Dáil Éireann - Volume 412 - 07 November, 1991
Regional Technical Colleges Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.
Mr. Blaney Mr. Blaney
Mr. Blaney: Before questions I had begun to speak of my abhorrence of what is contained in this Bill. My thoughts are not as collected as they might be because I was informed very concisely and clearly by the Chief Whip as recently as last Thursday that these Bills would not be dealt with for two or three weeks. I was amazed, with other commitments already in train, to find that debate had already commenced. I have no doubt that I can and will cover all the aspects which disturb me but the chronology and sequence may not be all that they should be.
On looking through the Bill and the explanatory memorandum I note that the lands, properties and buildings, together with liabilities, will be transferred and vested in the new regime which will be a governing body with an academic council, a new animal brought in to be a director. At the same time there is the strange twist that all and any of the transferred property and lands will still be held in trust by the vocational education committee. To what purpose? If they are not fit to hold them as they are at present, why should they be vested in the new body and at the same time held in trust by the body which obviously the Minister does not trust to hold them at present?
There are many anomalies. Perhaps I should challenge the Minister to justify her finding that the present position is unsatisfactory and to tell us before the Bill is passed what benefits the legislation will provide for our student body or for the regions. What does the State hope to gain? There is an obligation on the Minister to answer that challenge, to say what  is wrong with the existing position and to state what additional benefits will accrue from the changes proposed in the Bill. It is unbelievably difficult to understand why the Minister finds this Bill so necessary and urgent that she has introduced it against the background of a promised education Bill, with the need for which nobody disagrees. The measures contained in this Bill form only part of what a comprehensive Bill of this kind should contain. Apart from the Minister or, to be more precise, the Department of Education, who wants this Bill?
This Bill was not the sole idea of the Minister. It was foreshadowed in a Green Paper issued by the previous Minister for Education, Gemma Hussey. That proposal was circulated for consideration at that time but because it did not get a great welcome it was hidden away. However, this Bill has now been thrown hastily into the arena without any reference to a comprehensive education Bill. The measures proposed in this Bill should form part of a comprehensive education Bill and not stand alone.
The Bill provides that the new governing body shall consist of 15 members plus a chairman and director. Apart from the director, all members of the board will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the vocational education committee. However, only six members may be chosen by the vocational education committee. This is the kind of sleight of hand to which I strenuously object. The Minister should not say that the members of the board will be appointed on the recommendation of the vocational education committee if only six members will be appointed on their recommendation. The other members will be designated by various bodies.
The management committee of which I am a member asked both the present Minister for Education and the previous Minister for Education for permission to appoint a representative of the teaching staff of the regional technical college, a representative of the non-teaching staff, of the regional technical college and a member of the student body to their  board. We sought this right for many years. As the Minister knows, the board of management of which I am a member is confined to 12 members. An inspector from the Department, the chief executive officer of the vocational education committee and the principal of the college were designated as members of the board. We sought three additional members in order to have representation — this is what the Bill now proposes — from the various sectors within the college. This Bill is more about words than sense. As I said at the outset, if all the paraphernalia was left out the proposals in this Bill would fit on one page.
Since their inception all colleges have been answerable to the vocational education committees within whose jurisdiction they operate. Despite the Department's lack of appreciation of the work done by them, these colleges have been successful. Will things be different in the future? Will the new governing body receive special treatment which has been denied to management boards over the years? Will they get the money we were refused? Will they be able to build colleges big enough to accommodate all students who want to attend them? I do not think there is anything in the Bill which obliges the Minister, the Department or the Government to provide the wherewithal to the people running these colleges to enable them to do this, no more than there is any obligation on them at present to give sufficient money to these colleges.
The management board of the regional technical college in Letterkenny and the vocational education committee in Donegal town, of which I have been a member for over 20 years, have repeatedly sought — we are not alone in this — permission from the Minister and her Department to engage in meaningful research and development. The Minister has provided in the Bill that research and development, as if it was some new toy she has found, may be carried out subject to what she thinks they should research and develop. That is the way things stand  at present. Since she took up office the Minister has not listened to the requests made by boards of management, such as the management board of the Donogh O'Malley regional technical college in Letterkenny, even when they have submitted details on how research and development can be properly controlled and insured. We got no whimper of encouragement or response to our repeated requests. Yet, like a rabbit out of a hat, the Minister is providing in this Bill for something which has been neglected for many years. It is dishonest to put it that way. The Minister should at least have acknowledged that the restriction imposed on research and development was not the fault of the management boards as presently constituted.
I want to refer to the value of regional colleges to towns such as Galway, Cork, Donegal, Tralee, Carlow and Waterford. If these colleges are located in remote areas they are of more benefit not just to the students who have been attracted to attend them because of the variety of courses they offer but also to the surrounding regions. I was a member of the same Government as Donogh O'Malley and was very friendly with him. I know he intended that regional technical colleges would offer non-academic students and students who cannot attend colleges, because of the high costs, an opportunity to get a third level education in their own regions. He set up these colleges on a regional basis because he knew that by bringing together the expertise of the teaching staff he was providing something that a region such as Donegal could never attain by itself and also ensuring that local communities would be able to avail of developments which would be to their benefit. That was the second great motivation behind the establishment of the colleges by the late Donogh O'Malley.
The Minister is moving away from that concept by centralising the control of these colleges — so much for the lip service paid to decentralisation and the need to restore and enhance the authority of locally elected people. It is a slap in  the face to the local elected councils. They provide you with your vocational education committee, who in turn delegate the functions of management of the Regional Technical Colleges to a management board who have succeeded amazingly well, despite all the difficulties encountered and which have been placed in their way by the very Department that should have been helping them. This is the reverse of decentralisation, the reverse of giving a say to the local elected representatives in operating what is best for them as they know best. Who is to say that a governing body will be appointed by the Minister, not by the vocational education committee? At present the management boards are appointed by the vocational education committee who owe their existence to the elected county councils. No longer will the emphasis necessarily be on local development, even in regard to the prescribing of courses we would seek to provide in our regional colleges, courses with a regional aspect. A speaker earlier referred to various courses which were peculiar to the areas in which the college existed, one being the fisheries course developed over several years which we have established successfully in the regional college in Letterkenny.
This kind of regional need may not be in the minds of the new governing body. In any case the new governing body, despite coming first, will be only second to the academic council in the choice of subjects and courses. The majority of the academic council — no number has been specified — must be drawn from the academic teaching staff of the college in question. There is one other stipulation: one student must be on it. That academic council, as I read this Bill, will by and large, lead the governing body by the nose so far as prescribing courses is concerned and will not necessarily reflect the expertise which has been brought in from all over the place to Letterkenny, They are newcomers, they are not of the community, but they are becoming part of it. Who knows better what suits the community than those directly responsible to  the elected local body, the county council, the vocational education committee and the management board, instead of this high-falutin' nonsense about a governing body, all of whom will be appointed by the Minister on the recommendation of the vocational education committee, who will have no teeth of any kind in the future. They have little at present; but whatever they have done under the provisions of the 1930 Act could have been enhanced by a few small amendments to that Act, leaving the colleges clearly under the control of the vocational education committees, than what that Bill will do.
Total control is going back to Marlborough Street because the colleges are a success. If they were not a success would anybody rush in here with a Bill such as this to have it centralised again? Despite the shortcomings of the professions in the law as a result of the reluctance of several Ministers to amend the law, the colleges have been successful and have served the community better. Does anybody believe that under this Bill things will be better, that our colleges will be more successful and that our local communities will be better and more quickly developed? I believe the reverse. I am sorry to say so, because our colleges are the best thing that have happened educationally in this country in my lifetime. They have been marvellous. It is wonderful to have in a place like Letterkenny the expertise that has been gathered there as a result of the appointment of 70 or 80 highly qualified lecturers who are second to none in any university or institution in this or any other country. We have lecturers in all disciplines and we could not have had that before the advent of the regional technical colleges. This could have been harnessed, but it has been prevented and stultified by the reluctance of the Department to give us a charter for research and development. It will now be done, but only with the consent of the Minister. We never got the consent. Will the governing body get it? Will it be any different next year or the year after if this goes through? Why should we go through with this unless we  are assured that a better job will be done in the future? Not the slightest evidence has been advanced by any advocate, including the Minister, I suggest that the new order of things will be an improvement. I am sure of one thing: that the cost to the taxpayer will increase, but I do not believe the service will improve, in fact I think the reverse will happen.
Under the heading of “functions of colleges” section 5 states:
The principal function of a college shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be to provide vocational and technical education and training for the economic, technological, scientific, commercial, industrial, social and cultural development of the State,...
It is significant that there is no mention of the regions. That, perhaps more than anything else, justifies what I am saying that this will be a loss to the regions rather than a gain.
I turn now to the boards, the academic council and the governing bodies. The most amazing thing is that no Member of the Seanad, the Dáil or the European Parliament may be a member of the governing body. What in the name of heavens has come over the Minister if she thinks there is merit in that? Who does she think she is? Where goes her provision that of the 15 members recommended by the vocational education committee only six may be nominated? But a Senator, a Dáil Deputy, an MEP, or anybody who is over 70 years of age may not be appointed. I wonder what would the old Chinese leaders we heard about a few weeks ago who are aged between 80 and 90, or those in Russia who also live to a great age, think about this new idea at a time when life expectancy is increasing by leaps and bounds due to medical advances. Yet we have a Minister for Education telling us that no MEP, no Member of the Seanad, no Member of the Dáil or anybody over the age of 70 may be a member of this governing body which she will appoint on the recommendation of the vocational education committee; designating for  them in advance where they are to come from. This is the sop that has been given to the vocational education committees. Another way of putting it would be: a kick in the behind with a bedroom slipper. That is what the vocational education committees are getting from this Minister. It is a case of upstairs downstairs.
This Minister is the one Minister who during my time has clearly given the idea that there are two levels in the educational establishment — that the vocational, technical schools are somewhat less than the secondary schools. It now appears that that is being carried into third level where the regional technical colleges, under the jurisdiction of the vocational education committees in the 1930 Act, must now be moved up a few steps. That is one of the motivations — subconscious, no doubt — of the present Minister for Education. The Minister should leave the regional colleges as they are. They are doing a wonderful job. If she moves them they will be neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring and our regions, our students and our country as a whole will be the poorer as a result of the nonsence being perpetrated in this Bill.
I will move on to some of the things that are daunting, if not frightening. Section 10 (3) says:
Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) the academic council shall have the following particular functions—
(a) to design, develop and implement courses of study in accordance with the programmes and budget approved annually under section 13 of this Act and consistent with the functions of the college;
What have the management boards, in association with the principal of the college, the chief executive officer and the top academic staff in the college, been doing over the years? What have they been doing according to the annual review of the National Council of Educational Awards, which goes on smoothly and usefully? The National Council for  Educational Awards is a success story in itself without which the graduates from our colleges would not have the standing they have. It is marvellous that that validation should have happened in a relatively short time and that our regional college graduates are valued across the water and are being sought after. We should praise the system for this, rather than demolish it, and replace it with a nonentity that will finish up with total control by Marlborough Street to the detriment of the colleges. The Minister should leave the management boards as they are and accede to the many requests for enlarged membership of those boards so that we can include as full designated members academic staff, non-teaching staff and students. We have been asking for that for a long time. Although the boards as they are have done a good job, they could do better. We have been prompting the Minister as to how they could do better by enlarging membership to embrace these people. In addition to a representative for the Minister by way of an inspector from the Department, the chief executive officer and the principal, we have a member from the trade union movement and a member from the chambers of commerce. Out of 12 there are five predesignated in our minds. Yet the Minister finds fault with that. The Minister wants to enlarge membership to 17. The Minister would not listen to us for years and now she is designating the very people we said we want to have on the board. Where is the Minister going and to what purpose?
There is another anomaly with regard to the selection board. Many times we have heard purely political mud slinging about appointments being made by non academic selection boards. It has been clearly demonstrated for generations, and certainly over the last 20 years so far as the regional colleges are concerned, that there is nothing wrong with the selections that have been made, people who have made such a marvellous success of the colleges. Nobody should get away with the snide remark to the effect that county councillors or vocational education  committee members would know nothing about the requirements for the appointment of a lecturer or a principal to a third level college. One would think that the people on county councils, and vocational education committees other local bodies, by virtue of the fact that they had been elected, are illiterate, that they know nothing and that one could just as well pick people off the street who have some letters after their names and that they would do a better job. This ignores the fact that many members of county councils and vocational education committees are highly qualified and have great experience in education and in administration. On every board of selection there is a representative from the Department, the chief executive officer and the principal as advisers. How can it be argued that there is justification for change in the system because the appointments are being made by gombeen men who do not know their arse from their elbow? This is the sort of thing we have to listen to. I am tired listening to it. The Minister should not go down that road. A good job has been done cheaply for years by the local representatives, including the TDs, the Senators and more recently the MEPs. In many cases in the country areas they are the only people who can afford the time required to give to the vocational committees, to regional technical college management boards to the selection boards and all that goes with it. Not everybody can afford the time, but elected people have put themselves forward and they do the job, sometimes to their own detriment. I wonder how this new outfit will work without TDs and Senators?
Is the abandonment of the appointment of TDs, Senators, MEPs and over 70s, who are all ga-ga according to this, a cop-out by the Minister, prompted by the Department because the Department would be much more comfortable when meeting a deputation if the TDs accompanying the members of the new governing board had no participation in the running of the college so that they would not know much one way or the  other and could be more easily got around? It must be very difficult for a Minister who is confronted by a deputation that may have waited for a year to be heard and is composed mainly of Deputies, Senators, county councillors and so on who know inside out the case they want to present to the Minister. One would expect that that would be helpful in finding the right solution. However, it looks as though there is a cop out at this stage, an effort to keep away local delegations would know what they are talking about. It seems we are to have people who do not know what they are talking about so that they can be talked down to by the Minister and-or her officials.
That seems to be the only purpose, because all logic tells me and, I am sure, every Member who has served on a local authority, a vocational education committee or any of these bodies, that these people can give more time than people who have to run a farm or a business. These people are available. Why should the new boards, the new governing bodies deny the contribution that Members of this House and the Seanad can make, not to speak of MEPs and the over seventies? I wonder what the Minister, if she is left here long enough, will do when she reaches 70. Will she opt out? Will she cease to be a Minister, cease to be a Deputy or not even try for the Seanad? If one is not fit for a governing body or the local regional technical college, one is certainly not fit to be a Minister, a Deputy, a Senator, or an MEP. Perhaps political euthanasia is coming to the fore.
I challenge the Minister to find out where the fault lies. I challenge her to deny the success that has attended the efforts of those who have given their time — the staff, members of the boards of management and the vocational education committees — over the last 20 years to establish a unique regional technical college system and of the NCEA without whom the reputation of the colleges would not have been enhanced in the estimation of those who employ our  graduates. They are owed a great debt.
What is the view of the National Council for Educational Awards? Has the Minister consulted them as to how they found the management boards they have had to deal with over the years and with whom they carry out annual reviews of the college courses and select courses for the following year? They look minutely at the attainments of graduates and the percentage who graduate from each course in one of our colleges. Did they say to the Minister that she should get rid of those gombeen men, the TDs, the Senators, the MEPs and anybody over 70? I swear they were never consulted in that regard, and if they were that is not the answer they gave. Who would know better? They are the people charged with evaluating the courses, their merit and value of the courses and the input of the courses they have to validate and on which they have done such a great job for over 20 years.
Up to now the vocational education committees have had the power to hire their teaching staff at second level. They do not have the power to fire them; that is reserved for the Minister. What is happening now? There will be a new selection board to be specified later. If some of their selections fall by the wayside, on the recommendation of the governing board, the vocational education committee, with the consent of the Minister, may propose to remove them. We have had two levels up to now with the vocational education committee hiring and recommending to fire. Now we will have the governing body recommending to the vocational education committee who, with the consent of the Minister, they may fire. What nonsense this is. Where are we going?
Nobody knows the problem better than the Minister, not only in the teaching world but in, for example, the State service. Some of the greatest difficulties encountered in regard to personnel is how one can reasonably and justly, get rid of staff who not only are not doing their job but who are, because of the manner in which they do not do their job, upsetting other members of staff and  students. The Minister knows this is a problem. She has discussed it with the unions over the years and, as yet, no answer has been found. Now we will have added one more tier to the pyramid. We will have a governing body and a vocational education committee who have no say in the matter, recommending to the Minister or getting her consent to get rid of somebody. It does not make sense. The Bill does not make sense.
I wonder if this Bill, brought to this House in these troubled and difficult times will receive adequate consideration by Deputies, particularly those of the Government parties, before Committee Stage. If and when there is a Committee Stage, will sufficient time be given or will we have, as it is not unusual, a guillotine motion that everything be put at a certain hour regardless of whether the merits of the amendments have been discussed? The Bill, if the Minister persists with it, will require such a myriad of amendments. It will take a long time to give those amendments a fair hearing and consideration. Will that time be provided for Members? I hope it will because so much needs to be changed that it would be easier to scrap the Bill and go for the 1930 Act. By a few small amendments we could streamline the present system somewhat and remove the strictures and restrictions that are on it. The result would be a better service. Let us not go along with this without an assurance and any evidence that it will improve things. That is perhaps the most important aspect.
I say to the Minister and, through her, to her Department that they should please have another think. Not all knowledge and wisdom in regard to education resides in Marlborough Street. Some of it does, and there is vast experience there. So far as knowledge and wisdom are concerned I suggest that what is good for the regions, the peripheral regions in particular, is known by our elected representatives on the local councils and not by the officials in Marlborough Street who would not attempt to deny that.
These colleges were set up to provide third level education for people who  could never aspire to it because of their circumstances. They were set up to attract those who had an aptitude towards the technological as distinct from the purely academic, but they were also set up to help to develop the regions they were placed in. They were the two aims. I speak from experience; I was there when they were set up, I knew the man who inspired their setting up, who had this great thought which was ultimately brought to fruition. These colleges were set up in an effort to develop the regions and to make third level technical education available there. Those were the two prime reasons and the knowledge we need reposes in the regions, not in Marlborough street.
The oft-preached decentralisation policy of all the parties in this House is being thrown in our face at the moment but this amounts to the centralisation of a very successful venture. In educational terms the colleges are only babes. They could be scarcely called that. They have had only 20 years to grow and mature but in my estimation, despite all their success, they are only beginning. Why should we stunt their growth by changing their foster mother? We should leave them in the arms of those who have nurtured them up to now, who know what is wanted and who have proved by their performance during the past 20 years, that they have the right ideas.
The Minister should give us the wherewithal, which has been denied to the boards and to the vocational education committees, to expand the colleges and to provide accommodation and equipment to help our students and staff. She should give us the authority and the structures so that we can carry out real research and development in an effort to create employment and retain life in the regions. What do they know about it in Marlborough Street and where will we be in 20 years from now if the new order is controlled, like a puppet on a string, from there? Why are they not satisfied with what they have? They should give us the wherewithal to do a better job for them and bask in the success of the regional technical colleges rather than  indicate to all the world, as they appear to be doing in this document, that they have to step in to take control as a bad job is being done? This is totally untrue.
I suggest to the Minister that she should give this Bill a rest, that she should concentrate further on the comprehensive Education Act, 1930, and think of the remedies she could provide us with under that Act so that we can carry out research and development. She should think of providing the few extra million pounds which would make such a difference to each of the colleges which are bursting at the seams. We can provide the places that she is crying out for. We have the students but not the accommodation. As I said, the Minister should give us the wherewithal to expand and continue the undoubted and wonderful success of the 20 years old regional technical colleges which were set up by the late Donogh O'Malley under the then Fianna Fáil Government. He must be turning in his grave and if he knew what was contained in the Bill I would not be surprised if he came up out of it.
Miss Coughlan Miss Coughlan
Miss Coughlan: Coming as I do from the same county it will be difficult for me as a novice to follow the father of the House. However, as the baby of the House I will try to take over from him. The Bills before the House this afternoon, the regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology Bills, will in part put the colleges on a par with and enable them to compete with all the other established third level institutions. When the regional technical colleges were first founded between 1970 and 1977 it was proposed that they would in the main provide post-compulsory technical education mainly in apprentice and technical training and technical leaving certificate courses. The regional technical colleges have fulfilled their role and have evolved over the past two decades to be first rate third level institutions providing certificate, diploma and degree courses. They have developed through encouragement and nurturing by the vocational education committees and they are now  considered by many of them to be the jewel in their crown.
Almost since their foundation the colleges have been arguing for greater autonomy and freedom to become involved in research and development, the thought of which in previous years instilled a fear in the National University of Ireland in that the regional colleges would obtain such autonomy and compete with universities for research and consultancies. The preclusion under the 1930 Act and the regulations made in 1970 to be involved with industry and participate in research and consultancies have at long last been overcome in the Bills before us this afternoon, a movement which I and many other Members of the House most heartily welcome.
There are many other aspects of the colleges Bills which I and County Donegal Vocational Education Committee welcome, namely, developed management functions and responsibility; financial accountability within the colleges; freedom to develop and expand college services and facilities; college responsibility for admissions policy; staff and student representation on governing bodies — as my colleague, Deputy Blaney has said, we in Donegal have been trying to obtain this for years through the board of management of the regional technical college — establishment of academic councils and some links with local democratic structures.
In applauding these developments in the Bills there are some concerns which County Donegal Vocational Education Committee and I must express and which I hope the Minister, when she comes to sum up, may be able to alleviate. If not we might come to some conclusions on Committee Stage. In my county the vocational education committee have played a distinguished and distinctive role in the development of two colleges over a period of 24 years. I refer to the Donogh O'Malley Regional Technical College in Letterkenny and the Hotel and Catering College in Killybegs. These colleges are situated 45 miles apart. The genesis, disciplines, orientation and focus of both colleges are quite distinctive and  very different. The disciplines within the regional technical college in Letterkenny are business studies, design, engineering and science while the hotel and catering college established by County Donegal Vocational Education Committee in 1967 has benefited from a single focus of providing training for the hotel and catering industry.
Under the County Donegal Vocational Education Committee the regional technical college has doubled its numbers and expanded rapidly with the provision of additional courses and has branched out into several satellite developments. There have been four such developments. We have what is known as the RTITC which provides information technology for the region. We have also had the honour of being allocated the star programme, with European Community moneys, in a joint venture with Telecom Éireann. This development has put County Donegal on the map and has helped to diminish the effects of peripherality which the industries of County Donegal and the north-west region suffer from.
We also have the Community Development Institute in Letterkenny which has been very successful in encouraging local communities to become more self-sufficient. There have been a number of very successful developments. At Convoy where the Woollen Mills have been closed down, the Community Development Institute have helped many of the workers to start up again and provide employment for themselves. The CRISP programme, the new Border region programme which is being funded in part by the European Community and the IFI, has also been nurtured by the Community Development Institute. In the next week or so we will be announcing another development under the CRISP programme at Pettigo.
The incubator units set up on regional technical college lands beside the existing building in a joint programme initiated by the college board of management and the Industrial Development Authority  form the third part of the satellite programme. Indeed, we have now commenced another programme with EOLAS. These incubator units, although they are not being utilised to the full in the region as yet, will be of tremendous benefit to small industries who would like to carry out some preparatory work to see if they could take off in the industrial sphere during the next few years. In Killybegs we also have the quality assurance laboratory which works very well with the fishing industry in the area. We were delighted that the vocational education committee, regional technical college and the Department of the Marine set up such a laboratory which has been welcomed by the fishing industry. It is hoped that we can progress beyond the fishing industry to food, mainly with the agricultural sector, in Donegal. All these developments under the umbrella of the regional technical college in Letterkenny were initiated by Donegal Vocational Education Committee. The thought process, push and nurturing were as a result of the efforts of the members of the vocational education committee and boards of management. It is feared that the tremendous work carried out over the last number of years by Donegal Vocational Education Committee will now be lost or centralised in Marlborough Street.
When we speak of research and development, my fear is that it will not be of benefit to the region in which the college is situated. I hope that the Minister on Committee Stage will give an assurance that there will be a system of checks and balances in the Bill so that research, development and consultancy will be specifically for the benefit of the region. It is only when that has been fulfilled it can go beyond the auspices of the region.
There has been considerable investment over the last number of years in the regional technical college in Letterkenny, indeed the development was so great that we are now bursting at the seams. It has been so bad that we have had to obtain sanction for temporary accommodation in the psychiatric  hospital in the area. However, that is not good enough, we really need additional funding to provide adequate facilities for the students in the regional technical college, Letterkenny. I heard my colleague, Deputy Theresa Ahearn, speak of library facilities earlier. If the position in Letterkenny pertains all over the country it proves that there is a crying need to provide proper facilities for students in regional technical colleges. The regional technical colleges should not be the lame duck of third level institutions; they deserve funding because they have achieved so much over the last number of years.
The developments about which I speak have made Donegal Vocational Education Committee, the local community and the industrial base very proud. The Hotel and Catering College, Killybegs, has been a resounding success with international distinction achieved through the untiring work of the staff, students, CERT and Donegal Vocational Education Committee. It is the only residential college in the country and it has the singular achievement of ensuring 100 per cent employment for all its students. I should like to thank the Minister and the Department for their continued investment in upgrading the facilities in that college. However, I emphasise the need to continue that investment as we are crying out for residential accommodation. I realise it is not an area in which the Department of Education have great powers but as Killybegs is the only residential college and has been so successful, it really deserves that type of investment. I hope there will be development of courses over the next couple of years and that the projected plans which the management of the Hotel and Catering College put to the Department will come to fruition.
Donegal have carried out joint ventures with Northern Ireland and it is fitting to compare the situation in Northern Ireland at present with our proposed situation under the two Bills. The relationship between local or regional administration and the higher education  colleges has been examined in Northern Ireland over the last number of years. This review was implemented under the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order, 1989, part of which outlines the duties of educational and library boards with respect to further education and the powers of boards with respect to higher education, making specific provisions for the management of institutions of further education, the further and higher education funding schemes, provisions relating to staff during financial delegation and withdrawal of delegated powers. Under the Northern Ireland order the partnership between the Department of Education, the educational library boards and the various colleges of further and higher education in relation to overall policy, regional management and operational freedom achieves the balance between the three partners involved and gives due emphasis to the role of each partner.
In the proposed legislation under the colleges Bill, the partnership between the Department of Education in respect of policy, the vocational education committee in respect of regional management structures and colleges as providers of services within the regions, will not be maintained in the Bill, as it is, in a balanced manner.
It is feared that the legislation marginalises the function of the vocational education committees and disrupts the existing partnerships. The role which prevously belonged to the committee will now be assumed by the Department and, as a consequence, it appears that the colleges will cease to be regional in anything but name. Regional influence, local accountability and encouragement have ensured that the development of the regional technical colleges has meant that they have developed. When these factors are removed I wonder if the colleges will grow and develop. I hope they will and I also hope that on Committee Stage we will ensure it will take place.
The proposed amalgamation of the Hotel and Catering College with the Donogh O'Malley Regional Technical College, Letterkenny, is one which  Donegal Vocational Education Committee vehemently oppose. The committee propose that the disciplines being developed in the college in Letterkenny should be further enhanced and that the single focus of the hotel and catering college in Killybegs should be continued. Such an approach would guarantee diversity, unity, flexibility, responsiveness, effectiveness and an appropriate partnership between the Department, the vocational education committee and the colleges in their operational autonomy.
Killybegs is a unique college and amalgamation would swamp it in the context of the overall third level educational sector. Such a proposal is as ludicrous as saying that the Shannon College of Catering should be amalgamated with the University of Limerick. I hope the Minister can give an assurance that this will not be the case and that the residential aspect, entry requirements and the special status of this college under the vocational education committee will not change. Education is an ever evolving element of society and there is greater emphasis today on third level education, a provision which has been encouraged by the Minister and which I whole-heartedly welcome. Donegal, unfortunately, does not have the singular honour of being the greatest attenders at third level institutions. However, I hope that with the nurturing and development of the colleges in the region, there will be tremendous developments as a result of amendments on Committee Stage.
Mr. G. Mitchell Mr. G. Mitchell
Mr. G. Mitchell: I wish to thank Deputy Coughlan for allowing me possession, at least it will ensure that I will get an opportunity to continue when the Bill is again debated. I am pleased that there is a Bill before the House in relation to the Dublin Institute of Technology. The contents of the Bill, as the education spokesperson for Fine Gael has already pointed out, has certain weaknesses which I hope will be addressed on Committee Stage. However, in principle, the recognition of the Dublin Institute of  Technology as an institution is long overdue. I feel very stronly that it is past time for getting this recognition and on the next day I hope to develop this point and the question of third level education places generally in the Dublin region in which there is a special problem and a special case to be made. There are many issues in these Bills which need to be thrashed out. They are Bills which I wish to deal with in considerable detail but I will not have an opportunity to do so in the time available to me today.
Dáil Éireann 412 Regional Technical Colleges Bill, 1991: Second Stage (Resumed).