Thursday, 28 January 2016
Technological Universities Bill 2015: Report Stage (Resumed)
Will the Minister of State outline what opportunities for further engagement will be available once the legislation has been passed? It is unclear how the outstanding issues will be addressed once the legislation has been passed because the section states clearly that only applicant colleges can make representations to the Minister on the proposed decision and they must do so not later than 30 days after the proposed decision has been made. It does not state that members of staff can make representations, nor can I find any other reference in the Bill to allowing recognised trade unions representing staff members to make representations to the Minister. Despite this, the Minister of State argues that Deputies should pass the legislation and the outstanding issues can be dealt with subsequently.
I am seriously concerned about the manner in which the Bill is being proposed. I do not have a problem with the introduction of technological universities, as I believe they will transform the quality of education in the regions. However, this will only come about if all the stakeholders buy into the process. We are trying to deal with a process that was flawed from the outset, while pursuing the common goal of achieving technological university status for institutes of technology.
Under this proposal, institutes of technology will be forced to merge without any guarantee of securing technological university status. Furthermore, the Bill does not provide any guarantees on course provision before technological university status is granted, nor is there a guarantee in place that the process will be adequately funded. There is no guarantee that agreement will be obtained from all the stakeholders before technological university status is granted. Notwithstanding all of these flaws, the institutes of technology must agree to merge before technological university status can be secured. The Government is putting the horse before the cart. Agreement should be found among all the stakeholders, and if that is not possible, the Government should at least enable stakeholders to make representations to the Minister. The failure do so wrong is wrong because it disenfranchises a key stakeholder in the process, namely, the staff who will be asked to operate the terms of the legislation and, to use the words of the Minister, give technological universities the capacity to compete at an international level.