Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Order of Business
Fidelma Healy Eames (Fine Gael)
I am concerned about the comment by Senator Norris that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, has no interest in the welfare of children. That comment needs to be clarified.
With regard to the embassy to the Holy See, it would be helpful if the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade explored further the possibility of the embassies to Italy and the Holy See sharing the one residence. That the Vatican does not want this to happen is a mistake because we should be looking to find a way to resolve the issue amicably.
I welcome the publication yesterday of the criteria for the designation of institutes of technology as technological universities. Let us make no mistake about it, this is a major development which needs to be debated because there are fears to be allayed and questions to be answered. For example, will this development lead to a lowering of standards? The institutes of technology are attracting students with 200 points plus, whereas the universities are attracting students with 350 points plus. Will the students in institutes of technology be able to do a masters and PhD? If that will not be the case, where will the students go? Will no one want them? Will lecturers at IT level without a PhD or significant publication record be offered a professorship at full or associate level? These questions need to be answered. Money will be a factor. Will there be enough resources to fund technological universities? This is about standards which matter. The standards achieved in education have brought us to where we are and sell us to the world. Therefore, we must not lower standards while seeking to improve the system. I look forward to a debate on the issue.