Archive for December, 2008

UCC hosts world debating competition

Posted in Life with tags on 31 December 2008 by Steve

“The setting may be academic but the benefits are practical as more than 1,000 visiting delegates are giving an estimated €2 million boost to the Cork economy this new year by attending the 29th World Universities Debating Championships at University College Cork (UCC). Jointly hosted by UCC’s Law and Philosophical Societies, the event is the largest academic competition in the world, with the delegates coming from 176 educational institutions spread across some 40 countries including the US, Australia, China, Japan and Korea …” (more)

[Barry Roche, Irish Times, 31 December]


Distance Education Becomes a Major Part of Course Catalogues

Posted in teaching with tags , on 30 December 2008 by Steve

“A majority of colleges in the United States — 65% — offer college-level, credit-granting distance-education courses, according to a survey released today by the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. It is another sign that distance education is becoming a staple of college life. Although the survey did not compare the present to the past, recent data from colleges indicate a jump in online enrolment …” (more)

[Josh Fischman, Chronicle, 30 December]

Limerick university unveils new plans

Posted in Governance and administration with tags on 30 December 2008 by Steve

“The University of Limerick has published ambitious plans which include the construction of a medical school in Co Clare and a teacher education building. In a submission to Clare County Council, the university lists nine separate projects that it intends to construct between now and 2015 on the northern shore of the river Shannon …” (more)

[Gordon Deegan, Irish Times, 30 December]

Maths bonus points proposal doesn’t add up, say colleges

Posted in teaching with tags , on 29 December 2008 by Steve

“Universities have dismissed proposals to re-introduce bonus points for honours Leaving Certificate maths. Awarding bonus points for maths would artificially increase the cut-off points levels for science, engineering and technology subjects, the universities have warned. The proposal would be unlikely to encourage more students to study these programmes and could actually act as a deterrent to students taking up the subject, according to the colleges …” (more)

[Fergus Black and Patricia McDonagh, Independent, 29 December]

QUB – Officially an Esteemed University at the Top

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 26 December 2008 by Steve

“With the recent release of the UK-wide Research Assessment Exercise, QUB has been celebrating its success as a leading University in the UK. A member of the esteemed Russell Group, QUB can now boast that it has been firmly placed in the top 20 universities in the UK in terms of research …” (more)

[The Gown, 24 December]

Reclaiming academia from post-academia

Posted in research with tags on 24 December 2008 by Steve

“Post-academic science, driven as it is by commercialisation and market forces, is fundamentally at odds with core academic principles. Publicly-funded academics have an obligation to carry out science for the public good, a responsibility which is incompatible with the entrepreneurial ethos increasingly expected of university research by funding agencies …” (more)

[University Blog on Academic Tenure, 23 December]

Queen’s and TCD in €1.4m cancer research project

Posted in research with tags , on 23 December 2008 by Steve

“Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin have joined in a research initiative to develop new treatments for the most dangerous forms of cancer. The €1.4 million effort will target types of the disease with low survival rates. Details of the project were released yesterday. It is one of the first cross-Border projects of its type and will create about 12 research positions. It follows a number of findings by Queen’s, which has discovered potential biological targets against cancer cells. Trinity will make use of its computer modelling systems to design completely new drugs that can exploit these biological targets …” (more)

[Dick Ahlstrom, Irish Times, 23 December]

Catholic institute of theology may be established at Trinity

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , on 22 December 2008 by Steve

“A Catholic institute of theology may be established at the once Protestant bastion of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) if negotiations, currently in train with the Jesuit-controlled Milltown Institute in Dublin, are successful. The Milltown Institute had discussed setting up a programme along similar lines with UCD but the university founded by Cardinal John Henry Newman rejected its advances. A UCD spokesperson has dismissed suggestions from informed sources that this was because senior academics there were anxious lest it would once again be tagged as ‘the Catholic University’. It is intended that the institute would focus on teaching and research in areas currently addressed by the civil degree section of the Milltown Institute …” (more)

[Patsy McGarry, Irish Times, 22 December]

Too much science at Science Foundation Ireland?

Posted in research with tags on 22 December 2008 by Steve

“Following on the CSET announcement last week by the Tanaiste (see below), Chris Horn has a challenging blog post on both the public perception of the value of science and tech R&D, and a spicy take on the broader issue of what SFI is funding and why and the (lack of a ) bigger picture …” (more)

[Karlin, techno-culture, 22 December]

The insanity of RAE

Posted in Governance and administration, research with tags , on 21 December 2008 by Steve

“Those happy souls who live in the real world will not know that last Thursday saw the culmination of nonsense on stilts in the British university world — the release of the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) results. In a nutshell, RAE is the extension of ‘targets’ and bean-counting to the world of ideas, and it’s a crazy system. In one major academic department I know, the most creative and original member of the department was excluded from the RAE by his colleagues because his pathbreaking work ‘didn’t fit the narrative’ — i.e. the story being carefully crafted to impress the bean counters. The mainstream media know nothing of this, however …” (more)

[John Naughton, Memex 1.1, 21 December]

University of Ulster in shock campus move

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 19 December 2008 by Steve

“The University of Ulster is planning to move the majority of its Jordanstown courses to its Belfast campus, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today. The university will formally announce details of major ‘strategic development plans’ involving the Belfast and Newtownabbey campuses in the New Year. Expansion of the city centre campus is one of the options being considered and most likely to get the go-ahead. Jordanstown is the largest of the four UU sites – with 13,200 students and 1,700 staff. This compares with 1,200 students and 300 staff based at the Belfast campus in the Cathedral Quarter. Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim Ken Robinson said today he was ‘extremely concerned’ …” (more)

[Kathryn Torney, Belfast Telegraph, 19 December]

The government’s plan for universities: rationalisation

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 19 December 2008 by Steve

“On Thursday the government published its ‘framework for sustainable economic renewal’, entitled Building Ireland’s Smart Economy. The introduction explains that the framework ’sets out the Government’s vision for the next phase of Ireland’s economic development’. A significant part of the focus is the encouragement of research and development, and entrepreneurship. The government plans to create an ’Innovation Island’, making Ireland ‘the innovation and commercialisation capital of Europe – a country that combines the features of an attractive home for innovative multinationals while also being an incubation environment for the best entrepreneurs from Europe and further afield.’ …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 19 December]

Getting ‘hammered’ at Stephen’s Day massacre

Posted in Life with tags , on 19 December 2008 by Steve

“They say university days are the best of your life but the UCC 1990-94 experience seemed to be a three-pronged combination of evasion (lectures), rejection (dance floor) and humiliation (rugby). It was a less than vintage period for UCC RFC, emphasised by the annual St Stephen’s Day fixture with Cork Constitution in Temple Hill – a festive fling-about in front of a huge, well-watered crowd that would only keep half an eye on the game …” (more)

[Hugh Farrelly, Independent, 18 December]

Review of Australian Higher Education

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 18 December 2008 by Steve

“The Review of Australian Higher Education was released 17 December 2008. It was conducted by an expert panel, led by Emeritus Professor Denise Bradley. The Australian Government will respond to the report in ‘early’ 2009. The report makes some useful recommendations, such as flexible and collaborative delivery arrangements in partnership with TAFE. Unfortunately the effort put into preparing the content of the report has been wasted due to the poor formatting of the document. While the text of the report says that Australia needs modern universities the report has been disseminated as an old fashioned facsimile of a paper document. I spent some time trying to reformat the recommendations of the report into a readable document but the poor quality of the source material made this difficult …” (more)

[Net Traveller, 18 December]

RAE 2008 results prompt a flurry of analysis

Posted in Governance and administration, research with tags , on 18 December 2008 by Steve

“After a seven-year wait, and with academic fingernails bitten to the quick, the results of the Research Assessment Exercise 2008 were finally released, prompting an unseemly scramble as universities vied to stake their claims as the best and the brightest. While there was general consensus with the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the University of Cambridge as the top performer, including in the Financial Times, the position of other institutions varied from league table to league table …” (more)

[John Gill, THE, 18 December]

UK Research Assessment – some additional observations

Posted in Governance and administration, research with tags , , on 18 December 2008 by Steve

“From the perspective of the UK universities, the outcome of the Research Assessment Exercise is significant in two different ways. First, the RAE has perhaps the greatest impact on reputation of all metrics used to compile league tables; there is evidence that event student choices are heavily influenced by them. Secondly, they help to determine state funding (though the precise impact of these latest results on money is not yet known). In past RAEs there has been some conflict between these two factors, as institutions struggled to work out how best to maximise both money and reputation in the decisions about how many staff to enter: if you entered more staff and scored well, the financial benefits were highest – but if the gamble failed and you scored badly, the negative impact on reputation could be immense. It was all essentially a gamble …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 18 December]

“Minister’s action caused 15 months of needless hardship to fixed-term staff”

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 18 December 2008 by Steve

“In an important ruling, the Labour Court has determined that two Fixed-Term Contract Lecturers, who lost their jobs when the Department of Education closed St Catherine’s College of Education for Home Economics, must be paid the same ex-gratia redundancy as their permanent colleagues. The Labour Court also awarded additional compensation of €2500 each to the two women. IFUT, which fought the case on behalf of their members, has warmly welcomed the ruling …” (more)

[IFUT, 18 December]

RAE 2008: Results and rankings

Posted in Governance and administration, research with tags , on 18 December 2008 by Steve

“RAE 2008 results are now out (effective 18 December 2008). Many, many ways to calculate rankings from the data but arguably the most authoritative and convincing one comes from Research Fortnight: …” (more)

[Registrarism, 18 December]

Advanced scientific research to get €60m in funding

Posted in Fees and access with tags on 18 December 2008 by Steve

“The Tánaiste has announced funding worth more than €60 million in support of advanced scientific research. The mix of State and private sector money will back three large research centres based at University College Cork, Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway. The five-year funding announced yesterday comes via the State-backed Science Foundation Ireland. It will contribute €45.7 million, while private sector companies will add a further €14.5 million. The money will go into ‘CSETs’, Centres for Science, Engineering and Technology. These are large-scale investments designed specifically to encourage and support linkages between academic researchers and companies …” (more)

[Dick Ahlstrom, Irish Times, 18 December]

Poll points to distrust of ‘petty’ managers

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 18 December 2008 by Steve

“‘Wholly ineffective and probably incapable of running a whelk stall,’ was one of the less flattering opinions of managers expressed in a survey of higher education staff. Other responses included a lecturer’s description of university leaders as ‘top-down petty bureaucrats whose main interest is in making money’, and a professor’s complaint that ‘at senior level the quality of management and leadership is unacceptable – there is a serious lack of accountability’. The comments were made to researchers who investigated levels of trust in higher and further education institutions. They presented their results last week to the Society for Research into Higher Education …” (more)

[John Gill, THE, 18 December]