Tuesday, 26 January 2016
Technological Universities Bill 2015: Report Stage
The Fianna Fáil Party supports the idea of introducing technological universities. The discussion of the Bill in the Select Sub-Committee on Education and Skills was very useful and the engagement on the part of the Department was good. There is no rationale for the decision to rush the Bill in recent weeks. The Minister did not engage in any real consultation in advance of Committee Stage and Report Stage.
Academics and staff in various institutes of technology are concerned about the contents of the Bill and the impact some of the proposals will have, specifically the requirement that mergers must take place in advance of approval being given for technological university status. This issue must be revisited. Mergers should not be a prerequisite for technological university status being granted, especially as there is no guaranteed outcome for institutions that proceed with a merger. Naturally, the institutes of technology have genuine and well-founded concerns about what the merger process may mean for their individual identities and ability to continue to serve their local regions, as they have done so well until now.
Since their development, the regional technical colleges and, subsequently, the institutes of technology have played a major role in their regions in seeking to ensure participation in education as well as integration with the local business community. They have done so by serving the needs of the local economy and the educational needs of the communities they serve. There are genuine concerns that this function will be eroded by the merger process required of institutes of technology seeking to advance to technological university status and that mergers will create a gravitational pull towards the centre.
For these reasons, the Minister must further consult trade unions and institutes of technology staff on her proposal. I have grave concerns about the approach she has adopted and oppose the requirement that institutes of technology merge in advance of a decision being made on applications to become a technological university.