Thursday, 28 January 2016
Technological Universities Bill 2015: Report Stage (Resumed)
I do not agree with the analysis provided by the Minister of State. He indicated that the 30-day process could not be opened up to all stakeholders. We are discussing a key stakeholder, namely, academic staff. The Minister of State's position is that the House should pass the legislation and the various issues can be dealt with subsequently. Once passed, the Bill becomes law. Section 17(2) states: "A notice under subsection (1) shall state that the applicant colleges may make representations to the Minister in relation to the proposed decision not later than 30 days after service of the notice." Nowhere in the legislation is it stated that representatives of staff may make such representations. As such, passing the legislation would effectively silence the voices of the very people who have been asked to deliver a new, high-quality educational service.
Staff in the institutes of technology must work under extreme conditions. As I indicated yesterday, the budget for the institutes of technology sector has been reduced by €190 million, while the number of lecturers has fallen by 10% and student numbers have increased by 35%. In addition, the Bill provides that technological universities will have budget overruns deducted from their budget for the following year. While an option to apply to the Higher Education Authority for a supplementary budget is provided, the legislation prescribes that each institute must not exceed its annual budget.
The Bill also provides that technological universities may set their own registration fees for students, which gives rise to a potential scenario in which different technological universities would apply different registration fees, albeit subject to the approval of the Minister.
Once the Bill has been passed, it will not be possible to address many of the issues Deputies have raised. It is disingenuous, therefore, to claim that all of the issues can be resolved and ask Deputies to pass the legislation. To do so would prevent many of the issues from being resolved.