Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Higher Education Authority Bill 2022: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage

 

10:30 am

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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I apologise for the delay in starting; there was a scheduling error. Before we commence, I remind Senators they may speak only once on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. Each non-Government amendment must be seconded on Report Stage.

Amendments Nos. 84 to 87, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Mark DalyMark Daly (Fianna Fail)
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Amendments Nos. 88 to 99, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed. Amendment No. 93 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 92.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 88:

In page 59, line 27, after “143” to insert “or the adequacy of any explanation for non-compliance,”.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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We have tabled a couple of amendments to this section. I will make a few comments specifically on amendment No. 94, which seeks to amend section 66(1) by proposing that the chief executive officer would impose on a designated institution of higher education a requirement to take a remedial or other measure or measures in accordance with this section, if he or she makes a determination that they must have approval from the board.

My concerns in tabling this amendment are that when we make unilateral decisions, we cannot always be cognisant of the impact of such remedial measures on some of the other areas we spoke about, such as gender equality, equity, race, access and so on. We do not want to be in a position where a university receives any sort of financial penalty that it then passes on to the student population or the priority groups we talk about. How do we make an actual impact assessment to make sure that does not happen? It is about making sure that the board has an input, or at least some sort of assessment has to be given to the board, as to how those remedial measures would impact on the student body.

My other concern relates to where the money actually goes. Where does that financial penalty go? We have not put in any sort of ring-fencing to ensure the money that is paid back to the Higher Education Authority, HEA, when a penalty has been paid, will then filter into those priority groups or targeted areas for which we are penalising. That is why I wanted the board to be involved in that process. It is so that decisions are not made in isolation that have a further impact on students and the work in a way we do not intend.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Senator for her contribution and for tabling the amendment. I very much get the point she is trying to make. To be clear, as of now, the law of the land is that, under the 1971 legislation we are currently governed by, the CEO of the HEA can solely, on his or her own, pause funding. There is currently no right of appeal. The CEO of the HEA can decide today to pause funding and there cannot be an appeals mechanism.

Under the legislation we are passing, as the Senator quite rightly said, there is now an appeals mechanism. She is very much correct that that appeals mechanism should be cognisant of the impact the withholding of any funds has on the student population, especially vulnerable learners. One of the reasons we are trying to pass this legislation is to have a funding framework in place to know where the public investment is going. It is entirely possible, through the funding framework we have, to include where funding is meant to go to protect any such funding pots from any such sanction. I have to set up the appeals mechanism to reflect on and try to encompass what the Senator said in making sure the appeals mechanism is cognisant of that.The idea about ring-fenced funding is interesting. As the Senator and I discussed, we do it in respect of the Criminal Assets Bureau and dormant accounts and the pots of funding arising from both that can be distributed and directed to further advance Government and societal priorities. I will engage further with the Senator on that matter in order to see if we can make progress on it.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I thank the Minister for his engagement on this. Some of my fears have been put to rest by the fact that we can potentially look at the appeals mechanism and the powers within that to ensure that there will be an impact assessment on how a financial decision will be made against a college and on whom it will or will not impact. I ask the Minister if, during the ongoing work, we can continue to have conversations in order that the intention behind these amendments will be reflected in those appeals processes.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I am happy to do that.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 89:

In page 59, line 27, after “143” to insert “or to adequately explain non-compliance”.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 90:

In page 60, line 24, after “may” to insert “, with the approval of the Board,”.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 91:

In page 60, line 36, to delete “paragraph (a)or (c)of”.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 92:

In page 61, to delete lines 1 to 7 and substitute the following: “(6) The bringing of an appeal by a designated institution of higher education against a determination of the Chief Executive Officer under subsection (3)to impose a remedial or other measure on the institution shall operate to stay the coming into operation of the measure pending the determination or discontinuance of the appeal.”.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 93 to 96, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 97:

In page 63, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following: “(3) The appointment of a reviewer under subsection (4)may be appealed by the designated institution of higher education concerned under Part 9within the prescribed period from the service of a notice on that institution under subsection (2).

(4) The bringing of an appeal under subsection (3)shall operate to stay the work of the reviewer pending the determination or discontinuance of the appeal.”.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 98:

In page 63, to delete lines 37 to 40 and substitute the following:
“(a) one person having a special interest in or expertise in, or knowledge of, matters relating to higher education or the functions of An tÚdarás (other than a member of the Board, a member of the staff of An tÚdarás, a public servant or a person employed or engaged by an institution of higher education),

(b) one person with demonstrable expertise in, or knowledge of, matters relating to higher education at an international level (other than a member of the Board, a member of the staff of An tÚdarás, a public servant or a person employed or engaged by an institution of higher education), and”.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 99:

In page 63, to delete lines 37 to 40 and substitute the following:
“(a) one person having a special interest in or expertise in, or knowledge of, matters relating to higher education or the functions of An tÚdarás (other than a member of the Board, a member of the staff of An tÚdarás, a public servant or a person employed or engaged by an institution of higher education which is party to the appeal),

(b) one person with demonstrable expertise in, or knowledge of, matters relating to higher education at an international level (other than a member of the Board, a member of the staff of An tÚdarás, a public servant or a person employed or engaged by an institution of higher education which is party to the appeal), and”.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairperson:

Amendment No. 100, in the names of Senators Higgins, Ruane, Flynn and Black arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 100, 101, 129 and 138 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 100:

In page 66, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

“Local authorities and higher education land use

73.For the avoidance of doubt and to protect the role of local authorities, nothing in this Act shall be construed as granting the Minister or An tÚdarás the power to compel designated higher education institutions to dispose of land or other assets or to change the primary use of land or other assets owned by such institutions, either generally or in such a way that would contravene the local development plan of a local authority area.”.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I second the amendment.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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Amendment No. 100 seeks to insert a new section into the Bill to clarify that "nothing in this Act shall be construed as granting the Minister or An tÚdarás the power to compel designated higher education institutions to dispose of land or other assets or to change the primary use of land or other assets owned by such institutions."

Amendment No. 101 seeks to insert a new section into the Bill to clarify that "doubt, nothing in this Act shall be construed as granting the Minister or An tÚdarás the power to compel designated higher education institutions to dispose of land or other assets or to change the primary use of land."

Amendment No. 129 seeks to delete the amendment proposed to section 3(5) of the Act of 1992 and replace it with an alternative amendment to that section.

Photo of Barry WardBarry Ward (Fine Gael)
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An issue has arisen with regard to these amendments, which apply to a number of sections in the Bill. The issue is academic freedom, how much it can be applied and how much an t-údarás can do to deal with that issue. The Minister will be aware of the issues that have arisen. I am not talking about any specific institution. We have to be careful about how the objects laid out in section 8 apply throughout the Bill. In what way will an t-údarás take serious action to ensure that we maintain academic freedom within universities, third level institutions and so on? We are aware of the Confucius institutes that exist in universities throughout the world and the funding that comes with them. We are also aware of the danger that any state, particularly China, can wield, either subtly or directly, through those institutions. It is tremendously important that this Bill, the Minister's Department and an t-údarás make sure they have robust procedures in place to ensure the academic freedoms and academic independence of all third level institutions, particularly those in receipt of funding from China.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I thank Senator Ward. Academic freedom is at the heart and core of this legislation. It is protected by this legislation. On the broader point the Senator is making, this legislation will provide the HEA and an t-údarás with the ability to co-design codes of practice and guidelines. That is really important for greater transparency in the context of a raft of areas relating to third level education, including private or third-party funding sources. The Senator's point is well made. Greater transparency in these areas is good. This legislation enables that. Once we pass the Bill, which has been talked about for many years, and get it signed into law, it will enable good work to start on codes of practice, guidelines and such. I am happy to engage with Senator Ward and the Seanad on the matter.

I thank Senator Ruane for tabling the amendments. It was worth waiting for her contribution, as always. I understand what Senators Ruane and Higgins and others are trying to achieve here. We believe the insertion of this new provision is not necessary, because there is not a provision in the Bill to provide that the Minister or an t-údarás has the power to compel designated higher education institutions to dispose of land or other assets or to change the primary use of land or other assets. I took legal advice on this matter and the view was that the provision is unnecessary. There is no identifiable provision or power of the Minister or an t-údarás in the Bill that this avoidance-of-doubt provision is seeking to limit or displace.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 101 not moved.

Acting Chairperson:

Amendment No. 102 is in the names of Senators Warfield, Boylan, Ó Donnghaile and Gavan. It arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 102 to 109, inclusive, 109a, 110, 110a, 117 to 126, inclusive, 126a, 127, 128, 128a, 130 to 136, inclusive, 136a, 137 and 137a are related. Amendments Nos. 103 to 109, inclusive, 109a, 110 and 110a are physical alternatives to No. 102. Amendments Nos. 118 to 126, inclusive, 126a, 127, 128 and 128a are physical alternatives to No. 117. Amendment No. 136a is a physical alternative to No. 136.Amendments Nos. 102 to 109, inclusive, 109a, 110, 110a, 117 to 126, inclusive, 126a, 127, 128, 128a, 130 to 136, inclusive, 136a, 137 and 137a may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 102:

In page 66, to delete lines 23 to 35, and to delete page 67 and substitute the following: “73.The Act of 1997 is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 16:
16.(1) Subject to this Part, a governing authority, shall consist not less than 14 members and not more than 26 members as determined in accordance with this Chapter.

(2) The members of a governing authority shall be—
(a) the chairperson, who shall be an external member, appointed by the governing authority,

(b) external members (including the chairperson) of the governing authority shall comprise not less than 40 per cent of its membership,

(c) the chief officer,

(d) internal members (other than the chief officer) appointed by the governing authority,

(e) not less than two student members elected by students,

(f) not less than one postgraduate student elected by the postgraduate students,

(g) not less than one trade union representative of academic staff in the sector, nominated by the relevant trade union(s),

(h) not less than one trade union representative of non-academic staff in the sector, nominated by the relevant trade union(s).
(3) The internal members of a governing authority shall be elected or selected for appointment as such internal members in accordance with regulations made under subsection (6).

(4) Subject to subsection (5), with regard to the appointment of external members of a governing authority—
(a) three such members shall be nominated by the Minister, and

(b) at least six such members shall be appointed by the governing authority in accordance with a process for such appointments that is determined by the governing authority and approved by the Minister.
(5) Before a person is nominated for appointment or appointed, as may be appropriate, as an external member of a governing authority of a university, the Minister or the governing authority of the university, as the case may be, shall be satisfied that the person is suitable for appointment as such an external member by reason of his or her possessing knowledge of, and experience in, matters connected with the objects and functions of the university to enable him or her to make a substantial contribution to the effective and efficient performance of those functions.

(6) A governing authority shall, with the approval of the Minister, make such regulations relating to the selection, election, nomination or appointment of members of the governing authority as it thinks fit, and their selection, election, nomination or appointment shall be carried out in accordance with those regulations.

(7) In performing functions under this section, the Minister and a governing authority shall have regard to the objectives that—
(a) not less than 40 per cent of the members of the governing authority shall be women and not less than 40 per cent of them shall be men,

(b) at least 20 per cent of members shall have a level B2 or higher of competency in spoken Irish on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), and

(c) the membership of the governing authority shall broadly reflect the composition of Irish society, including persons who are competent in the Irish language.
(8) In this section and in sections 16A, 17 and 23A—

‘external member’, in relation to a governing authority, means a member of the governing authority other than an internal member or a student member thereof;

‘internal member’, in relation to a governing authority, means a member of the governing authority who is a member of the academic council of the university, an employee of the university or a person who is remunerated under a contract with the university and, in the case of Trinity College, including fellows of Trinity College;

‘student member’, in relation to a governing authority, means a member of the governing authority who is a student of the university.”.”.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I will speak to amendments Nos. 102 and 117. I welcome the Minister. It is good to see him. I am standing in for my colleague, Senator Warfield.

Sinn Féin has engaged extensively, as have the Minister and others on the committee, with this sector in recent months. It is clear that the management of every institution has accepted the need for the highest standard of transparency and accountability over public finances. That is beyond question, and the Government will always have our support for any policy that achieves this, but there are many proposals in the Bill that reduce the autonomy of institutes without any clear relationship with transparency or accountability. I have yet to hear or see a convincing justification for dictating such rigid governance structures, for example, the mandatory 19-member limit on governing bodies. The Technological Universities Act 2018 allows for a governing authority of between 22 and 26 members. The Minister has changed his position on the number since the general scheme of this Bill was issued. It was initially to be 17 members. Now, the right number on the governing authority is 19. I put it to the House that the number keeps changing because there is no magic number and no one size that fits all. The people best placed to decide the right size of governing authorities are the institutions themselves. These are unpaid positions and every governing body has its own unique make-up and tradition, and the removal of the broad representation on the governing bodies will be a loss.

It is unfair to say that this Bill will move the sector to a competency-based governance model. Currently, governing bodies are made up of members from academic and non-academic bodies, undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate students, alumni, local authority nominees, trade union representatives, employers' organisations and others. This expertise is vital, particularly in more technical areas like financial reporting. However, we should not limit the value of the contributions from a wide variety of people. I welcome that there will now be three student members and one academic trade union representative. However, the Minister should reconsider the rigid, overly prescriptive governance structures and adopt a fair approach that can be applied to everyone without damaging the unique characteristics and differentiated missions of the various institutions.

There is no indication that more ministerial nominees will lead to greater diversity. Previously, ministerial or external nominees have had a strong bias towards business and corporate appointments. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, made an excellent submission during the Bill's consultation process and pointed out that the academic institutions with the highest reputations and most effective track records worldwide were those that enjoyed the highest levels of autonomy.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I wish to speak to a number of amendments that relate to elected student representatives on the board. We can all acknowledge that universities are often a microcosm of society. The same applies to student politics. We must respect the mandate of elected representatives involved in those politics. The Minister has expressed his belief that that mandate is protected in the Bill. We all have different ways of going about things, and use different language, to ensure that the democratic process within a students' union is protected and that students' elected representatives are their voice on the board. With a number of our amendments, in particular amendment No. 108 and a number of consequential amendments, we can achieve what the Minister feels is already being provided for in the Bill. There is no harm in cementing that so as to protect the integrity of the process under future Governments and university and board compositions.

I will leave it there. We have discussed at length both inside and outside the Chamber the importance of protecting students' elected representatives on the boards of management of governing bodies.

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent)
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Yesterday, the Minister spoke about wanting future legislation that deals with students' unions. If the desire to move forward is to be credible and if we are to strengthen how we think about students' unions and their role, it is important that we not move backwards. The Bill refers to a student member on the boards of governance. There is a danger that this will be a backwards step. The Universities Act refers to elected representatives of students' unions and the Technological Universities Act clearly refers to representatives nominated by students' unions under their own procedures. Both Acts cover the majority of our higher education institutions and cement in law the clear message that the voices of students' unions or those nominated by students' unions will be included and that these will be informed by a wider concern for that whole cohort. There is discussion about the board and it being competency based, but a key element of competency - or anything in terms of a board or governance system that works - is the principle of nothing about us without us. Given that students are numerically the largest part of the higher and further education institutions across Ireland, it is important that their chosen representatives - their unions, whom they elect - be in a position to put forward that voice within the boards and within governance decisions.

The Minister will be aware that we have made a number of proposals setting out ways in which we believe the Bill can address this matter. I urge him to accept them.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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There are a range of amendments. Where the composition of these governing bodies is concerned, it is important that students be included and that the student voice be heard. It has traditionally been a closed shop to students. Senator Higgins referred to the principle of nothing with us without us. It is true that the student voice needs to be heard. It is important that students' unions play a key part within our university bodies. There is always a healthy tension in trying to achieve a students' union's objectives, working through negotiation with the colleges.

When this new legislation is in place, it will be a joyous day. It will be landmark legislation for the third level sector. The Minister is examining other legislation, which he referenced yesterday, but having the students' voices heard within the governing body is crucial. When considering a governing body's composition, it is crucial that it work well together to achieve excellence for that technological university or traditional university. We have a new and competitive landscape and the people on the governing bodies need to be of a standard to compete at that level.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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This is a large grouping of amendments, but it has a couple of themes.

Senator Gavan is right. There is not a magic number. There is no magic number for many things in life, though, and we have to make judgment calls. During this process, I have tried to show a willingness to engage on the number. The Senator is right again, in that the number has changed as a result of that engagement. That is because I listened, particularly to the voices of some students' union representatives. There is someone in the Public Gallery who was a president of the Trinity College students' union, Ms Leah Keogh, who convinced me to change my mind about the number of seats that students' unions should have on the governing authority from two to three. That was a sensible decision in light of the rationale explained to me concerning the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate students. I hope that this example encourages people in general and shows that changes can be made and that they can influence and make a difference to legislation.

Through the regulatory architecture that this legislation will put in place, we are trying to ensure that the governing authorities can set regulations over how they appoint their boards. I wish to be clear, in that I have no interest in me or my successors hand-picking every external representative to a board. That is not the purpose of this provision.The purpose is to have an external majority and to bring a skill set onto a board. I do not think the Senator meant me directly but he said ministerial representatives tend to favour business. The best managerial appointment I made to a governing authority was Noeline Blackwell. The head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre was my first appointment to a governing authority in UCD. There is a great diversity of people willing to serve.

I said in this House last night and will say again, so there is no confusion on the issue, that county and city councillors have played and continue to play an important role in our governing authorities. Legislation passed by this House and by many in this House and the other House in 2018 on the technological universities did not give councillors a voice on the governing authorities. Under this new structure, regulations will have to be set as to how the boards are filled. Those regulations will have to be agreed by the outgoing governing authorities, which include councillors, and signed off by the Minister of the day, who is currently me. I assure city and county councillors that we value their role, contribution and expertise and will work through this in the regulatory process.

Transitional arrangements are in place where people on boards can be reappointed to finish out terms. We will work through that. I acknowledge that Senator Boyhan raised this issue on a number of occasions.

I come to the amendments put forward by Senators Ruane, Higgins, Black, Flynn and their grouping in the Seanad. I thank my colleague, Senator Dolan, for raising this matter as well. It is a case of listening as a Minister. I am clear in my policy intent that the representatives of the governing authority should be those elected by the students of that authority. Contrary to what I see sometimes on social media and read on posters, I have no interest in hand-picking people to be student representatives on governing authorities. That was never the intent but if it was, why not be explicit about it? I am willing to be explicit about it because when an amendment put forward in this House aligns with my policy view, why not accept the amendment? That is the constructive role Seanad Éireann can play. I thank the USI, student unions, Senators Ruane, Higgins and Dolan, and my colleagues here for their work on this.

I propose to accept amendment No. 108, which will replace the words "student members" with "student union representatives". I hope that puts people's minds at ease. It is a sensible thing to do and shows the value of this House and of working through and teasing through issues. I propose to accept amendments Nos. 125 and 135, which are consequential. If I accept that, it is making sure it carries through to the rest of it.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Senator Ruane is the only one who can come back. Sorry, it is Senator Gavan, because he proposed it.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I do not have anything further to say. I appreciate the Minister's response. It is a pity Senator Ruane cannot come back in.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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No. Senator Gavan is the only one who can come back in at this stage. Those are the rules.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 103 to 107, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 108:

In page 66, line 35, to delete “student members” and substitute “student union representatives".

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 109 to 110a, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 111:

In page 69, to delete lines 33 to 37 and substitute the following:
“(iii) in order to implement, and report on compliance with, appropriate statutory provisions to the extent that those provisions may affect or relate to the functions of the university,”.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 111a to 111c, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 112:

In page 69, line 37, after “university” to insert “or in order to enable the provision of an adequate explanation for any non-compliance”.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 113 to 115, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 115a is out of order. It does not arise from committee proceedings.

Amendment No. 115a not moved.

Amendments Nos. 115b to 115d, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 116:

In page 79, line 20, after “university” to insert “or in order to enable the provision of an adequate explanation for any non-compliance”.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 117:

In page 80, to delete lines 4 to 39, and in page 81, to delete lines 1 to 37 and substitute the following:

“90. The Act of 2018 is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 12: “12. (1) Subject to this Part, a governing authority, shall consist not less than 14 members and not more than 26 members as determined in accordance with this Chapter.
(2) The members of a governing body shall be—
(a) the chairperson, who shall be an external member, appointed by the governing authority,

(b) external members (including the chairperson) of the governing authority shall comprise not less than 40 per cent of its membership,

(c) the president,

(d) internal members (other than the president):
(i) not less than 3 members of the academic staff of the technological university, elected by the academic staff of the technological university;

(ii) not less than one member of the non-academic staff of the technological university, elected by the non-academic staff of the technological university; and

(iii) not less than one member of the academic or non-academic staff of the technological university, elected by the academic and non-academic staff of the technological university, and
(e) not less than two student members elected by students,

(f) not less than one postgraduate student elected by the postgraduate students,

(g) not less than one trade union representative of academic staff in the sector, nominated by the relevant trade union(s),

(h) not less than one trade union representative of non-academic staff in the sector, nominated by the relevant trade union(s).
(3) The internal members of a governing body shall be elected for appointment as such internal members in accordance with regulations made under subsection (7).

(4) Subject to subsection (5), with regard to the appointment of external members of a governing body—
(a) 3 such members shall be nominated by the Minister, and

(b) at least 6 such members shall be appointed by the governing authority in accordance with a process for such appointments that is determined by the governing authority and approved by the Minister.
(5) Before a person is nominated for appointment or appointed, as may be appropriate, as an external member of a governing body of a technological university, the Minister or the governing body of the technological university, as the case may be, shall be satisfied that the person is suitable for appointment as such an external member by reason of his or her possessing knowledge of, and experience in, matters connected with the objects and functions of the technological university to enable him or her to make a substantial contribution to the effective and efficient performance of those functions.

(6) (a) The term of office of a member of the governing body, other than the president, shall not exceed 4 years and such a member may not serve more than 2 consecutive terms of office.
(b) A member of the governing body who is a student at the technological university shall hold office for such period, not exceeding one year, as the governing body may determine but may be re-elected for a further period not exceeding one year.
(7) A governing body shall, with the approval of the Minister, make such regulations relating to the selection, election, nomination or appointment of members of the governing body as it thinks fit, and their selection, election, nomination or appointment shall be carried out in accordance with those regulations.

(8) In performing functions under this section, the Minister and a governing body shall have regard to the objectives that—
(a) not less than 40 per cent of the members of the governing body shall be women and not less than 40 per cent of them shall be men,

(b) the membership of the governing body shall take account of the different locations of the campuses of the technological university,

(c) at least 20 per cent of members shall have a level B2 or higher of competency in spoken Irish on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), and

(d) the membership of the governing body shall broadly reflect the composition of Irish society, including persons who are competent in the Irish language.
(9) In this section—
‘external member’, in relation to a governing body, means a member of the governing body other than an internal member or a student member thereof or a member of the academic council of the technological university;

‘internal member’, in relation to a governing body, means a member of the governing body who is a member of the staff of the technological university or a person who is remunerated under a contract with the technological university;

‘student member’, in relation to a governing body, means a member of the governing body who is a student at the technological university.”.”.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 118:

In page 80, line 6, to delete “19 members” and substitute “21 members”.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 119 to 122, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 123

In page 80, to delete line 24.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 124 not moved.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 125:

In page 80, line 25, to delete “student members” and substitute “student union reprsentatives”

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 126 and 126a not moved.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 127:

In page 80, line 25, to delete “body.” and substitute the following:
body,
(f) 2 County or City Councillors, chosen by local authorities.”

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 128 to 134, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 135:

In page 96, line 11, to delete “student members” and substitute “student union representatives”.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 136 to 139c, inclusive, not moved.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Amendment No. 140 has not been discussed but I understand Senator Ruane does not intend to move it.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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Yes. It relates to equality of opportunity. We had a lengthy discussion of the issue on the previous occasion and I am happy not to move the amendment.

Amendment No. 140 not moved.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 141:

In page 114, line 36, to delete “or” and substitute “and”.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 142 not moved.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 143:

In page 114, line 38, to delete “and” and substitute the following: “(fa) local authorities, City and County Councillors, and”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairperson:

Amendments Nos. 144 and 145 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 144:

In page 116, line 10, to delete “or” and substitute “and”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 145:

In page 116, to delete lines 15 to 21 and substitute the following: “(a) the policy of the College for enabling access to it, and the education it provides, by economically or socially disadvantaged persons, by persons who have a disability and by persons from sections of society significantly under-represented in the student body,

(b) the policy of the College relating to equality, including gender equality, in all activities of the College, and

(c) the policy of the College relating to the respect for the academic freedom of students in the College.”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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I move amendment No. 146:

In page 120, line 6, after “of” to insert “affordable”.

Photo of Lynn BoylanLynn Boylan (Sinn Fein)
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I second the amendment.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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We welcome the enabling of technological universities to access the Housing Finance Agency for the provision of student accommodation. The amendment will simply insert the word "affordable". Affordability needs to be at the heart of housing in this State and that needs to include students. I do not know whether the Minister caught the interview with Sarah McInerney on "Drivetime" last week. There are absolute horror stories of students, from overseas in particular, being charged up to €900 a month to share a room with three others. I do not think anyone would dispute the fact that affordability is a massive issue for student accommodation. In fact, I think we would all agree student accommodation is in a state of crisis. This is a sensible amendment for which I hope we can win the support of everyone on each side of this House.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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So many more students are coming into our universities and college, which is fantastic, but the need for accommodation is crucial, as the Minister is aware, and the new technological universities will have powers in that regard. In my area, I constantly try to highlight the rent a room scheme and the relief that is available, whereby people can rent out a room within their house. We have to see how universities can link in with their alumni networks and graduates who might wish to give something back to their universities, which could be by offering a room in a house close to the campus.

With the technological universities, we are driving more courses out to regional campus areas where students can be handled and taken in and where there is more capacity to build student accommodation. The technological universities are a great way for us to look at how we ensure we have access to student accommodation by driving out some of the courses into those regional campuses from the heartlands of the universities themselves.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I thank Senator Gavan for the amendment. There is a technical reason I cannot accept it, which I will read out, and I will then comment on the substantive issue he and Senator Dolan raised. The amendment would amend the definition of "an institution of higher education" under the Housing Finance Act to which the Housing Finance Agency, for the purpose of providing accommodation for students, can lend to include both designated institutions under the Bill and other institutions in receipt of core public funding with relevant consents. The amendment is outside the aegis of my Department and, therefore, I am not in a position to make an amendment to my legislation on this occasion. Moreover, while affordability is very important, we would also need to attempt to define it within the definition.

On the topic raised by the amendment, I clearly agree with Senators Gavan and Dolan on the importance of building student accommodation that is affordable. I have been clear, and I reiterate, that I do not believe the current student accommodation strategy is where it needs to be. I can stand here in this House and quote figures showing the increases in student accommodation this year and last year, which would be correct, but that would gloss over the fact the model is not working for students. In this capital city and other cities throughout the country, universities and institutions have planning permission today to build student accommodation. I got an agreement in July at a meeting of the Cabinet committee on housing that we would bring forward proposals as to how we, for the first time ever as a State, would invest public money in student accommodation, and the quid pro quofor that will be that it will have to be affordable. Before we give over a cent of public money to a university to unleash that building potential, it will have to be affordable.

I agree with Senator Gavan on the purpose of the issue, but I am not in a position to accept the amendment for those reasons.

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)
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That was a thoughtful reply and I welcome the point about the allocation of public money, which is an important step forward. Where I live, in Limerick, is probably no different from any other major urban centre. I have been inundated, as I am sure all public representatives have, with communication from desperate families and parents trying to find accommodation for students. Some of the prices being quoted are truly shocking.

While we will agree to disagree on the amendment, I welcome the Minister's comments regarding the renewed focus on this issue, which I am sure all of us will keep a close eye on.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 147:

In page 121, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following: “Amendment of section 7 of Act of 2011

134.Section 7 of the Act of 2011 is amended—
(a) in subsection (1), by the insertion of the following paragraph after paragraph (f):
“(g) a higher education institution in respect of which the Minister has made a designation order under section 54of the Higher Education Authority Act 2022,”,
and

(b) in subsection (3), by the deletion of paragraph (e).”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 148:

In page 121, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following: “Amendment of section 8 of Act of 2011

134.Section 8 of the Act of 2011 is amended in subsection (2) by the deletion of paragraph (g).”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 149 not moved.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 150:

In page 126, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following: “(7) An tÚdarás shall not prepare or adopt and issue guidelines, codes or policies to designated institutions of higher education concerning the implementation of a policy or objective of the Minister or the Government unless—
(a) the Minister has given a direction in writing to An tÚdarás to prepare guidelines, codes or policies concerning the implementation of that specified policy or objective, and

(b) a draft of the direction concerned has been laid before each House of the Oireachtas and a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House.”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Mark WallMark Wall (Labour)
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I move amendment No. 151:

In page 126, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following: “(7) Where a designated institution of higher education departs from guidelines, codes or policies prepared under subsection (1), it shall be afforded an opportunity to provide an explanation as to the extent of and the reasons for such departure.”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 152:

In page 126, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following: “(7) Where a designated institution of higher education departs from guidelines, codes or policies prepared and issued under subsection (1), the designated institution of higher education shall be afforded an opportunity to provide an explanation as to—
(a) which parts of the guidelines, codes or policies it departs from,

(b) the extent of any such departures,

(c) the reasons for such departure or non-application of the said guidelines, codes or policies.
(8) The operation of subsection (7)is without prejudice to the exercise of powers provided for in Part 8.”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I move amendment No. 153:

In page 126, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following: “(7) Where a designated institution of higher education departs from guidelines, codes or policies prepared under subsection (1), the designated institution of higher education shall be afforded an opportunity to provide an explanation as to—
(a) which parts of the guidelines, codes or policies it departs from,

(b) the extent of any such departures,

(c) the reasons for such departure or non-application of the said guidelines, codes or policies.
(8) The operation of subsection (7)is without prejudice to the exercise of powers provided for in Part 8.”.

Photo of Tom ClonanTom Clonan (Independent)
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I second the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 154 and 154a not moved.

Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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When is it proposed to take Final Stage?

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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Now.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I invite Senator Malcolm Byrne for a very brief comment because we have had a long discussion on this.

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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It has been lengthy. I compliment the Minister not just for coming to the Seanad to deal with the Bill. This has been a long-running process to implement these reforms - some would argue going back to the Hunt report. I thank everybody who has given input into it. I thank the Minister and his officials for their engagement. This represents a very solid framework for reform of the Higher Education Authority, a body with which I have some familiarity-----

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I will outline my own connection with it in a minute.

Photo of Malcolm ByrneMalcolm Byrne (Fianna Fail)
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-----and also for higher education governance into the 21st century. We debated the composition of the governing authority. It is crucial that we now encourage good people to fill those positions. I thank the Minister for his leadership on this matter.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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It is fair to say that there are not too many people in the Chamber who have as close a connection to the HEA as Senator Malcolm Byrne. My mother was a member of the HEA in the 1990s, so I have a bit of knowledge. I have some involvement, with my parents involved in UCD. Many of us know about higher education in different ways, including Senator Ruane, who was president of the students union in her day.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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I thank the Minister. I note his important comments on local authorities. I will not reopen the debate on it now. As he knows, councillors have sat on the board of University College Dublin for over 100 years. They made a very strong contribution. DCU is a classic example. I was nominated, although I did not take up the post at the time. The four local authorities in Dublin nominate one member. I know that DCU has really valued their contribution in terms of its master plan and its residential complex at All Hallows. It also valued the role of Owen Keegan, the chief executive of Dublin City Council. We also have the situation in other universities.

It is a pity and a lost opportunity. I am disappointed and sorry for the Association of Irish Local Government, which submitted a very detailed and comprehensive paper. I acknowledge its hard work in making a strong case to have local authorities included on a statutory basis. This House and the Dáil have not agreed to it. Ultimately, it has not been agreed by anybody, which is disappointing. I take on board what the Minister said about the new regulations. We had an opportunity. Last night the Minister talked about bringing more people on and having more inclusivity. In the statutory legislation, this Bill, we have specifically excluded an automatic entitlement of our local authority members. That is a lost opportunity.

I have worked closely with people in the University of Limerick. They acknowledge the role of Limerick City and County Council councillors in preparing the university's master plan. Much of that was covered in today's newspapers. We have lost an opportunity and have failed to respond to the Association of Irish Local Government which mandated us and respectfully asked us to include it in this legislation. That decision has now been made and there may be another battle on another day. I wanted to put my disappointment on the record of the House.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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While Senator Boyhan's point is very well made, these are just brief concluding comments.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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I often say I do not represent any constituency, but I definitely have an electorate which came to the fore over the past year, knowing that this Bill was on its way. I thank the Irish Universities Association, the Union of Students in Ireland and all the student unions for their input to improve the legislation. It is positive that an amendment has been passed in the Seanad today. The Civil Engagement Group tabled over 100 amendments to the legislation, which is what this Chamber is for. I thank our offices and maybe apologise to our offices for constantly having to-----

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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Maybe even the Bills Office as well.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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And the Bills Office. There is an enormous amount of work for everybody behind the scenes who have had to turn our amendments around in such a short space of time. Even though we may disagree with parts of the Bill which we think could be improved, I acknowledge the work of the students' union. Today it has won the legal right in respect of boards which has been enshrined in legislation. I finish on that positive note, notwithstanding other stuff on which we disagree.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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Hear, hear.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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It was passed unanimously; there was no opposition to the Bill being passed.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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This is landmark legislation. We have a brand new Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. Funding will be coming through this brand new body to our institutions. We need to ensure the funding is sufficient to allow them to achieve their maximum potential. We are fighting to maximise the funding for research for these universities. I appreciate the amount of engagement the Minister has had with all groups in the Seanad. He has taken feedback on board. We have learned so much about so many sections of the Bill. It is my first time seeing so many amendments on a Bill. It shows our engagement through our student unions and the IUA.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I do not think Senator Dolan was here for the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017.

Photo of Lynn RuaneLynn Ruane (Independent)
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Or the Heritage Bill.

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent)
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She came in after that.

Photo of Aisling DolanAisling Dolan (Fine Gael)
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I think I must have come in after it. It is wonderful to see this legislation. I acknowledge the work that goes on. Many people in all offices and Departments had sleepless nights. I acknowledge that this legislation is amazing and will be world class. We will see Ireland up there at the top in years to come.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Acting Chairperson and Seanad Éireann for its detailed consideration of the Bill. I sincerely thank the team of officials who have worked on the legislation. I thank Tanya Kenny, who is sitting with me, Íde Mulcahy, Stuart Morris and all the team in the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

This is particularly significant legislation because apart from the substance of it, it is the first that my still relatively new Department has had passed. I thank Seanad Éireann for unanimously passing the Bill. Not one Senator called a vote on the Bill. I thank all the Senators for passing the Bill in its entirety today. I thank everybody who has engaged with the Bill. There has been very extensive engagement. Senator Ruane mentioned a number of the groups, including the IUA and the Technological Higher Education Association, THEA. I am afraid to name other groups in case I leave any out. I also acknowledge the USI, individual students, individuals in governing authorities, and the chairs and presidents of governing authorities. It would be awfully unusual if there was not a very detailed and robust debate on a Bill relating to the third level sector. There have been points of disagreement and points of agreement. It has led to a much better Bill. We have amended the Bill on many occasions during its passage.

In particular, in the area of the Irish language, the Bill is stronger than it was when it started out. We made really good progress on the Irish language on Committee Stage in the other House. I thank the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, the Office of the Attorney General and the Bills Office here.

The last time we passed substantive legislation on how we govern the higher education sector was in 1971.In 1971, Ireland was a different place. We were not in the European Union and there were 20,000 full-time higher education students in Ireland. There are now over 200,000 full-time higher education students in Ireland so we are in a very different place and it is right and proper that we have modern legislation in place.

I want to assure people that this legislation is empowering in the sense that there is an awful lot of work to do once it passes. There is work to be done on the regulations, on the composition of the governing authorities, on the city and county councillors and on guidelines, codes and practices we can put in place to have a truly transparent and modern higher education system. There are also some immediate things the passage of this Bill will allow us to do, including allowing SUSI support for the issuing of scholarships for the first time and allowing St. Angela's College in Sligo to join the new technological university up there. It will also allow us to develop new apprenticeships in the area of agriculture and farming, which is particularly significant as it is the week of the National Ploughing Championships.

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister and I thank Senators for their co-operation in the passing of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ar 2.51 p.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 3.45 p.m.

Sitting suspended at 2.51 p.m. and resumed at 3.45 p.m.