Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Overcrowding at University Centres.

Thursday, 23 October 1969

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 241 No. 10

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309.

Mr. O'Hara: Information on Thomas O'Hara  Zoom on Thomas O'Hara  asked the Minister for Education if he is aware of the serious overcrowding at university centres; and what plans his Department have in mind for relieving this situation.

[1798]Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  To deal with this situation a large scale building programme has been undertaken. I will give for the Deputy's information a number of the projects concerned:

(1) A new science building to accommodate 2,000 science students was provided in Belfield.

(2) A new arts building to house between 5,000 and 6,000 students has just been completed also at Belfield.

(3) In all over £8,000,000 will be expended in buildings for University College, Dublin.

(4) A new science building estimated to cost £1,700,000 is in the course of erection in University College, Cork.

(5) Tenders have been invited for a new science building in University College, Galway.

(6) Apart from the foregoing a large amount of temporary accommodation by way of prefabricated and other structures has been provided in all the colleges.

It is proposed to continue the building programme for institutions of higher education until all projected needs have been met.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Is the Minister not aware of the recent report of the Higher Education Authority and the fact that his Department has, until last year, never spent even £1 million in one year on the university buildings; that the backlog now created requires an average of £4 million to be spent over six years. £24 million in all, to catch up with the backlog left by the neglect of his Department? Does the Minister accept the recommendation of the Higher Education Authority that this sum be spent over the next six years?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I do not accept that there has been any neglect on the part of my Department in relation to the provision of accommodation. I have outlined here the sums that are at present being spent. I am having the report of the Higher Education Authority [1799] examined in very great detail. As the Deputy is aware, this is an autonomous body which did not report to me or to the Government but I am studying the report myself and I am also having it studied by my Department.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Could the Minister say if his study could be completed before the programme for the next financial year is started?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  That, of course, would depend on whether or not I accept the programme as proposed.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Could the Minister's study be completed in time for it to be implemented, if he were to accept it?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  That is a very hypothetical question.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  In view of the need to allocate the very scarce capital resources can we have any assurance from the Minister that the programme of such expenditure on buildings will be brought into the merger investigations of the Government? How do we stand in terms of the projected building development? Are we going to build first and merge afterwards in terms of university buildings?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  I am having a very careful study made of this whole matter. Some recommendations in the report appear to me to be acceptable and others not acceptable.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Would the Minister say if he appreciates the need to avoid delay in this matter? We appreciate his need to re-study the merger question as he has recently been appointed to his present position but does the Minister appreciate the importance of ensuring that the merger, which has already held up university developments for two and a half years, is not used as an excuse for any further delay in view of the enormous backlog of buildings, and, indeed, of the provision of current resources and staff?

Mr. Faulkner: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The Deputy is aware that the Higher Education Authority is [1800] studying the whole question of the merger. It is meeting representatives of the various bodies concerned and will make recommendations in due course. Until I get these recommendations I will be unable to make a final decision as to what I am going to do.


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