Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Order of Business
Martin Conway (Fine Gael)
I noted with interest the publication yesterday of a report by the Higher Education Authority on the potential elevation of some institutes of technology to university of technology status. We have seen in the past how such elevations can be successful, with the University of Limerick, formerly the National Institute of Higher Education, now enjoying a proud reputation. However, we have also seen a situation where, in recent years, heads of department, professors and presidents of colleges throughout the State are being paid Monopoly money, with salaries of €200,000 or €300,000 not uncommon. I sincerely hope that the financial remuneration of incumbents in institutes of technology are not upgraded because of a change in status.
We must have a debate on this issue. There is a question as to whether we are moving in haste. Why is this change required, who is seeking it and is there a demand from the international business community for such institutions? What is wrong with the current model? A debate on higher education should encompass the international ratings of our universities. Some are doing extremely well but others are not. An issue of particular concern in this regard is that there is no procedure for disciplining lecturers who are underperforming. Once one gets in the door of a third level institution, one apparently has a job for life. A debate is necessary because we are in a climate of austerity where we must examine every line of expenditure. What is more important than ensuring our young people have the education they deserve?