Tuesday, 26 January 2016
Technological Universities Bill 2015: Report Stage
As I said earlier, I have no intention of rushing the Bill through. We have given it full time on all Stages so far and have had very good engagement at the committee. We have three scheduled time slots in the Dáil this week. If we have not finished it by then, we have not finished it. I am not rushing it through.
Last night, I met representatives of staff in Cork. They have serious concerns. I was aware of it in previous meetings with the TUI. We are trying to address the concerns we can address and make as much progress as we can in the Dáil. Although I do not know what will happen in the Seanad or what the arrangements are, I do not intend to rush it through either House.
Chapter 3 of Part 2 provides a general mechanism for the merging of consortiums of institutes of technology to form new institutions of greater scale, which includes assessment by an expert panel of their application to merge. In 2014, consortiums in Dublin and Munster were assessed by an international expert panel and found to be on a clear trajectory to meet the very robust performance and quality criteria that had been set down for merging institutes which wished to apply for the new technological university status. Therefore, the Dublin and Munster consortiums have already completed the stage of the process set down in Chapter 3 of Part 2 and are working towards a full merger in the near future.
To repeat a point I made on Committee Stage, the mergers in Dublin and Munster provided for in the Bill are not forced mergers. Each of the consortiums has, of its own accord, decided to come together to work towards achieving technological university status. The purpose of Chapters 1 and 2 of Part 2 is to reflect the reality of these consortiums, that they have been proceeding along this path for some time, and to ensure they are not required to go back to square one and be reassessed by an expert panel. This is why I cannot support amendments Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 17.
Regarding amendments Nos. 12, 13 and 16, the Deputy is asking that we give the trade unions a veto on the proposed merger. Providing a veto on the proposed merger for anybody would not be in the best interests of everybody involved, including staff, students and the citizens in the wider region who are also to be served by the technological universities.
On the broader issue of consultation with staff, I have repeatedly stated that good communication between the leadership of any institute of technology entering into a merger and the staff and students of the IOT is vital so that a shared vision and understanding of the new institutions can be developed. The HEA and my Department have conveyed this message from the outset of the process. I have spoken about it here before. We have facilitated staff to be given the time to get involved on behalf of the TUI and other representatives of other people working in the institutions. We want such engagement and I will, if necessary, repeat it to the institutes concerned that it is to be real engagement, not what some people appear to think is not real engagement. This is my intention and we have allocated resources to ensure it can happen.