Private Members' Business. - ESF Funding for Third Level Education: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 19 February 1992

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 415 No. 9

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The following motion was moved by Deputy J. Higgins on 18 February 1992:

In view of the inherently unjust operation of the Higher Education Grants Scheme which discriminates heavily against PAYE taxpayers and places impossible financial burdens on families in the provision of higher education to their children, and in view of his clear lack of planning and vision in the area of third level education, Dáil Éireann calls on the Minister for Education to abandon his plans to means test ESF grants from September 1992, and calls on the Government to:

(a) retain in full the present ESF funding arrangements for third level courses pending a total review of the finance arrangements for students attending third level education;

(b) enter into negotiations with the EC to obtain further ESF funding for other third level courses and institutions; and

(c) establish a permanent education secretariat in Brussels for educational monitoring, research and liaison.

[2561] Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “In” and to substitute the following:

“regard to education, Dáil Éireann commends the Government for its achievements with particular reference to the dramatic expansion in the provision of third level places and measures taken to ensure greater equity in the third level system; notes that the Minister for Education, being conscious of the pressures on families in providing for third level education for their children, intends to complete a full review of the criteria for eligibility for student grants by September 1992; and further commends the Government for its ongoing initiatives in this area, including:

— the expansion in the number of places available on ESF supported programmes through the more equitable distribution of available funds,

— the targeting of resources to assist the disadvantaged and those from lower income groups in availing of the various education and training programmes at all levels and

— the co-ordinated arrangements being made to ensure a major expansion in EC support for education and training programmes in Ireland, including the establishment of a permanent education representative in Brussels.”

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy Toddy O'Sullivan was in possession and he has some five minutes of his time left.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: Information on Toddy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Toddy O'Sullivan  The Labour Party fully support the motion put forward in the name of Deputy Jim Higgins and other Fine Gael members regarding ESF [2562] funding. What Deputy Higgins is seeking to achieve in paragraph (a) of the motion is a commonsense approach whereby we would retain the present ESF funding arrangement. This is an extremely sensible approach in that from 1993 onwards Maastricht Structural Funds will be available under a new cohesion fund. For that reason it is inexplicable that the Minister should, at this juncture, decide to restrict, by means testing, the availability of these funds to people who in the past did not have an opportunity to avail of third level education. Part and parcel of the problem is that the regional technical colleges have been extremely successful. They opened the door to education to many people who in the past, for various reasons, could not avail of third level education perhaps because they live far from a university or have insufficient family funds to fund education in a third level institution.

The regional technical colleges and ESF funding have played a major part in making third level education available to children of families who in the past, did not have access to it. The amount of money mentioned by the Minister in his contribution last night was £10 million. That £10 million is the overall cost rather than the specific cost for the 2,600 students who will be affected which the Irish Government have to fund in total. It takes into account teaching and non-teaching costs. For that reason, the Minister is being penny wise, bearing in mind that he recognises that post-1994 he will be in a position, by virtue of the fact that there will be more funding available, to again offer places to students. Effectively, we are discriminating against a generation of students who, in the coming years, will not be able to avail of a place in the regional technical college because they are affected by the means testing.

I welcome the fact that the Minister, in keeping with the motion, has established a permanent education secretariat in Brussels. This is a very wise move [2563] considering that there will be considerable negotiations to provide extra funding for education.

Germany and Japan are classic examples of the effect which education has on these economies. Were it not for the fact that they have a very advanced system of education they would not be in the happy position in which they are today of being major world financial powers. If we are going to cut back on education we are ruining the chance of taking our place amongst the nations in the years ahead and of being a real force in the Europe of the future.

The Minister said he would simplify the method of entry into the third level institutions by a centralised registry system. That is poor consolation to anybody who will now be deprived of third level education by virtue of means testing. To say, on the one hand, that he will streamline the method of entry and on the other hand takes the means by which they can avail of third level education is contradictory. For that reason I would ask the Minister to reconsider his decision. I appreciate that a different Minister was involved. Contrary to what other people have said, the former Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, in the short term in which he was in office — with this one exception — did impact on that Department. Having met him as a chairman of a vocational education committee I felt he came to grips with his brief rather quickly.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would be grateful if the Deputy would now bring his speech to a close.

Mr. T. O'Sullivan: Information on Toddy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Toddy O'Sullivan  For some reason, which I cannot understand, he goes off on a tangent and then decides to deprive a section of the community of third level education. I would now ask the new Minister, the Minister of State and, indeed, the new Taoiseach, to reconsider this decision and give to those who want to avail of third level education the opportunity which they so richly deserve.

[2564]Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  In fairness, it must be said that the motivation behind this measure is certainly not to prevent people from entering the third level sector but rather it is to spread the available income. The problem in this area is one of success and growing participation numbers in third level education. That is something we should welcome on all sides of the House. Since the sixties we have witnessed a revolution of participation in second level education and with the growth of the regional technical colleges and the NIHEs and so on, we witnessed a further growth in participation rates in third level colleges.

Luckily, because of our membership of the European Community, the European Social Fund has come to play a very significant role in enabling many people throughout the country from low income groups to participate in third level education. In my view we have a problem — it is a good problem — where more and more people will want to avail of third level education in the future. The evidence suggests that even though the “bulge” in our second level figures is on a downward scale, and because of the falling birth rate the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level is declining, nonetheless an increasing percentage of students will attend third level colleges over the next decade. We have to take a longer-term view of the issue and go about securing long-term funding for what will become a reality in the next decade.

I welcome the commitment in the Minister's opening speech that he will carry out an overall review of our grants system. In his contribution he put on record the fact that he was dissatisfied with that system and certain elements contained in it. I am always wary of means testing. The manner in which we means test in Ireland is not adequate or satisfactory and successive Governments have been responsible for that, whether it is in the social welfare code or in education. The thresholds in relation to education for third level grants are much too low. That is the worry I have in this case. Notwithstanding that, the way to proceed is to review European Social Funding [2565] for training in education in its totality. Considerable ESF funding is being allocated to the whole training area, for example in FÁS, CERT and so on. A more co-ordinated approach is required of the Department of Education, the Department of Labour and other bodies. In our analysis of the situation we must seek to get value for money and whatever new scheme we introduce should not act as a deterrent to young people entering our third level colleges or our regional technical colleges.

I am heartened by the Maastricht Treaty because for the first time it actually includes a provision for greater funding for education. That is the way forward. Commissioner Bruce Millan was here recently and he more or less indicated that we would receive a significant increase in Structural Funds. The problem as presented to the Minister is that the amount of money we are receiving from Brussels is not adequate to cover the increased number of participants in our colleges. He is endeavouring to distribute the amount of money at his disposal to as many people as possible. I suggest that we increase the level of funding, particularly that which we obtain from Brussels.

Mr. D. Ahern: Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  I represent the constituency of Louth, where there is a very successful regional technical college in Dundalk. That regional technical college owes its success mainly to the ESF grant, which has been available during the past few years. There is some disquiet in the locality in relation to the proposal that that grant be means tested. While I can understand the logic behind this proposal — one could make the case that all grants should be treated equally — on the other hand there is a fear that the vast majority of students who are interested in this grant will not be able to avail of it. Middle income families may suffer as a result. There is also the possibility that some of the spin-offs which accrue when a regional technical college is located in an area will be affected if these grants are means tested.

I can see the reason the Minister decided to introduce these changes. [2566] There is a number of anomalies in the grants system which have been highlighted for those of us who attend political meetings. It is important that these are rectified. It has always been my attitude — perhaps the Minister will take note of this and respond to it when he comes to reply — that education grants are of help to a certain section of the population. However, there is another section of the population who pay their taxes but who are not in a position to avail of these grants due to the size of their incomes. Yet other grants are made available using the income raised through their taxes. I am not saying that this is a bad thing; it is a good thing. But it has been suggested, with some justification, that there is a section of the population who if all things were equal would not receive those grants.

I put it to the Minister for Education — I would like to congratulate both him and the Minister of State, Deputy Aylward, on their appointments — that he should review the grants system. I understand that he has given an undertaking to do this. Perhaps he would also consider the possibility of providing interest free loans or low interest loans to students to help them educate themselves rather than a grant which is not recouped. This loan could be clawed back in later years when the student is employed. I know that there would be logistical difficulties in doing this, but that would be a fairer system. It would not lead to the creation of inequities which exist in the present system which has been tinkered with in recent years. In effect, a low interest loan, or an interest free loan, would amount to an investment in the education of these people; but there would be a responsibility on them to repay this investment to the State at a later date.

In relation to this motion, the proposal that all these grants be means-tested can be justified. I very much welcome the long overdue changes which the Minister made to the Higher Education Authority grants scheme to ensure that the needs of families who have extra children going to college are taken into account. In conclusion, I ask him to consider the suggestion that the grants system be reviewed [2567] and, if possible, that interest free loans — perhaps on a sliding scale, taking the incomes of parents into account — should be offered to students.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  I thank the other Members for sharing their time with me. It is a good idea that we should in this House debate third level education and the funding of that sector at frequent intervals because our third level education sector ought to be continually evaluated to make sure that it is responsive to the needs of our time as they emerge and fulfils the functions it was designed to fulfil.

First, I acknowledge the enormous contribution made by the regional technical colleges to the development of education since their foundation. They have made an enormous contribution to education and have brought relevant education within the grasp and reach of large numbers of students for whom, and indeed for their parents, third level education would have been little more than a pipe dream. Anything which would injure that development should not be countenanced or welcomed by anybody in this House.

It is my clear understanding that any proposed changes to the third level grants system should be made in the context of an overall reassessment and revaluation of the grants system as it applies to all colleges in the third level sector. I would like to remind the House that what the Minister has proposed is not that the ESF grants to all students attending regional technical colleges be withdrawn but rather that the maintenance element of that grant as it applies to a small number of students attending regional technical colleges be means tested. To date, students doing degree courses in regional technical colleges are means tested in the same way as students attending the traditional university colleges. This should be borne in mind. Therefore what has been proposed will not be as drastic in its impact as has been said in recent times since the change was announced.

Having said that, I am disappointed [2568] that this has been brought forward as a single proposal standing in its own right and has not been seen in the context of the overall review of third level grants now taking place within the Department. It is my clear understanding that this two party Government have made a commitment to reform comprehensively the third level grants system with a view to bringing about greater equity and fair play in the distribution of all third level grants. I am also aware that plans for a radical reorganisation of the present system are well under way and that a better and fairer system will be in place before the start of the next academic year.

Ask any parent, student or teacher what is wrong with the existing system and the very first thing that they will tell us is that the children of PAYE earners are being penalised harshly within the existing grants system because of the income threshold. Indeed, the threshold is now set so low that one almost has to be on the dole to be eligible for any kind of third level grant within the university sector.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  That is what we are trying to avoid.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  That is what the Government parties are trying to avoid also. The present threshold is £10,500, whereas the average industrial wage is about £13,000. That is an indication of how narrow and low the threshold is. This is unacceptable. I am convinced the Government are looking at this area with a view to effecting significant improvements, which I know will be brought about, as I have already said, before the start of the new academic year.

The second matter which is causing extreme hardship to parents is the delay in the payment of grants. Parents have told me, time and again, that they fill in application forms and submit them in July but hear nothing about them until October. Students then gain admission and are registered but very often it is January of the first academic year before grant moneys are paid. This is causing [2569] enormous hardship to parents, many of whom are forced to go to credit unions or banks to borrow the money to give to their children for maintenance and books. Sometimes, indeed, it is two or three months into the academic year before the grant moneys are paid. It is a fundamental flaw in the system which must be remedied. I appeal to the Minister to take steps in that regard. I fear that, for cash flow reasons, local authorities are withholding moneys far beyond the time when they should be paid.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Tell that to your Minister.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  I am speaking to the Minister, I do not need to be prompted.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Deputy McCormack knows that there is a rigid time limit in this debate and interruptions are particularly unwelcome, if not disorderly.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  It is very hard to listen to a speech of that kind.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  I ask the Minister, in the context of the reforms currently underway by the Government, to look at this aspect with a view to bringing about changes for the better this year so that they will be brought into effect at the start of the next academic year.

I have nothing against the principle of means testing provided it is applied fairly and squarely among all students and that income is evaluated in a way which will ensure a fair crack of the whip for everyone. It is a well known fact that the way the grants system is administered at present means that well-off farmers, many of whom because they can juggle the figures, are drawing grants for their student children.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  That is an insult to farmers.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Let us hear the Deputy without interruption. Members [2570] on the other side will have their opportunity to speak.

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  Other students are children of people in the self-employed sector who, because they can organise their figures, are drawing grants while at the same time children of PAYE workers, whose parents are earning much less, are not entitled to grants. A threshold must be set against a criteria which is fair, just and equitable. I am satisfied that the Government are moving in that direction, not before time.

I am satisfied that measures already announced by the Government will effect a major improvement. The income eligibility ceiling for families will be increased by £2,000 for each child after the first child attending third level education, which is an improvement. Parents who have two, three or more children in third level education at the same time have suffered enormous hardship in the last number of years and, if they are in the PAYE sector, many of them are driven deeply into debt to enable them to send their children to third level education. Some acknowledgment will now be made under the changes proposed by the Government to parents who have more than one child in college at the same time.

Furthermore, income eligibility will be assessed on current income instead of, as heretofore, on the income in the year in which the student sat the leaving certificate, which is also an improvement which has been sought for some time. I am very glad that the Government have now acknowledged this and brought about this change which will take effect from the start of the next academic year.

This is one of the few countries of the twelve member states where mature students are treated so badly in the education system from the point of view of grants eligibility. That issue is also being addressed by the Government; mature students who secure a place in a third level institution will automatically be considered to meet the academic requirements for the award of a grant, which is an improvement. Mature students will be assessed on the basis of their own income [2571] rather than on that of their parents, which was the case heretofore.

Lone parents' welfare payments under the lone parent's allowance scheme, will be excluded from the assessment of income for grant eligibility. All these provisions will be put in place for the start of the next academic year. That is a major package of improvements, which I welcome. It is within the context of the overall package that some changes in the ESF grants will be effected. It gives a false picture to isolate one item of the overall package and not to include all the other benefits which will accrue when the package is in place.

I have spoken already about the hardships on families because of the delay in making payments. I appeal to the Minister to look at that issue. As I said, I do not have an objection to the principle of means testing as it will be a fair test applied right across the board. I do not think it will have an adverse impact on attendance at third level colleges, it is just the maintenance dimension of an overall grant which will be affected.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Why is it being brought in?

Miss Quill: Information on Máirín Quill  Zoom on Máirín Quill  The reasons have already been explained by a previous speaker. I am satisfied that the changes effected this year will ensure well overdue justice and fair play within the grants system. I am happy that my party are part of a Government which have put a lot of time and thought into studying the system as it applied to date and in bringing about these proposals which will effect major improvements in the system.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is Deputy Frank Fahey sharing his time? There are eight minutes left of the time available to Government Deputies. The Deputy was mentioned as one who wished to share his time. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. F. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  I compliment the Minister on the case he made regarding the changes which have been effected in ESF [2572] funding for regional, technical and similar third level institutions. I should like to dwell on the logic behind these changes and the benefits which they will bring to many students in third level education.

It has been an anomaly for some time that two students from the same family could be in a university or an RTC and that one of them has to pay the full fees while the other does not. This anomaly is now being corrected.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  Make them all pay now.

Mr. F. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  It is not right that families who could afford to pay a contribution towards their children's education should not do so. In my constituency I know of a doctor who has a very big GMS practice and he has a child attending a regional technical college who qualifies for full fees, grant assistance and maintenance. Surely that is not common sense, especially when his neighbour, who is a small farmer with two children attending University College Galway, does not qualify for any grants and does not even get tax relief because he is over the income limit.

I want to put to the Fine Gael Party that the issue here is whether the income eligibility limit can be increased for all students who qualify for grant aid. This issue has to be addressed by the Government and the Opposition parties. The Minister has promised to review the eligibility level for grant aid. I think we would all agree that the level is too low at present and that many people who should qualify do not. Consequently, hardship is being experienced by people right across the board.

The review of the eligibility limit and the increase in that limit depends on the amount of resources this or any other Government are prepared to put into third level education. I put it to the Oppostion that in working out proposals for increased expenditure they should refer to the bedrock of their policy, that is, the cutting of public expenditure as [2573] enunciated on budget day and other days by the Fine Gael Party leader.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  You are one to talk about cuts.

Mr. F. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  It is very easy to speak in glowing terms about what should be done in terms of the global finances of the State——

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  Fianna Fáil's policy is to put people on the dole.

Mr. F. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  It is hypocritical of the Opposition to come in here time after time and call for more resources to be put into education. The issue which has to be addressed by the Minister for Education in the review which he has promised is whether he will be in a position to increase the income eligibility limits. I sincerely hope he will be in a position to increase those limits so that everyone will have access to support from the third level grant system.

I wish in my remaining minutes to refer to the very good and useful proposals contained in this package which will give many people access to third level education, something they did not have up to now. I am referring in particular to families who have more than one child attending third level education. It is totally unfair that a man who pays PAYE and has two, three or four children attending a third level institution at present does not receive any benefit whatsoever, not even the slightest tax relief. The fact that such families will have their income eligibility increased by £2,000 per child is a very significant step forward. It is also significant that income eligibility will be assessed on the basis of current income rather than on the income for the year during which the child sat the leaving certificate.

The most significant development of all — I regard this as radical — is the proposal that mature students be assessed on the basis of their income. At a time when second chance education is now becoming a very vital part of many people's education, particularly for those [2574] who come from deprived backgrounds or families where it was not possible to contemplate third level education, this is a very welcome development. Many people who are working and want to enter third level education will now have that opportunity to do so due to the fact that they can now qualify for grants under the higher education grant scheme. This is a most praiseworthy and welcome development which is long overdue.

I know of thousands of people of 20, 21 and 22 years who are working in low income jobs. They will now have the opportunity of going to third level institutions.

Mr. McCormack: Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  This has nothing to do with the motion.

Mr. F. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  That is what is proposed in this set of recommendations. These people will be able to continue in third level education and earn income from their part-time jobs. This new, radical and fundamental change in Irish education must be welcomed right across the board.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy will now bring his speech to a close.

Mr. F. Fahey: Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  It is also a welcome development from the point of view of lone parents, widows and single parents whose children will now be able to attend third level education.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  I wish to share my time with Deputy Eamon Gilmore and Deputy Therese Ahearn.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  I fully support this motion. Having listened to Deputy Fahey's contribution, the arguments in favour of this motion which have been made over and over again need to be repeated. The Minister's amendment to the motion needs to be clarified. I do not understand what he means when he says that it is intended to complete a full [2575] review of the criteria for eligibility for student grants by September 1992. I take it that no review has yet been carried out. The Minister intends to means test maintenance grants without having carried out any review of the criteria for eligibility for student grants. I should like the Minister to say what he means by that and when this review will take place. During the course of that review will he also review the proposal to means test maintenance grants? There may be a hidden meaning in the amendment and perhaps the Minister will change his mind.

I should like to congratulate the Minister for accepting Deputy Higgins's proposal to establish a permanent education secretariat in Brussels. He said that co-ordinated arrangements are being made to ensure major expansion in EC support, including the establishment of a permanent education representative in Brussels. I welcome the fact that the Minister is taking the European scene, on which so much of our educational support depends, seriously. I will refer to this point later. Deputy Higgins in his motion calls on the Government to enter into negotiations with the EC to obtain further ESF funding. I think that is available at present.

I expressed my views on the means testing of educational grants almost immediately the announcement was made. I issued a statement on the matter. I referred in particular to the creation of a further obstacle to equality of opportunity in third level vocational education. I have referred repeatedly to this issue. During the debate on the Regional Technical Colleges Act the previous Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, agreed to accept an amendment to ensure equality of opportunity in education generally. The Government are taking a step backwards in this whole area. It is interesting to note the number of Fianna Fáil backbenchers who are opposed to the Minister's proposals. This is probably a new development among backbenchers. In future, backbenchers may [2576] oppose what Ministers are trying to do in regard to different issues.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  Something with which the Deputy's party are familiar.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  Deputy Quill put forward some good arguments in regard to the low threshold. I also referred to this point in my statement. I pointed out that the income threshold levels for university grants were already ridiculously low. That point was also made by Deputy Quill. If the same income limits were applied to vocational grants the consequences could be disastrous. It is a long number of years since the City of Dublin vocational education committee issued a press release. It is not a common practice among vocational education committees and certainly not for the City of Dublin vocational education committee. I never remember them issuing a press release, but on 9 January this year they issued a press release as a result of their concern about the sudden announcement by the Minister regarding means testing of maintenance grants. In that press release they make the point that the committee were surprised that such a major change would be introduced without adequate notice and without regard to the particular sensitivity of applicants currently making choices for CAO-CAS places, which they had to do before 1 February. As these people were making their choices they were told they might not receive a grant. This is the major point with which the City of Dublin vocational education committee are so concerned. In their press release they called on the Government to defer any modification of the ESF grant system until 1993 so as to allow time for detailed analysis of the potential effects, particularly on participation rates among lower and middle income families.

This is a major issue within the City of Dublin vocational education committee in regard to Dublin Institute of Technology colleges and within every vocational committee throughout the country in regard to the regional technical colleges. The Minister did not take [2577] the opportunity to examine the effects of the proposal on participation rates. The Dublin Institute of Technology at Bolton Street passed a motion on 14 January in which they said that, if this proposal is based on present means tests as they apply to higher education grants and vocational education committee scholarships, it may result in at least two-thirds of the participants in these courses no longer being eligible and that many of them may be unable to pursue any form of third level education. They pointed out that the system is totally inequitable for those families in the PAYE sector.

Everybody involved in the area of vocational education, regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology colleges — staff, principals, teachers and students — are united in condemning this outrageous off-the-top-of-the-head decision which was made without any reference to the effects it would have on student numbers and participation rates. The students of the Bolton Street college issued a statement in which they pointed out the beneficial effects of the ESF grant system on the colleges, on participation rates and on the system generally. They pointed out that in the Dublin area — I am sure the position is the same in regional technical colleges — the maintenance grant amounts to £39 a week while the grant for rent amounts to £25 per week. Even a reduction in maintenance grants would be unacceptable. Partial maintenance grants would be as bad as no maintenance grant because students would not survive on them. The effect of this proposal on Bolton Street college would be a reduction in participation rates. It is estimated that out of 6,300 students who have been in receipt of grants, as many as 3,000 would not be eligible as a result of the means test.

Through the Clancy report of 1986 the effect of means testing higher education grants is widely known. It is a pity that an up to date report is not made on this matter because it would be very interesting to compare the position in 1992 with that in 1986. The position is now much [2578] worse than it was in 1986, and the introduction of this means test will make it even worse still. The USI have produced figures comparing categories of students in RTCs with those in universities. They show that 30 per cent of students in universities are from the professional class, whereas in the regional technical colleges only 12.2 per cent are from the professional class; and 13.9 per cent of students in universities are from the manual worker area, whereas 31.4 per cent of students in regional technical colleges are from that area. This indicates the importance of the whole grants system for increased participation rates from working class families, particularly families of PAYE workers.

I would like to refer to the Culliton report, which has been widely accepted as a marvellous report. In the section on education, enterprise and technology that report states that despite its enviable academic standards the Irish education and training system has serious gaps when it comes to technical and vocational education. Those gaps are caused by a lack of funding down through the years. The report goes on to state that the gap in skills needs to be addressed by industry and by the educational system, with particular attention to practical needs which combine on the job training front with a strong back up from vocational and technical schools.

This proposal from the Minister will result in the reverse of the Culliton recommendation that funding to the vocational and technical sector be increased in order to increase participation in that area.

I would refer again to the increased EC Structural Fund which is adverted to in the motion. As I understand it, the limit of 19,500 students to whom ESF grants are given at present will be reviewed in 1993. Therefore it is in next year's Estimates that the Minister for Finance will have to provide for the increase. The Minister should be able to draw on the Structural Fund in 1992-93 to provide for at least portion of the extra cost. I am asking the Minister, as did the City of Dublin vocational education committee, [2579] to defer this proposal to give an opportunity to vocational education committees, RTCs and the Dublin Institute of Technology to carry out assessments, discuss the matter with the Department of Education and realise the effect it will have on student numbers and participation rates. The places left vacant by people who are most in need of the grants will be taken up by people who can afford third level education. That is not equality of educational opportunity.

Mr. Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I am sure that what I have to say will not add very significantly to the volume of information and argument that has been made for this case, but I simply want to support the motion tabled by Fine Gael and to support the comments made by Deputy Mac Giolla.

The argument being made here tonight that students, whether in university or in colleges of technology, RTCs or other institutions, need an adequate level of funding is not a new argument. Neither is the argument that without such funding the idea of equality of opportunity to third level education simply cannot be achieved. There is already a volume of evidence, reports and research that shows very clearly that in this country, because of the inadequacy of student support, the participation rates of young people from less well-off backgrounds in third level education is much lower than elsewhere.

Deputy Mac Giolla has already referred to the Clancy report, which clearly indicates that even without our own system those areas of education funded by the ESF system — which provides not a fabulous method of support for students but a non-means tested level of support — have higher levels of participation of young people from poorer backgrounds than do those institutions that do not have that support. Very few people could argue against the case that in order to achieve equality of opportunity in third level education there needs to be a system of student support. That is not to argue that there are not other factors, going right back down through [2580] the education system, that affect those levels of participation.

The argument for means testing is not a new argument either. That argument, basically, is that someone who attends third level education is somehow in a privileged position. The argument asks why the taxpayer should be expected to pay the fees or the maintenance of children from well-off backgrounds. Probably it is a reflection of the degree to which our education system is so unequal, but the impression created is that those who attend third level education courses must be the sons and daughters of people on extremely high incomes.

First of all, the idea that participation in third level education automatically confers privilege on the participant must be due for something of a revision anyway. Very many graduates of regional technical colleges, Dublin Institute of Technology colleges and universities find themselves in very ordinary jobs. As a trade union official of many years' standing, I have found repeated evidence of people graduating from third level institutions and then finding themselves working in nominally good jobs at what was, in fact, very often underpaid employment. Many of those graduates are now emigrating, of course, so that the idea of automatic privilege does need to be reviewed.

The other argument made is that the taxpayer should not fund that education. The last time that that idea surfaced in relation to student support concerned the previous automatic right of third level students to medical cards. As it happened, only about 20 per cent of third level students at any time ever took up the option of the benefit of a medical card, but a great to-do was made about removing the automatic right to medical cards from students. It is easy to recognise the result of that action. Students from very well-heeled backgrounds may still end up having their medical care, such as it is, provided at the Blackrock Clinics of the world. Those who are disadvantaged are those who came from low to middle-income backgrounds and who [2581] find that because their parents do not qualify for medical cards, they do not quality either. I have come across repeated instances of students from families in poor circumstances who could not qualify for medical cards. Instead of hitting those on very high incomes, the means testing of student support very often has the effect of hitting those of low to middle incomes.

My third argument concerns the idea of dependency. That needs to be examined. I have never been able to understand why student support is based on parental income. Most students are over 18 years of age; they have the right to vote and they have all the rights and responsibilities of adulthood, yet their financial support in third-level education is based on parental income. It is time that we finished with that system. It is time for us to treat students as adult citizens who are participating in a course of study and whose financial support should be based on the fact that they are adults.

The budget was presented in the House a few weeks ago. The budget was marketed as a great deal for the taxpayer. It was certainly a great deal for the taxpayer on a very high income — people on high incomes of perhaps £60,000 or £70,000 a year got the benefit of tax cuts of about £50 a week. I do not understand the way in which a Government can on the one hand say that they are reducing tax for people on very high incomes and can then on the other hand say that they must introduce a means test on student support so that they do not subsidise the children of the well-off when, in fact, that means test will end up hitting the people on low to middle incomes. That is an inconsistency — or perhaps it is not an inconsistency at all, perhaps that is the way in which the Government demonstrate their attitude to taxation and to social services. If the Government wanted to say that those who are well-off should finance their children's education then there is already a way in which that can be done, through the taxation system. The Government should not take the approach of penalising those in the education system.

[2582] My final point relates to those who will be hit by the new measure. People do not make a decision about the line of study they intend to pursue on the day they sit their leaving certificate examination. There are now many students at senior cycle in second level education who have geared themselves to follow third level courses that are ESF funded. Those students have given consideration to their future; they have gone through career guidance and they intend to pursue ESF funded third level courses. Those people will find themselves in a very difficult position if, having made subject choices and having geared themselves to pursue courses of study in the belief that the courses they would follow were ESF funded and in the belief that those courses were non-means tested, the courses they intend to pursue are now means tested and they are not able to attend them.

Mrs. T. Ahearn: Information on Theresa Ahearn  Zoom on Theresa Ahearn  The decision by the sacked Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, to introduce the present means testing system for students in regional colleges, who are in receipt of ESF grants, was one of the most controversial, regressive and unjustifiable decisions taken by any Minister for Education for a long time.

It is unbelievable that during so short a term of office, such an enormous blunder could be made, resulting in stress and anxiety among parents, and despair and hopelessness among students. The decision has sounded the death knell to the hopes and aspirations to third level education of almost 10,000 students. The results of his misguided and hasty stroke of the pen on Friday, 10 January, are alarming, not only for the students, but for the future of our regional colleges and also for our economy, which depends heavily on these colleges to provide a highly educated, trained and qualified labour force.

The decision was an indication of the inability of the Government to tackle the real problem of basic injustice and [2583] inequity in the higher education grants system. The Minister, to console those in Higher Education Authority colleges who suffer under the present unjust system, obviously felt that a trouble shared was a trouble halved. He decided that they should be joined by students from the regional colleges and together they could shoulder this massive disregard for their future due to their inability to pay for third level education.

The tragedy is that successive Ministers for Education have done nothing to change the present unfair, unsatisfactory and unacceptable system of means testing for higher education grants which results in huge discrimination against PAYE families and the exclusion of people on modest incomes from receiving the higher education grants.

A blind eye and a deaf ear has been the only response of this Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat Government to these urgent and compelling needs. Nothing has been done, despite repeated calls from the Fine Gael Party to tackle these injustices urgently.

Proposals to increase the income thresholds by 33 per cent in order to avoid the elimination from third level grants of people who basically could not afford third level education have been rejected and disregarded. However, Fine Gael believe that families who cannot afford the cost of university or college education should be entitled to grant assistance and we will continue to use our energies to convince the Government that their policy was misguided and misjudged.

In announcing the extension of means testing for ESF grants, the Minister said he was pleased to announce a range of improvements. How could it give any Minister pleasure to shock the population of our regional colleges, to shatter the plans of hopeful entrants and to force parents to accept that they cannot afford to ensure that their children have the chance to achieve their full potential?

The Minister said in his statement he wanted to have more equity and fairness. [2584] Unfortunately, to the Government fairness means extending the inequity further. How could any Minister hope to achieve equity by extending an inequitable system? It was illogical to even contemplate extending the present means testing system which in essence is unjust and which in application is unfair and totally unreliable.

I agree with Deputy Quill that the thresholds are too low. Deputy Quill pointed out that people, even those on the dole, may not be in a position to receive a higher education grant. How can she then support a decision that results in people on the dole not getting any ESF grants? The attitude of those in the Government parties tonight is absolutely unexplainable and unacceptable.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Aylward): Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  That is not what Deputy Quill said.

Mrs. T. Ahearn: Information on Theresa Ahearn  Zoom on Theresa Ahearn  That is exactly what she said and explained in great detail.

Our regional colleges have been a major success in the education field, surpassing all expectations, not only in the expansion of student numbers, but also in the quality and excellence of their graduates. Their success is due in large part to the opportunities they offer to so many highly intelligent and capable students who, because of the ESF grant, could avail of the opportunity to pursue third level courses.

Due to the plain blunt fact that the income thresholds are unrealistic and so low, unfortunately many of the present leaving certificate students will now be unable to avail of third level education. This is shameful, it is a crime. The decision must be reversed immediately. This decision has nothing to do with fairness or equity. It is all about cutting expenditure on third level education, it is about trimming the budget. That was an appalling decision by the Department who were prepared to spend millions on bricks and mortar to purchase Carysfort, but then, the vendor was a friend. It would be outrageous if as a result of this decision the students who will sit the [2585] leaving certificate in June will have to pay for this enormous scandal.

The Minister must re-evaluate the merit of this decision which will deny many students the opportunity of third level education and which will reap little or no financial reward. The decision has no merit. The Minister would give an excellent signal of his concern and interest in our students by withdrawing this proposal. It will be a decision which the Minister will never forget.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  I acknowledge the considered contributions to this debate from the Deputies who participated. I wish to reiterate the statement of the Minister for Education, Deputy Seamus Brennan, yesterday that he would give careful consideration to the many points made which result from concern for students and their families.

I would, however, like to contradict the contention of some of the Deputies that the amendments to the ESF grants constitute an attack on the lower income groups and the unemployed. This, most definitely, is not the case.

In his speech to the House on this debate, the Minister was at pains to point out that the new arrangements were specifically designed to protect students from these very groups. This is entirely in keeping with the Government's commitment to discriminate positively in favour of the disadvantaged.

The measures taken by the Government in education in pursuit of their policy of bettering the lot of the less-well-off is already on the record of the House. A corollary of this policy has been to ensure that added advantage is not conferred on the already privileged.

I want to refute, categorically, the suggestions made that the introduction of means-testing for ESF grants would have an adverse effect on regional development and on enrolments in RTCs. Deputy O'Shea, indeed, suggested that its introduction was part of a strategy to limit the growth of the vocational education committee colleges [2586] and to divert students to the Higher Education Authority sector. This is clearly not the case.

On the contrary, in 1992 the allocation of £42 million for vocational education committee student grants and scholarships represents an increase of 16 per cent on the 1991 outturn while the allocation for higher education grants at £32 million represents an increase of 8 per cent.

Projections by the Department of Education suggest that student entry to vocational education committee third level colleges will increase from under 13,000 students in 1991 to about 17,000 by the mid-nineties.

The Government regard the development of the vocational education committee third level sector as a critical factor in regional economic development.

A major capital development programme to expand and develop the vocational education committee colleges has been undertaken by Government. The capital allocation in 1992 is almost £21 million compared with £8.5 million in 1990 and will enable facilities in the colleges to be developed and enhanced.

The Dublin Institute of Technology Bill and the Regional Technical Colleges Bill will provide greater authonomy for the institutions and will provide a statutory base to enable them to engage in research, development and consultancy work for business and industry. The legislation will assist them to increase their interaction with commercial and business interests. This can only encourage and promote further regional economic development.

The revised arrangements for ESF maintenance have to be seen in the context of limited ESF support, constraints on Exchequer finances and massive increases in the numbers of third level students achieved over the past few years and projected over the next decade.

Of the 75,000 students attending third level courses over half receive support for fees and maintenance at a total cost of £72 million. The average support per student is £1,900 per annum.

The Minister has explained the stark [2587] choice that faced the Government in deciding to revise the arrangements for ESF maintenance grants. The only alternative to the decision taken was to restrict the number of students attending third level courses. This would have involved denying some 2,600 students their places in college and was obviously, not a viable option.

The full cost to the State of these extra third level students is £10 million in the current year. The savings achieved by the revised ESF maintenance grants scheme will fall far short of this amount.

I want to repeat what the Minister stressed last night in the House: there will be no change for students already enrolled on ESF-aided third level courses. For example, students already enrolled on ESF-aided certificate courses in a college who on successful completion of their certificate studies wish to transfer to recognised diploma programmes either in the same college or in another college would not be affected in any way by the changes in the ESF maintenance grants scheme. They will continue to receive their maintenance grants. Nor would it apply to those continuing or resuming such courses after gaining work experience. It will apply only to those students starting their third level studies for the first time in September 1992. I hope this will be understood by all Members but more importantly, by the many students representing various groups present.

Furthermore all new students on these ESF third level courses will continue to have their tuition fees paid for them, regardless of income. What is at issue is means testing for maintenance grants only. New ESF students will therefore, still have a considerable advantage over other third level students.

The purpose of the package on third level student grants which the Minister detailed for the House is to achieve absolute equity in the distribution of available funds.

The total cost to the State of the [2588] improvements made to the higher education grant scheme will amount to £4 million in a full year.

The amendments introduced for ESF maintenance grants will ensure that more students from the lower income families can participate in third level education. The Minister has said that the revised arrangements forced on the Government by limited funds protect students from the lower income groups. He also accepts that there remains a problem for students from middle income groups. He is conscious of the financial presssures placed on the families in these groups in providing for third level education for their children.

I want to confirm the Minister's announcement in the House last evening that he intends to complete a review of the criteria for eligibility for student grants by September 1992, requested by many Members here this evening. The Minister is not satisfied nor am I that the overall higher education grants scheme, as it applies at present, is a sensible one, rendering this review all the more necessary. I served for almost 18 years on a higher education grant committee in County Kilkenny during which period I along with my colleagues of all political parties urged constantly on consecutive Ministers for Education the need for these changes. At long last this worthwhile change is to be implemented.

The review will be of the entire grants scheme, including recent changes, and will entail a total overhaul. There have been many excellent suggestions advanced here this evening, such as interest-free loans and various alternatives. I can guarantee Members that every single suggestion will be taken into consideration in the course of that review.

In the light of some comments of a “doubting Thomas” nature vis-à-vis this announcement from the Opposition benches, I want to avail myself of this opportunity to explain in full detail the subject of the review which will be comprehensive in its scope and objective, the overall aim being to ensure equity within and between different schemes. Indeed [2589] it will include the removal of any outstanding barriers which may militate against students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  Like means tests.

Mr. Aylward: Information on Liam Aylward  Zoom on Liam Aylward  To the extent practicable and affordable the review will seek to address particular financial pressures on students of lower and middle income families, in particular re-examining financial criteria for eligibility for student grants and developing more equitable means assessment criteria. If Members of this House are really serious about and interested in fair play, equity and justice, then let the same rules apply to all.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  What about all the doubting Thomases sitting behind the Minister?

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, through a perverse sense of generosity I am sharing my time with Deputy Jim Higgins. Much to my annoyance I will speak for only two or three minutes. The debate on this motion has infuriated me, particularly having listened to some contributions from the Government benches.

The word “equity” is being thrown around here on the far side of the House. I wish Members opposite would look at its meaning in the dictionary because we have the most unjust and unfair system of means testing for third level grants. Members opposite continue to tell us they want to introduce equity into the regional technical colleges, whereas thousands of students will lose grants. What equity can be perceived in dragging down the few with a few pounds in their pockets to the level of those with none? The Minister knows as well as I do that PAYE earners, those in the middle income bracket are utterly deprived of the opportunity of sending their children to third level institutions. The ESF grants afforded them the opportunity to avail themselves of the provisions of a very [2590] good system while adding to the status of the RTCs. Now the Government devise and propose this system of depriving them of their grants while maintaining that it is in the interests of equity. I never heard such rubbish. I would appeal to the Minister of State and his senior Minister to take the proposals they inherited into their hands, make a ball of them and dump them in the rubbish bin. Furthermore, in the review to be undertaken, I would appeal to them to use common sense to ensure that justice and equity, in their real sense, prevail.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  I join my colleague, Deputy Browne, in congratulating the Minister of State on his appointment.

I want to sincerely thank all those who contributed to this debate, my colleagues, Deputies Deenihan, Creed, McGinley, Flanagan, Therese Ahearn and Browne. Deputy Deenihan accurately addressed the fact that the proposal would have a direct impact on 21,000 students out of a total of 27,000 attending the 15 RTCs and Dublin Institute of Technology colleges. He also illustrated graphically the effect of a £1 million loss to the revenue of a place like Tralee, demonstrating that Tralee will be very much part and parcel of the sense of deprivation felt right around the provinces where these colleages are located if this measure is implemented.

Deputy Creed raised a very interesting point, that was the constitutional position of the denial of the right to education at all and every level by the Government, something never tested and which will be much tested if the Government implement this most unreasonable, unjust means test. This was a point well put in principle also by Deputy Gilmore when he spoke of students being adults in their own right.

I thank my colleagues for their well reasoned, constructive, supporting statements, on having underlined in the starkest terms the travesty of justice that will occur if this means testing is effected. Indeed I want to thank them for bringing their personal perspectives to bear on the overall attitude to third level education [2591] here, on having endeavoured to assist the Minister and the Minister of State to see reason and reverse throttle on this educationally damaging proposal.

I also want to assure Labour Party Deputies O'Shea, Howlin and Toddy O'Sullivan that we appreciated their total support of the motion without amendment or addendum. In particular I want to thank The Workers' Party, Deputies Mac Giolla and Gilmore, on their wholehearted, trenchant support of the Fine Gael motion as tabled. I want to thank Deputy Cullimore also for having contributed last evening although he did not mention a word about third level grants, having taken us on a journey down memory lane into the intermediate and junior certificates. Again it was good that we afforded Members opposite an opportunity to air their views on education, and I would include Deputies F. Fahey and Martin in those remarks.

I listened with some interest to Deputy Quill, whose contribution was a typical Progressive Democrat exercise, coming into the Chamber, all wind and concern, with a sense of dementia in relation to what is happening out there. Indeed she spoke almost as if she were an Opposition Deputy. We were almost about to invite her over to this side of the House. She talked about the unjust delays in paying out the grants, apart from the basic inequity of the scheme. What I am saying to Deputy Quill and to her five colleagues is that in about 20 minutes time we will go up those steps and that will be the final test in relation to where the Progressive Democrats stand on this issue.

Deputies:  Hear, hear.

Mr. J. Higgins: Information on Jim Higgins  Zoom on Jim Higgins  If they turn with Fine Gael, Labour and The Workers' Party when they get to the top of those steps then they support the right of the people in the Gallery to education. If they go in the other direction, then they will pay the cost when they put their names before the electorate again. That is the crucial test. It is not rhetoric. The reality of how [2592] they vote at the end of the day is the acid test.

I agree with the means testing of certain grants, but I do not agree with the means testing of grants when it comes to the regional technical colleges. While I welcome the Minister's very generous complimentary remarks and his very detailed reply last evening, I would say to him that when Fine Gael, Labour and The Workers' Party find common cause and all agree to the wording and spirit of a resolution in this Chamber, then the merits and thrust of what we are collectively trying to bring about is something very worthy of consideration.

The Minister in his speech last night instanced six changes — these were again alluded to by the Minister of State tonight and by Deputy Máirín Quill — as being a major reform package of the existing higher education grants scheme. These were the very measures that were introduced by the former Minister for Education, Deputy Davern, much heralded in the newspaper as “Davern's Major Initiative on Higher Education Grants”. Of course any improvement on the existing higher education grants scheme is welcome, but the six changes announced are literally nothing. They are only a minuscule tinkering with the existing system. They will have minimal effect in relation to easing the burden on PAYE families. To try to portray those as a major remedying of inequity is in fact absurd.

The Minister went on to state that this policy is to achieve absolute equity in the distribution of funds. What he is doing by means testing ESF grants is spreading the misery around. He is spreading the inherent inequity in the existing university system into the RTC and Dublin Institute of Technology colleges system. The Minister is not levelling the playing pitch for third-level students but instead is making the playing field more unplayable for all concerned. He should not pull one group down in order to pull another group up but rather try to get everybody on an equal plane and on a higher tier.

Deputy Dermot Ahern acknowledged that there are anomalies in the scheme [2593] but he went on to defend means testing. I wonder how his defence will go down in Dundalk when it is read next week. One should not go to the lowest common denominator, as is happening in this case. One should aim for the highest denominator possible; and in this case I am talking about additional ESF grants for the universities, both by way of fees and maintenance.

How can the Minister continue to trot out again former Minister Davern's discredited argument that means testing for ESF maintenance grants will ensure that a greater number of students from lower income families will be enabled to participate in third level education. How anyone can maintain that is beyond comprehension. It defies logic. Is it Government policy to drive out middle income families in order to allow in lower income families even when it has proved that this is not possible? One of the singular successes of the existing RTC and Dublin Institute of Technology colleges is that you get a very healthy social mix between the lower middle and the middle income families. This will not create additional places for lower income families.

The college managements, vocational education committees, students themselves from their own hands-on involvement all concur that seven out of every ten students who enrol for admission to RTCs and Dublin Institute of Technology colleges next year will be debarred and disqualified. This is an accurate figure which has not been disputed by the Minister, the Minister of State or anybody on the other side of the House. Where are the Minister's figures to validate his argument that he is going to bring more people into the colleges? It is not possible because the colleges are bursting at the seams already. I will be quite blunt, and I am not alone in my suspicion in his regard. I honestly believe there is a hidden agenda here and that the motive behind this measure is to cut back on third level places, that it has been decided that third level education is too expensive, that there is a definite Government policy decision that this country will no [2594] longer be the educational conveyor belt for technology and manpower for Europe. If that is the situation, it is an extremely regressive, negative and dog-in-the-manger attitude.

I accept that Europe is not a bottomless pit, but we are part of an integrated Europe consisting of 360 million people. We are well on the way to a common monetary policy. We have mutual recognition of our degrees, diplomas, technical and professional qualifications. We are suffering the consequences of our peripherality in terms of loss of jobs in the industrial, commerical and agricultural sectors. One of the kernel philosophies of our participation in the greater Europen Community, if the word “Community” means anything at all, is that we should be able to guarantee to all our citizens without exception a level of education appropriate to their abilities and attainments. Top quality education and training is a basic social entitlement. Because of economic circumstances our young people are therefore entitled to this and are entitled to ply their wares abroad if they cannot ply them at home. However, there is also the compelling and proven statistical argument from the point of view of the home market that the longer you keep people in mainstream education the greater you enhance their chances of employment.

I would again draw the Minister's attention, just as Deputy MacGiolla has done, to the Culliton report, which tells us that it is essential to redress our academic imbalance by “improving the incentives and facilities for students opting for technical and vocational training”. What the Culliton report is telling the Minister, the Minister of State and the Government is that in the national interest, and in the interest of driving our economy forward, he should discriminate positively in favour of technical and vocational education. This is the type and quality of education being given to the RTCs and the Dublin Institute of Technology colleges and the vocational schools. These colleges must be put on a special plane of their own and they must get priority treatment. The Culliton [2595] report states that we should keep the existing ESF arrangement in place for all students because these colleges have a special function and a special relevance of their own.

Last night in the House, and again today at Question Time, the Minister undertook to review the higher education grants scheme by September. May I say that a review without reform is not worth a whit? Furthermore, the Minister's promise has been rendered meaningless by an unscripted statement which he made in the House last night and again at Question Time today, and I quote: “The same rules must apply for all”. The Minister has prejudiced the review before he has even embarked on it. What the Minister has said is that we will go through the motions of a review but that there is absolutely no possibility whatever in any circumstances of special treatment for the RTCs or the Dublin Institute of Technology colleges as recommended by the Culliton report. I urge the Minister to lift his review proposal to a new and meaningful plane and to do as I suggested last night — to establish a reform, not a review committee, involving the main participants in higher education, the universities, the RTCs and [2596] Dublin Institute of Technology colleges, the IVEA, the students, together with the official from the Department of Education and the Department of Finance.

At the conclusion of his speech the Minister stated that the existing ESF fund arrangements expire in December 1993 and that he was confident that the new Community support framework will result in substantially more EC aid for programmes in third level colleges. That is extremely welcome news. I urge the Minister by all means to go for this money, to assign the bulk of these additional resources to the university sector and to use the secretariat in Brussels — I welcome this as a very worthwhile initiative and I am glad that he has taken our suggestion on board in this regard — to impress the worthiness of this suggestion on the people in Brussels but in the meantime I say to him sincerely: hands off the ESF maintenance grants; hands off the lower and middle income PAYE families for whom this funding presents their only chance of getting into third level education and, in particular, hands off the young people of Ireland. This motion may be beaten tonight, but this is not the end, only the beginning.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Calleary, Seán.
Callely, Ivor.
Clohessy, Peadar.
Collins, Gerard.
Connolly, Ger.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa. [2597]Hyland, Liam.
Kelly, Laurence.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
Martin, Micheál.
McDaid, Jim.
McEllistrim, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West).
O'Connell, John.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullimore, Séamus.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
de Valera, Síle.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fahey, Jackie.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Flood, Chris.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Harney, Mary.
Hillery, Brian. [2598]O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Quill, Máirín.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Smith, Michael.
Stafford, John.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Ahearn, Therese.
Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis J.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connor, John.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fennell, Nuala.
Ferris, Michael.
Finucane, Michael.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Charles.
Foxe, Tom.
Garland, Roger.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Harte, Paddy.
Higgins, Jim.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kenny, Enda.
Lee, Pat.
McCartan, Pat.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
McGrath, Paul.
Mitchell, Jim.
Moynihan, Michael.
Nealon, Ted.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Gerry.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerry.
Ryan, Seán.
Shatter, Alan.
Sherlock, Joe.
Spring, Dick.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Yates, Ivan.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Andrews, David.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brennan, Mattie.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Burke, Raphael P.
Calleary, Seán.
Callely, Ivor.
Clohessy, Peadar.
Collins, Gerard.
Connolly, Ger.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullimore, Séamus.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
de Valera, Síle.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fahey, Jackie.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Flood, Chris.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Harney, Mary.
Hillery, Brian.
Hyland, Liam.
Kelly, Laurence.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Lyons, Denis.
Martin, Micheál.
McDaid, Jim.
McEllistrim, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West).
O'Connell, John.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Toole, Martin Joe.
Quill, Máirín.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Smith, Michael.
Stafford, John.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Ahearn, Therese.
Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis J.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Byrne, Eric.
Carey, Donal.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connor, John.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael. [2601]Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kavanagh, Liam.
Kenny, Enda.
Lee, Pat.
McCartan, Pat.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
McGrath, Paul.
Moynihan, Michael.
Nealon, Ted.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Fennell, Nuala.
Ferris, Michael.
Finucane, Michael.
FitzGerald, Garret.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Charles.
Foxe, Tom.
Garland, Roger.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Harte, Paddy.
Higgins, Jim. [2602]O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Gerry.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Owen, Nora.
Pattison, Séamus.
Reynolds, Gerry.
Ryan, Seán.
Shatter, Alan.
Sherlock, Joe.
Spring, Dick.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Yates, Ivan.

Question declared carried.


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