Tuesday, 5 July 1983
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Yates: I should like to thank the Chair sincerely for giving me the opportunity to raise this matter on the Adjournment and I am aware that many requests were made to raise other matters. I am anxious to make a case for the establishment of a regional technical college in Wexford. To prove my case it is important to review the history and development of regional technical colleges. In 1966 a steering committee on technical education was established to advise the Minister on the needs for technical education at third level. As a result of that eight colleges were established around the country and in 1970 one was erected in Waterford and another in Carlow. So great was the demand for places at those colleges that major extensions were provided in later years. It is interesting to note that with the big participation of County Wexford students at those RTCs, extensions were granted to  Waterford in 1977 and Carlow in 1981. In the Waterford college, although provision for an extension for 500 extra places was approved, the demand for places in the 1980-81 session was so great that the board of management considered renting classroom accommodation in the local military barracks, conditions which were totally unsuitable for students, were opposed by the local students union but were necessary to cater for the uncontrollable growth in demand for enrolment.
In 1971 the HEA was established to advise the Minister in terms of a continuous review and monitoring of the needs and numbers for third-level technical education and to make recommendations to the Minister. I am anxious to stress that because of the comments I shall make later on the findings of Dr. Clancy of UCD. It is also important to give a factual analysis of the situation. I should like to outline to the House details of a report carried out by the South East Regional Development Organisation in 1980. In terms of population that report shows that County Wexford, with 26 per cent of the population of that region, had the largest population of all counties. In 1971 it had a population of 86,000, in 1979 it was 96,000 and the projected figure for 1986 is 105,900. That means that County Wexford will have 26.34 per cent of the population of the south east region. Waterford, where there is a regional technical college, has 24 per cent of the population, while for Carlow the projected population is 10 per cent. How is it that Carlow can get a regional technical college with 10 per cent of the population of the region, while Wexford, with 26 per cent of the population, does not have one?
It is important to consider the numbers in education. The number of students sitting for the leaving certificate between 1970 and 1980, trebled, resulting in 8,000 being in post-primary education in County Wexford. It is also projected that with a 20 per cent participation rate in third-level education we would need 230 places per year for County Wexford students alone. That shows the overwhelming  need for a third-level institution in County Wexford to cater for this phenomenal growth.
If we look at industrial expansion, the need for industrial development and how a regional technical college would benefit we see that there are startling unemployment figures. We have 17 per cent, over 6,000 people unemployed. In 1977 the figure was 3,698 so we can see there is a tremendous increase. When we look at the net figure for industrial manufacturing employment we see that there was a net loss between 1977 and 1983. There are very few areas which can show such depressing figures.
If we again compare Carlow, Waterford and Wexford in terms of unemployment, where Carlow has an RTC, 10.9 per cent of the working population are employed in manufacturing industry. The figure for Waterford is 10.4 per cent but in Wexford, down at the bottom of the table again, without an RTC, the figure is 5.1 per cent. To put that in simple terms, 1 per cent extra of an industrial base would mean 1,000 jobs. It can be seen we have not had much industrial development. This can be directly attributed to the fact that we have not had the type of attraction to come to Wexford in terms of industrial development and investment because we have not had the ancillary back-up. It is not because the land was not provided. Land banks were provided. In Enniscorthy 45 acres were provided plus the Edermine site, 45 acres in Wexford, and there has been a substantial investment in services and in land. That could not be given as the reason for such a low industrial base. When we look at the reality of industrial development we are only competing for light, open-type industry, which can be located anywhere.
If we had an RTC we could attract an electronics industry, pharmaceutical industries, health care industries and many other types that are related to a high technology need. It has been well established by now that industrialists are looking for a skilled work force and mature school leavers with an advanced educational background. We cannot provide this in Wexford without a regional  technical college. It is also of significance that since July 1979 there has not been one large foreign-based industry established in County Wexford. The figures, in terms of industrial development, speak for themselves.
It is important that people have the opportunity to seek a livelihood in their own county and in their own region. When we look at the need for adult and community education we see that in 1981 3,244 people enrolled for part-time adult education courses under the town and County Wexford VECs. The type of courses provided here cannot cater for the needs of the redundant person's professionally orientated courses for jobs. There is no doubt, in relation to accommodation, that in the south east we can cater for the back-up ancillary services needed for the establishment of an RTC on the basis that we are a tourist county and we will not have any problem with accommodation. There is no particular preference in relation to the site. Wexford, Enniscorthy, New Ross or Gorey would be extremely suitable as far as the county is concerned.
I wish to return briefly to Dr. Patrick Clancy, a lecturer in sociology in UCD. A survey called Participation in Higher Education, a national survey by Dr. Clancy said that the growth in RTCs and technical education was phenomenal. When we look at a subdivision of the participation of third level education we see that 50 per cent were in RTCs compared with 40 per cent in universities. The White Paper of December 1980 envisaged that by 1990 there would be 51,000 full-time third level educational posts. We have already reached 42,000 and this has been grossly underestimated.
Mr. Yates: Exactly. In terms of participation the strongest ingredient as to why participation levels would be low is the distance to a regional technical college. The reality is that the highest participation was in the counties of Carlow, Galway, Kerry, Waterford, Louth and Donegal where they have colleges. In  County Wexford it was well below the normal level at 17.6 per cent, the national average being 20 per cent and Carlow having 29 per cent.
The best way to increase participation in any county is to establish a regional technical college. As a compromise we would be prepared to accept a technical college where people could do a two-year certificate and diploma course instead of a degree course. The establishment of an RTC in County Wexford would satisfy the enormous growth in the number of students, increase participation of the students in third level education and help them find employment, increase the very low industrial base through high technology and industrial development and correct the situation whereby Wexford has lost out in regionalisation.
Minister for Education (Mrs. Hussey): I would like to compliment Deputy Yates on his very well presented case and on his obvious dedication to the needs of his county, particularly the young people of his county. On 17 November 1981 the County Wexford and town of Wexford Vocational Education Committees submitted to the then Minister for Education a document entitled Case for the Establishment of a Technical College in the Wexford Region. This showed that of the five counties in the south-east region, Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, South-Riding, Waterford and Wexford, Wexford had the biggest share of population, 96,000 or 26 per cent. It also showed that in 1980 there were 1,027 leaving certificate candidates from post-primary schools in the county. The document pointed out that using the participation rates indicated by the 1978 Sheehan study on future enrolments in third level education, 11 per cent of an age cohort would attend third level education resulting in a need for 120 student places to cater for Wexford students each year.
A decision on the application was deferred at the time pending receipt of a report which was commissioned by the Higher Education Authority on participation in higher education. This report, known as the Clancy Report, which was referred to extensively by Deputy Yates,  was published in September 1982. This showed, among a great many other interesting data, that in the ranking of counties by rates of admission to higher education, Wexford is 18th by reference to participation in all higher education and is 11th by reference to participation in the technological sector. The average rate of participation in the technological sector for the country as a whole is shown to be 10 per cent and County Wexford at 10.9 per cent is well above the average, which obviously is a very good sign for the employment prospects of its young people.
The interesting thing is that it is in participation in university education that County Wexford is below average, fifth from the bottom. A population figure of 100,000 would, on the basis of the case made by the Wexford VECs, produce a regional technical college of about 300 students. Even allowing that the total enrolment might go as high as 400 this would be a very small college in third level terms. In the course of a discussion with a deputation from Wexford on 26 January 1982, my colleague, the Minister for the Public Service, Deputy John Boland, who was then Minister for Education,  invited the deputation to submit data in support of their contention that when an institution has reached a certain size it is no more expensive to produce another than to further extend the first. This data has not to date been submitted to my Department. I appreciate that it is difficult data to produce but the fact remains that the offer was made and that the data have not arrived.
On the more general plane my Department have before them at the moment proposals for third level projects all over Ireland costing well in excess of £200 million. In the context of the current economic situation, it will be necessary to examine all proposals involving future financial commitments. The Government are at present studying the needs of the situation in relation to third level educational facilities and, as part of that study, we will have to establish priorities as far as possible between competing claims. The case made for a regional technical college in Wexford will have to be considered in that context and I am not at present in a position to give any commitment in relation to it.
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