Category Archives: education

Dismissed out of hand

It was with little surprise that I read the latest broadside from a senior staff member of an Irish University against WIT’s bid become a University. So let’s consider what he said.

“Giving more narrowly specialised and less academically resourced institutions of higher learning a status of University will lead to further devaluation of bachelors, masters and PHD level degrees awarded in this country in the future. Ireland’s education system is already oversaturated with Universities, all of which, with exception of just three, fail to rank internationally as institutions of academic research and or higher learning. However, having so many Universities leads to dispersion of state and private funding for science and education, resulting in an absurd situation where our flagship Universities – TCD, UCD and UCC – are starved of funds and unable to attract world class researchers, while our potentially competitive Universities – such as U of L and NUI Maynooth – are forced to short-change their ambitious research agendas to allow the politicised and economically infeasible strategies for regional development to go on.”

WIT’s more narrow range of subjects stems from their original funding and need to attract students. It is hardly our fault that Trinity, with many years of University funding from the HEA far exceeding that of the IT’s, still finds it difficult to improve its ranking in the world table of academic institutions. In consideration of their lack of funds then perhaps TCD should consider revising its strategies to increase the breadth of their funding sources. However, I acknolwedge that he and many of his colleagues may feel industry is beneath them but you never know. It’s easier to engage in ad hominem attacks against competitors than introspection.
At any rate, if he discussed the matter with his colleague in UCD Morgan Kelly, he’d probably find out that the difficulty in attracting world class researchers has a lot to do with the living costs of Ireland and the obscene ones of Dubiln in particular. Perhaps these “infeasible strategies for regional development” are warranted after all.
Having helped create a research group with a budget equivalent to the complete research budget of Maynooth, within 10 years, I’m quite confident that we can compete nationally and Europe-wide for research tenders. I think that Dr. Gurdgiev does identify a serious problem of over-competition within a small country where collaboration would be better. Unfortunately, this manifesto would be better served by less dismissive language.
As an economist he should be familiar with the concept of a vested interest and their inherent need to spin all information to their own end.

Timely but flawed

The Sunday TImes ran an interesting feature today on the performance of secondary schools in Ireland. However, I must admit I found the ranking system wanting. They ordered schools based on the percentage of their pupils who went to “university” and then to “third level”. This produces the absolutely shocking result that the schools in the richest areas where parents are more likely to be able to afford to send their kids to college are ranked best. Let’s ignore the governmental myth of free education. It’s extremely expensive to put any child through college regardless of the means tested grant. I’m not sure where they got their figures but movetoireland’s estimate of living expenses exceeding 7k per year in Dublin seems quite modest.
According to the survey the top secondary school in the country is the private and Jesuit-run Gonzaga, which has a fine reputation. I’m sure it’s deserved based on a long and proud tradition of learning but … children who are sent to Gonzaga are being sent there with the expectation of going to university. This is emphasised in an application process which I find a little idiosyncratic. Like many of the top 10 schools in the survey a student who is disinclined to continue to third level appears the exception rather than the rule. This is not intended as criticism of the top ranked schools nor am I suggesting this is a bad thing. I’m merely reflecting on the nature of a survey which, in my opinion, doesn’t effectively recognise schools which handle a broader demographic while still getting excellent results.