Thursday, 11 July 2019
Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018: [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil] Report and Final Stages
This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 148, it is deemed to have passed First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and has been placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question, "That the Bill be received for final consideration," the Minister of State may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil. This is looked on as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of the Senators, I have arranged for the amendments to be circulated to them. The Minister of State will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have also circulated the proposed groupings to Senators. A Senator may contribute only once on each grouping. I remind Senators that the only matters which may be discussed are the amendments made by the Dáil.
Group 1 comprises four amendments to transfer a subsection from section 55I to section 55G and make the relevant consequential changes. It is to correct a drafting error identified in the section following the Bill's initial passage through the Seanad.
Group 2 comprises amendments Nos. 5 to 7, inclusive. Again, they are technical drafting changes to better align the text of section 79 of the principal Act with provisions introduced elsewhere in the Bill. It will allow Quality and Qualifications Ireland to more accurately represent the different classes and types of award included in the national framework of qualifications when establishing its database of awards.
Amendment No. 8 is required to correct a cross-reference in section 34. Group 5 contains amendments to section 37. Amendment No. 9 is a technical amendment to correct a drafting error identified in section 37.
I thank Senators for their contributions. We have put together a really strong Bill which will underpin quality and the agenda in the higher and further education sector. Quality and Qualifications Ireland, QQI, will be a much stronger, more effective and responsive regulator. The Bill will enable it to tackle many challenges, especially among English language colleges and education providers. That said, there are many fine providers.
The introduction of the international education mark, IEM, will bring much needed regulation to the English language education sector. Quality standards will be underpinned by the IEM, providing greater assurance and protections for staff and students in the sector. This will make Ireland the destination of choice for an even greater number of international students.
I am also very happy to announce that the Bill will provide the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland with the opportunity to demonstrate its many qualities as an institution and in so doing obtain university status. I look forward to seeing the implementation of the legislation and the benefits it will bring to the education system.
I welcome the Minister of State, as well as our guests in the Visitors Gallery. I echo the Minister of State's comments in welcoming the legislation. I am delighted that it is on its final journey. It is a very welcome development that the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI, now has a path towards becoming a university. I am delighted that Fianna Fáil has played its part in that regard. I acknowledge the Minister of State and the officials in her Department who were open to discussing various issues related to the RCSI. I also pay tribute to my colleague Senator Keith Swanick for his input into that process. I acknowledge that the Minister of State was open to considering all sensible solutions concerning not only the RCSI but also the financial liability provisions in section 31 which provide much needed clarity on the issue.
I thank all concerned. I am delighted that this very worthwhile legislation has reached its destination.
I thank the Minister of State and her officials and welcome our friends and guests from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI, in the Visitors Gallery. This is a very positive Bill, of which I have been very supportive. I acknowledge the influence of Senator Reilly in dealing with issues concerning the RCSI. I also note the earlier amendments concerning Mary Immaculate College and Marino College of Further Education. Allowing the RCSI to apply for university status is a very positive step which will certainly encourage many more students to come to this country.
I thank the Minister of State and her officials for their engagement. I have met her officials to discuss certain elements of the Bill. I am glad that we have found solutions to meet some of the concerns of the Labour Party. Some of our amendments, as proposed by the Progressive College Network, were not accepted in the Dáil. There was disappointment with the stance taken by Fianna Fáil which was not in a position to support the Labour Party's amendments which, as a consequence, fell in the Dáil. In the Seanad we do not deal with amendments that have fallen, only those that have been passed. I thank all those who have worked so hard to make the Bill a success. We would like it to be better, but the Minister of State did not see fit to support our amendments in the Dáil. However, as always, we will work with her and her officials and co-operate on future legislation.
I thank the Minister of State and her officials for the work they have put into the Bill.The Minister of State is always very much on top of her brief in higher education, which is to be commended. It is great to be here today to see the Bill being passed as I supported it from the start. I commend my colleague, Senator James Reilly, whose timing is impeccable, on the work he put into it. I welcome our friends from the RCSI who are here today and I am glad they can now go forward and apply for university designation. It is fitting and I am delighted for them because the college works very hard to provide an excellent service. I thank the Minister of State for all her hard work and wish her well over the break.
I will not delay the House but I welcome the Minister of State and thank her for her hard work in securing this Bill. There are many good provisions in it that protect teachers, young people and adults who come here to learn English. A matter close to my heart is that the RCSI will have university status in this country, something it has enjoyed around the world for many decades.
It is very important from the perspective of its international credibility that it should be recognised as a university here. I thank the Minister of State and the Department for the work done. I congratulate Professor Cathal Kelly and his team on all the work they put in and thank all the Members for their support. This is important for the college, which is a major contributor not just to this country but to many countries around the world.