Friday, 30 May 1930
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £77,000 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1931, chun Síntiúisí mar Chongnamh agus chun Deontaisí i gCabhair do Chostaisí Fundúireachtaí Príomh - Scoile, maraon le Deontaisí fén Irish Universities Act, 1908, fén Acht Talmhan, 1923, fén Acht um Oideachas Phríomh-Scoile (Talmhaíocht agus Eolaíocht Déiríochta), 1926, agus fé Acht Choláiste Phríomh-Scoile na Gaillimhe, 1929 (8 Edw. 7, c. 38; Uimh. 42 de 1923; Uimh. 32 de 1926; agus Uimh. 35 de 1929).
That a sum not exceeding £77,000 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931, for Contributions towards and Grants-in-Aid of the Expenses of  University Institutions, including Grants under the Irish Universities Act, 1908, the Land Act, 1923, the University Education (Agriculture and Dairy Science) Act, 1926, and the University College Galway Act, 1929 (8 Edw. 7, e. 38; No. 42 of 1923; No. 32 of 1926; and No. 35 of 1929).
Mr. Fahy: We have had so much discussion on education recently it is unnecessary to say much on this Vote. Universities, of course, are autonomous. That is as it should be, I presume, although I have heard ideas expressed by University men themselves that they wished that in certain cases there were powers to remove from a Professorial Chair anyone who, for one reason or another, is not fit to occupy it. However, I am not for a moment saying that Universities should not be autonomous. It is rather invidious to refer to any professor in these Universities, but we have heard the President of the Executive Council state that the policy of the Government is frankly protectionist.
We have a Chair of Economics in the National University which is frankly free trade. I do not know if the Dáil has control over that, but it is a matter to which, I presume, it is no harm to refer here. As I say, that Chair is frankly free trade, and such economic theories, of course, would naturally be spread to captains of industry and leaders of political life throughout the country after a while. We have also references here to the orientation of education in secondary schools. The same might be said of the universities. Oliver Wendell Holmes said on one occasion that it took three generations away from the soil to make a gentleman. That idea, I am afraid, prevails to a certain extent in both of our universities, so that the Vote for dairying and agricultural  science, as well as the money given to Cork by way of special grant, are to be commended for that reason. We should like to see the idea abroad that it is as dignified to be a farmer as to be a professional man.
Mr. Fahy: I quite agree. We would like to see the best brains of this country go into industry and agriculture and to spread the idea that the duffer of the family should not be left on the farm. We should put our best brains into farming, which is our chief industry. The universities can do something in that respect. I would like if we were told something as to what has been done in Galway College for the Gaelicisation of education there since a grant of £28,000 was made last year. Perhaps the period may be too short to show results. I do not know if Deputy Professor Tierney would agree with me in that, but he spoke of subjects which you could not teach through the medium of Irish. I noticed recently in the Press that a professor had been appointed in Cork to teach mathematics through the medium of Irish. Unless higher education can be imparted through the medium of Irish I do not see much future for the language. It must be put on a level with English, not merely in lip service in the Dáil and elsewhere, but in actual fact.
Universities are inclined to hide their light under a bushel in many respects so that very often you do not know exactly what they are doing. You can, of course, get information by writing to registrars and by looking up certain books, but the public would like to know what universities are doing in the way of research and culture generally. If such information were collated for the benefit of the public it would be a good thing. Trinity College does not come under this Vote. I believe that it raised the standard of Irish in modern language groups in recent years. You can get information of that kind by careful inquiry, but these are things which the public should know. While it may not be  the Minister's duty, a hint to the universities may not be amiss that they should let us know what they are doing in the various Faculties.
Professor Thrift: I rather take exception to the suggestion that a university should advertise itself beyond giving full information to anybody interested. I think that every university is very ready to give information whenever it is asked.
Professor Thrift: I do not believe in the advertising notions beyond saying that a readiness should exist to answer every inquiry. I think such readiness exists in all universities. I merely desire to make a remark about Deputy Fahy's opening words. I agree entirely that a university should be autonomous and I think that Deputy Fahy gave us the strongest evidence of the wisdom and importance of that when he proceeded to criticise the teaching of some particular professor. I think it would be lamentable if anything were said here to prevent any professor teaching any subject according to his lights. Whether it is from one angle or another, provided he gives instruction to the best of his lights and ability, it would be a sad day when political influence was brought to bear in this House to coerce him in his teaching.
Mr. Anthony: There is one thing that is to be commended in this Vote —the sum of money set apart for the Agricultural Science College in Cork. I would like to see, if it were possible, another agricultural science college in this country, recognising as I do the value of that industry to the country. I think that Deputy Fahy struck a note here to-day which should have a very useful moral. Agriculture has been looked upon as the Cinderella of industry in this country for many years, but I am glad to learn that there is some sign of an awakening interest and pride in the profession of agriculture. What Ford's industry has done in Cork—namely, to kill a lot of the shoneenism, which made a lot  of people ashamed to be seen with black hands and black faces—I hope the grants for agricultural science will do for the agriculturist in this country, namely, to make him proud of his profession of agriculture and proud of his labour.
I do not think that sufficient thought has been given to all that is taken out of the land in this country. The Church, the Law and Medicine are mainly recruited from the agricultural community. It takes so many hundred pounds to make a man a lawyer, so many hundred pounds to make him a doctor, so many hundred pounds to make him a priest or a parson, and all that money comes out of the land. The remarkable thing about it is that whilst this five or six hundred pounds is set aside to educate a lawyer, a priest or parson, and the same for a doctor——
Mr. Anthony: Well, he is not worth it. We find that the practice in this country is, that having set apart all that money to educate one of the sons for one or other of the professions, the attitude in relation to the son who is going to succeed his father in possession of the farm is: “Johnny will not want any education; he is going to get the farm”—all the time forgetting that the science of agriculture is as great a science as that practised by either the lawyer or the doctor. I am not going to say anything about the priest or the parson lest I might get these people on my shoulders, but I do think it is time that we in this country should wake up to a full sense of the realities and that we should do more for agriculture in the way of promoting agricultural science.
We have had a lot of clamour in this country—I do not want to say much in that vein, because it might be said that I was speaking to the people of Longford-Westmeath, and not to the Dáil here—about things that do not really matter. Here we have something concrete which is for the good of the country. Whatever  may be said about the Minister for Agriculture, he has established a lasting monument to his name in establishing an Agricultural Science College in Cork. That is one thing that will be remembered for him perhaps when the achievements of other people in the Dáil will be forgotten. I do hope that the headline he has set in that direction, and the fillip he has given to agriculture, in the way of agricultural science, will be followed in other parts of the country.
Dr. Hennessy: I quite agree with Deputy Anthony that, viewed as a commercial investment, the £1,500 spent in educating a doctor is badly spent, especially if he selects his own country to live in. I do not know any sum of money or so much hard work that receives such a bad return.
Dr. Hennessy: I believe we have too many doctors qualifying. I do not say that from any trade union motives. I do not want to regulate the output, but 15 per cent. of the doctors qualifying in Ireland would make up the wear and tear of the profession in this country. The great majority, say 90 or 85 per cent., have to go to English-speaking countries to make their living, and certainly if they are animated by the idea of making a decent profit they will leave Ireland altogether.
Deputy Fahy suggests that in the Universities more use should be made of Irish as a medium for teaching other subjects. Let us take medicine as an instance. Apart from there being no scientific terminology in Irish, the doctor who receives his scientific education through the medium of Irish has to go for a living either to the front or the rear. If he goes to England or to America he will be under the handicap that he has been taught through the medium of Irish. Already there is a prejudice against Irish doctors owing to the mistaken idea in England that they are being taught their medical subjects at present through the medium of Irish.
I agree with the suggestion that it  would be advisable, especially where county scholarships are concerned, that the scholarships should be carmarked for some subjects and some degrees that would be of benefit to the country. I do not think that the expenditure on many of the scholarships can be justified. I am informed that the students who get those scholarships frequently go through their university career on the ordinary pass examination. That is an abuse of public money, because if public money is to be expended on university education it should be to tap the higher order of intellect and it is not fair to the country that the money should be expended simply in the way of giving a man a livelihood with the ordinary pass.
I think when students take up agriculture as a pursuit, if they limited all their time to the Munster Institute or to the Albert College, it would be much better than going through the university courses and taking out a university diploma. They would have a practical knowledge if they confined themselves to the Albert College or to the Munster College and that would be very much better than a diploma. Students who get diplomas for public posts or for the Civil Service are very indifferently paid, and there is no great inducement for young men to take up agriculture as a career. My idea is that the farm is the best place to give a student that training and not the university. If students were confined to the constituent colleges they would be better employed there than in reading for a degree at the university, simply by doing the practical work. If the scholarships in agriculture were given to the constituent colleges of the university they would be much better expended.
Mr. Little: I am glad that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is here as well as the Minister for Education, because I think if there is one side on which University activity requires to be related more closely to the needs of the nation it is upon the side of industry and commerce. After all, it has been said, and I think everyone agrees with it  now, that it is no use in carrying all one's eggs in one basket. While agriculture has been highly developed in this country and a great deal done for it, as has been pointed out by Deputy Anthony, somehow or other we want to find the missing link between the product of the University and the ultimate use of that product. The whole system is distorted. There is a lack—I will not press it too far—of the principle that education should be aimed at developing the individual for the needs of the nation. Certainly it should be related to the needs of the nation. It is not so done at present. As Deputy Dr. Hennessy has pointed out, 15 per cent. of the doctors that leave the University from year to year are required in the country and the rest are for export, so it may be said as a criticism of our education system that it is largely for the purposes of export. That applies not only to our doctors, but also to a good many of our scientists and our engineers. Some means should be found, and only the State can find it, of influencing the whole of education so that the money spent by the State upon education will be for the purpose of developing the prosperity and the strength of the State not merely in material ways, but otherwise. Agriculture is well dealt with, but what seems to be lacking is some check upon the number of people who are allowed to go for some of the professions.
In other countries there is a certain check upon that, because it does not do to flood a profession. It is bad for the profession. We have had the example in the old days—I think some slight change has been made— of the number of barristers in the country, with the result that a considerable number of them had extremely little to do. There was no work for them to do. There should be some check upon the total, and also some connecting link, so that the younger brains should be educated for the purpose of being exploited for new industries in the country. I do not think the task is impossible.  I hope the Minister for Education and the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be able to produce, in due time, some sort of scheme by which we will be able to say the best brains of this country are going to go into the reproductive industries in the country.
Mr. McGilligan: I could not follow the logic of Deputy Fahy's argument, because he started off with the platitude that the universities were autonomous, and after that sapient remark, and that that was the way it should be, he then went on to say that we had in one of the colleges of the University a frankly free trade professor of economics. It is hard to make out whether he was pleading against an autonomous university having control over professorial ideas or marking that as one of the evil results following from the autonomous situation. If we take it that people are to be judged on their views, and that those views are to be related to the political views of the particular party that is in governmental control at the moment, we are going to have the peculiar situation in the whole university system of professors being dismissed as new parties come into power. I wonder what change, for instance, would be made in the professorship of ethics if a certain party came into power. I certainly think we would have a great many people who might be appointed to the Chair of Metaphysics, and whether their views would go down with any sort of solemnity through university halls, when they were announced, I do not know. The most astonished man tomorrow in this country will be the present professor for political economy in University College, Dublin, when he hears that he has been described as a frankly free trade professor. I can imagine nobody more astonished than he is going to be. I think, unfortunately, that Deputy Fahy is not too well acquainted with the university system and was speaking without an appreciation of the true facts, but we will leave these people to answer for themselves.
 Deputy Fahy is very keen on the University advertising its work in order that it should be known. I wonder had he anything in his mind, any special point on which he knew work was being done in the University to which he regretted there was not more publicity being given. There is a tremendous amount of research of a scholarly type being done up and down through the country in the different universities and it is nearly all advertised but it is done in the proper way. Scientific journals contain records of everything that is done. Medical journals contain records of everything that is being done in that line. On the other subjects certain records are being kept as a rule. As far as the National University is concerned a simple request to the Registrar in Merrion Square would bring a list of theses that have been published from time to time on work that has been done in a variety of ways. I do not think there is any necessity to go further into that point. I think the Deputy will find that he can get all he wants if he makes application for them.
Deputy Little thinks we should develop the individual for the needs of the nation or in the interests of the nation. I was wondering was that just the ordinary platitude. The Deputy goes on to state that the Minister for Education and myself are to draft a plan which will put a check on the numbers that are going into the different professions. For instance he stated that we have too many doctors, that they were mainly for export and that our scientists and engineers were mainly for export. He might have added that a considerable number of the products of one of the affiliated colleges of the National University on the clerical side were largely for export, the invisible return for which we certainly do not get counting in our adverse trade balance. But what are we to do to put a check to that? Does he mean some sort of licensing system akin to the system that used to be said to be in this city with regard to plasterers, that you could never become a plasterer if you were not the  son of a plasterer? Hereafter people may only become solicitors if their fathers have been solicitors; the same for doctors and the same for barristers. You will get into a really rigid system. There is a fairly good check at the moment on students, the check being the prospects of the profession they are taking. Remember the situation has altered completely with regard to engineering. There has hardly been an engineer qualified in any of the universities in the last three or four years who has not found work in this country and not merely those who have just qualified but a considerable number of engineering men who have gone abroad have been brought back.
Mr. McGilligan: I am speaking of permanent employment. Permanent employment has been found for most of the engineers who have come out in the last two or three years. There is a certain small number of people who are engaged on the civil side of the Shannon works overbalancing the vast number of people getting employment on the electrical and mechanical side of that particular scheme, sufficient to absorb most of the people who have been there. Similarly with regard to the younger scientist. There is a better appreciation of the value of the scientific man, the man with the Science Degree as an aid to industry, and industrial concerns in the country are beginning to find it to their advantage to get help from men who are trained scientifically. They are coming more and more into use, but there is still an export of some of those people. If these people are not going to be let follow their own natural bent and become doctors, scientists and clergymen what are we going to do with them? Deputy Little wants them to be put into reproductive industries.
Mr. McGilligan: The Deputy might have interrupted his own peculiar  thoughts and told us the logical conclusion of a check being put on the training of these people; what we are going to do with them.
Mr. McGilligan: I think that will rule itself, but that will not prevent young men deciding to take up the study of medicine because they find opportunities elsewhere and I think it would be a very unsound thing to prevent them.
Mr. McGilligan: I am not going to pursue this much further at the present moment. What I want is that some time we will have put forward a concrete proposal under the joint authorities of Deputy Fahy and Deputy Little, telling us how we are going to get autonomy in the University and how we are to get the ideas of the professors in accord to the views of the political party in control. Secondly, we would get a plan as to how students are going to be checked going to the University, and as to how we are going to regulate entrance to the professions, and under what system licences are to be given.
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