Seanad Éireann - Volume 136 - 02 June, 1993
Adjournment Matters. - Limerick Regional Technical College.
Ms J. O'Sullivan Ms J. O'Sullivan
Ms J. O'Sullivan: With your permission, I would like to share my time with Senator Neville and Senator R. Kiely.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
 An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Ms J. O'Sullivan Ms J. O'Sullivan
Ms J. O'Sullivan: I am glad to have the opportunity to raise on the Adjournment the critical problem of accommodation in Limerick regional technical college. The school of engineering is located in Moylish, County Limerick. However, two other parts of the college, the School of Arts and Design and the School of Professional and Management Studies, are located in different areas. Separate accommodation is needed for the School of Art and Design.
I am talking specifically about the Moylish complex. The intention is that the School of Professional and Management Studies will also be in the Moylish complex. The complex was designed for 510 students. It was built in 1974 with World Bank funding. It now has 1,309 full-time students, plus several hundred night students and 300 staff. The accommodation is inadequate for the needs of the students and staff. The Minister for Education, Deputy Bhreathnach, saw the situation recently and is aware of the serious accommodation problems in the college.
The only capital funding given to the college since it was built was for the recovering of the roof and phase 1 (A) of the building, which is due to be completed at the end of June 1993. The purpose of raising this matter on the Adjournment is to highlight the need for immediate progress on the next phase of the building. This would provide classroom accommodation because the phase which is being built at present is only providing library facilities and computer accommodation.
There is an urgent need for classroom accommodation. Given the number of students at the college, the available accommodation represents only one third of the requirements set out by the Department of Education. It has the worst accommodation problems of all the regional technical colleges. Some of the accommodation is in second hand prefabricated buildings which were bought from Aughinish Alumina.
 The total cost to implement the rest of the plan is £8 million. The next phase, which would not cost £8 million, needs to be initiated. Capital funding should be made available as soon as possible so that the college can proceed from phase 1 (A) to the next phase of building.
The college has an excellent record. It has won 17 City and Guilds first prize medals and numerous awards in the fashion design area, including the Satzenbrau Fashion Award for Party Wear and the Smirnoff Young Designer Award. It has also won other awards from the Society of Designers in Ireland and The Royals Institute of the Architects of Ireland. It is a college with a high reputation.
The physical standard of the building is totally inadequate to meet the needs of staff and students. Therefore, I urge that capital funding be made available as soon as possible. The Minister for Education has said she is committed to this area of third level education. The regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology — which accounts for 52 per cent of third level entry. However, it has been under-funded in comparison to the universities in terms of both capital and revenue in the past. There are more students from different socio-economic backgrounds in these colleges than in the universities. I urge that funds be made available as soon as possible.
Mr. Neville Mr. Neville
Mr. Neville: I support the case for Limerick regional technical college in Moylish Park. Senator O'Sullivan, Senator R. Kiely and I visited the college last Monday. I was there on a number of occasions in the past but I was amazed at the primitive conditions prevailing in the college. In certain areas — the laboratories, for example — the conditions are not up to the standard in second level schools, never mind third level. There is an urgent need to improve the facilities to bring the college near the level of other regional technical colleges. It is the most neglected regional technical college in the country. One of the reasons for that may have been that it was not given the  same attention as the others, despite representations over the years, because of the presence and growth of the university.
The regional technical college has a special role in the region. It complements the industrial development and there are now 700 to 800 adult students attending the college at night. As Senator O'Sullivan said, the accommodation at Moylish Park was designed to cater for 510 students and now there are over 1,300 students in the complex. It is unfair on the students and on the staff, and the Government should take the opportunity to correct the imbalance in the allocation of funds to the regional technical college. It has the opportunity to put in place a fantastic plan, which we saw last Monday, that would enhance the service and the facilities of the college and bring them up to the level of its sister colleges throughout the country. I urge the Government to look seriously at this.
This is a new Government with an opportunity to do something for this college which has needed this type of improvement for some years. I think it was Mr. Paddy Lane, MEP, who said last Monday that sections of the college were not suitable accommodation for farm animals, never mind students. There is all party support in the mid-west for the case for Moylish Park and I urge the Government to bring it in line with its sister regional technical colleges.
Mr. R. Kiely Mr. R. Kiely
Mr. R. Kiely: I support Senator O'Sullivan and Senator Neville in urging the Minister for Education to allow the progress of phase 2 of this building plan. As the other Senators mentioned, we visited the college last Monday and were amazed at the primitive conditions the staff and students have to work under. There are prefabricated buildings which were bought second hand from Aughinish Alumina ten years ago; that is not good enough in this day and age. In my profession, farming, if I want a licence to produce milk I would have to provide a higher standard of accommodation for the cows than the students and staff have in the college.
 Technological education is essential and it is important that colleges can offer their students and staff an appropriate quality of accommodation, equipment and support resources to ensure graduates meet the increasing standards and requirements of modern manufacturing and service industries. The regional technical college in Limerick is in urgent need of funding. It stands to reason, as Senator O'Sullivan mentioned, that a college which was designed for 510 students and now accommodates 1,309 students, must be bursting at the seams. The various sections of the college are housed around the city and make it difficult to manage, control and co-ordinate the activities of all the students and teachers.
The regional technical college in Limerick has been a renowned success. It structure has grown through the expertise and enlightened guidance of its lecturers. I know the Minister has committed herself to the less well off in our society and it is not unknown to her that access to the college from the lower socio-economic groups is vital in Limerick. The regional technical college plays a major role in educating and training young people from areas of high unemployment in Limerick. It is important, therefore, that for meaningful employment the work of the college should be continued, and I would urge that current applications for European Regional Development Fund funding, for example, would be a priority when Ireland's submission for funds goes to Europe.
Of all the regional technical colleges, Limerick regional technical college has the worst standard of accommodation, and I urge the Minister — especially as the regional technical college is in the native city of the late Donagh O'Malley, who was concerned about educating the youth for whom the colleges are designed — to ensure that we have a college in Limerick on a par with other regional technical colleges.
Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. G. O'Sullivan) Gerry O'Sullivan
Minister of State at the Department of the Marine (Mr. G. O'Sullivan): May I apologise for the Minister of Education's  absence this evening. Due to a previous engagement she cannot attend.
I am delighted to be given the opportunity to report to the House on both the building programme which is in progress and on the future phases which are proposed at Limerick regional technical college. First, I would like to outline to the House some details with regard to the college. The regional technical college, Limerick — previously the College of Art, Commerce and Technology — was under the aegis of the City of Limerick Vocational Education Committee up to 31 December 1992. Responsibility for the operation of the college transferred to a governing body on 1 January 1993 under the Regional Technical Colleges Act, 1992.
The college comprises the following three schools: the School of Engineering of Moylish Park, the School of Professional and Management Studies at O'Connell Avenue, the School of Art and Design which is housed in five separate locations — Georges Quay, O'Connell Avenue, The Granary, Bruce House and The Technical Institute — the old vocational school.
The college caters for a total of 2,000 third level students. Following consultation with the college authorities, the Department of Education is proceeding with a comprehensive programme of building works in order to improve facilities at the college. This consists of a four stage development programme as follows: phase 1 (A) a library-information technology facility, phase 1 (B) the provision of a computer centre, lecture theatres and an administration block, phase 2 classrooms, lecture theatres and a restaurant and phase 3 the School of Art and Design.
Phase 1 (A) of the programme has been included within the current European Regional Development Fund programme  1990-1993. The contract for this project is in progress at present and is due to completion in July 1993 at a cost of £1.4 million approximately. The project, when completed, will provide the college with greatly improved library-information technology facilities.
Furthermore the Department, in consultation with the college authorities, has agreed to proceed with the further phases of the development programme. In this connection, the college authorities were authorised in March 1993 to proceed with the planning of phase 1 (B) and phase 2 with a view to inviting tenders late in 1993 and to awarding a contract in 1994 in the context of the next European Regional Development Fund Programme 1994-1999. The initial reports and drawings for the project have recently been submitted to the Department by the college authorities and are being examined at present.
The Department has decided to proceed with a much larger building programme at this stage rather than proceed with the next phase of development only as it will ensure that the college will have modern and comprehensive facilities at the earliest possible date.
While I am confident that funding will be provided for the college under the next European Regional Development Fund Programme, it would be premature at this stage to anticipate the total amount of funds to be allocated to the Department or indeed to the regional technical college Limerick.
The Minister for Education indicated that she was firmly committed to the building programme in this college when she visited it, and has said she will honour those commitments.
The Seanad adjourned at 8.40 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 3 June 1993.
Seanad Éireann 136 Adjournment Matters. Limerick Regional Technical College.