable powers on the NCEA.

In introducing this amendment the Minister referred to the fact that he had received many representations in relation to the subject matter of this section. It is plain from his amendment and from his speech that he has not even begun to listen to some of the loudest and most cogent representations which were made on this issue.

I will refer briefly to a number of other matters in relation to this ministerial amendment and perhaps the Minister will reply to them all. First, the amendment reads:

(II) have either—

(A) ...or for the time being stand so approved of and relate to such courses,

It is very important that we should know here whose option is involved. Is it the option of the council or that of the institution concerned? Secondly, at (II) (B) in the amendment there is the interesting phrase “other exercises”. We would be very glad to have more information from [1023] the Minister about the nature of such other exercises. What precisely has he in mind? Is he thinking in terms of practical work or work experience? If this is the case does he have in mind that the exercises should be organised or OK'd in some way by the council or should they be organised or OK'd in some way by the institution which the individual student is attending?

Finally, in relation to the post-graduate element we have discussed already, there is reference, five lines from the bottom of the amendment, to the fact that students shall also have carried out a programme of research approved of by the council. If we are talking here about post graduate degrees based on research and not on students who are being taught and who are doing examinations in relation to the courses they have been taught, the implication of this subsection seems to me to be that if the council is going to approve or validate the award of a post-graduate degree based on research, it would have to approve the programme of study followed by each individual post-graduate student.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

Mr. E. Collins: Are we continuing in the morning?

Mr. Horgan: There is other business before us—the Local Government (Toll Roads) Bill, 1978, and the Agriculture (An Chomhairle Oiliúna Talmhaíochta) Bill, 1978.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Níl a fhios agam.

Mr. Wilson: Perhaps we may with the approval of the Whips. I am anxious to go.