Archive for March, 2009

Higher Education Reform: the Fine Gael alternative

Posted in Governance and administration with tags on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Fine Gael just this week issued the most comprehensive package of Higher Education reform seen since the abolition of third level fees by the Rainbow Government over a decade ago. Fine Gael Education Spokesperson Brian Hayes TD outlined targeted proposals focusing on: Improving access for students from weaker socio-economic backgrounds; Improving quality assurance; Prioritising student support; Encouraging specialisation where it is beneficial; Focussing on innovation and skills requirements that are vital for the future; Improving accountability; Providing an alternative system of funding Higher Education …” (more)

[Deirdre Clune TD, 31 March]


Activism and Academia: G20

Posted in Legal issues with tags on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“It’s interesting (or disheartening, depending on your view) to see in the Times Higher today that the University of East London has cancelled their planned ‘Alternative G20 Summit’ on Wednesday this week. Is this an understandable reaction to the comprehensive media coverage of the protests planned throughout London this week? Or should the university management team have continued to support the event? Universities will undoubtedly be pulled in different directions throughout the economic downturn. As we have seen in the Irish media in recent weeks, they are viewed as both saviour of the economy but also bloated, inefficient institutions …” (more)

[Summa cum laude, 31 March]

Hundreds of colleges refused permission to take overseas students

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

UK“More than 400 colleges and schools have been refused permission to take overseas students under immigration controls designed to weed out bogus institutions and students. The UK Border Agency has turned down around 460 of more than 2,100 organisations under new rules intended to ensure that students coming to the UK from beyond the European Economic Area (EEA) abide by the terms of their leave to be here, and that their host institutions monitor this properly. The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said: ‘These new measures make sure people who come here to study and the people who teach them play by the rules …’” (more)

[Peter Kingston, Guardian, 31 March]

UK faces continental threat

Posted in teaching with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

UK“UK universities will lose lucrative international students to their European competitors if they do not wise up to increasing competition from their neighbours. That is the message of a Universities UK report released today, which warns institutions to act now to preserve their place in the European market. The report, produced by the UK HE International Unit at UUK, examines funding regimes, immigration rules and the amount of teaching offered in English to consider the threat that continental European universities pose to UK higher education. It singles out Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland as potential direct competitors …” (more)

[Hannah Fearn, Times Higher Education, 31 March]

College fees – what’s going on?

Posted in Fees and access with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Students – and their parents – have spent the past few months worrying about the re-introduction of college fees. So what is the Minister planning, and what will it mean for you? Speculation about the return of third-level fees has been continuing for months. When will we know the Government’s proposals? Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe will bring his recommended proposals to Cabinet shortly. So, are fees coming back? What we can say is that the era of free third-level education is coming to an end. Some other elements are clear. There will be a new system of graduate taxes and/or student loans. The new fees regime will begin in September 2010, and it will only apply to new entrants to college next year. Existing undergraduate students can breath easy …” (more)

[Seán Flynn, Irish Times, 31 March]

Hundreds of courses face the axe – despite the push for universities to retrain the unemployed

Posted in Fees and access with tags , , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

UK“This summer, universities across England will axe hundreds of courses, mostly those aimed at people from the local area, and those that retrain people for a new career. Manchester University’s courses for the public, which have 1,000 students every term, will close their doors, as will Reading University’s public programmes. Other universities will stop teaching courses that largely have a non-traditional intake – older students who may already have a qualification in another subject. It is the result of a decision by ministers in 2007 to refuse funding for anyone who already has a qualification of equal status, referred to as ELQ (equivalent and lower qualification) students. It means, for example, that anyone with a first degree (BA) who wants to take a BA in another subject will have to pay full fees – making this a luxury for the very rich only …” (more)

[Francis Beckett, Guardian, 31 March]

Former NUIG head to study academic freedom

Posted in Life with tags , , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“An international study on academic freedom is due to be undertaken by former NUI Galway president Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh in conjunction with the New York University Scholars at Risk Network. Dr Ó Muircheartaigh, who retired in 2008 after a seven-year term as NUI Galway president, says that the study is the first of its type. It will survey the state of freedom in universities and colleges worldwide in a five-year research programme. The Scholars at Risk Network, hosted by New York University, is an international non-governmental organisation which raises awareness about academics at risk and organises sanctuary for professors, lecturers, researchers and other intellectuals who suffer threats in their home country through temporary academic positions. In return, scholars contribute to their host campuses through teaching, research, lectures and other activities …” (more)

[Lorna Siggins, Irish Times, 31 March]

Third-level rationalisation

Posted in Governance and administration with tags on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Prof Terri Scott (Education Today, March 24th) predicts rationalisation in the education sector, stating that one of the options was the formation of a technological university system. Such rationalisation has the potential to reduce bureaucracy, not to mention the number of high-earning executives paid from the public purse …” (more)

[Greg Scanlon, Irish Times, 31 March]

Cometh the hour, cometh the man

Posted in Life with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Brian Lucey, TCD’s finance professor, has caught the spirit of the moment with his easy-to-digest robust criticism of the banking sector, the unions and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan. Lucey has taken some flak for his opinions, but he’s willing to put up rather than shut up. In the last year, the voices of economists have become as familiar to Irish listeners as the weather team at Met Éireann. Alan Ahearne’s dry tone, Colm McCarthy’s arch Dublinese and Morgan Kelly’s descending scold have become part of the media soundscape. The Kerry lilt of Brian Lucey is lending a new cadence to the tune. Lucey’s star has risen with the downfall of the banks, as producers and editors leap on his applied, forthright approach to punditry …” (more)

[Irish Times, 31 March]

Research must produce economic gain

Posted in research with tags , , , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“The fact that the recently announced research merger between Trinity and UCD has been negatively received by the other universities is not surprising. While the language of ‘civil war’ is somewhat excessive, it is clear that a policy and political decision to concentrate Government research spending heavily (if not exclusively) in these two universities has now been taken. In many senses, however, the decision and its critique are both equally flawed. Universities per se do not do research. Rather they provide an institutional context and support structure for individuals and groups of researchers within them. Focusing the research spend on an institutional basis runs the risk of misdirecting it in two ways: it can benefit underperforming elements within the funded institutions, and it can miss out on high-performing units within the unfunded ones …” (more)

[Tom Collins, Irish Times, 31 March]

Return of iconic canoe

Posted in Governance and administration with tags on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Madam, – We were very pleased to see Lorna Siggins’s report on the repatriation of the Maliseet canoe (Front Page, March 28th). The attention is warranted. Here in New Brunswick, Canada, there is wide community and political support for St Mary’s First Nation in their efforts to make a permanent home for the ‘Grandfather Akwiten’ canoe on the Saint John River in Fredericton. To date St Mary’s has obtained letters of support from members of parliament, the New Brunswick Legislature, the city of Fredericton, the national chiefs’ organisation the Assembly of First Nations, as well as community-based organisations such as the Conservation Council of New Brunswick …” (more)

[Gerry McAlister and Susan O’Donnell, Irish Times, 31 March]

Time to take a lead from Obama

Posted in research with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“While the education sector braces itself for another round of Budget cuts, it was fascinating to watch President Obama’s address to the American people last week. The most striking feature of the address was how Obama repeatedly identified investment in education as the key building block toward economic recovery. Let us hope Batt O’Keeffe was tuned in. After the cuts imposed in the September Budget, the desperately underfunded Irish education system cannot bear much more pain. By investing heavily in third-level research, the Government acknowledges that education can be the engine of economic growth …” (more)

[Irish Times, 31 March]

Students at home ‘to cut costs’

Posted in teaching with tags , , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

UK“Many students are opting to stay living at home, with more than a third saying they will base their university choice on cost, a survey suggests. The UK Youth Parliament survey looked at the impact of the recession on choices in higher education. There were fears there would not be enough part-time jobs for students. Also revealing concern about the economy, a National Union of Students survey found 80% of students were worried about graduate job prospects …” (more)

[BBC News, 30 March]

More on Professor Bertie Ahern’s Job at NUIM

Posted in teaching with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Got a response from NUIM giving a little more detail on Bertie Ahern’s job description as Honorary Adjunct Professor of Mediation and Conflict Intervention. ‘In response to your query I can confirm that the position of Honorary Adjunct Professor of Mediation and Conflict Intervention is an honorary one for which no remuneration is involved. Holders of such positions provide their time and support to the university free of charge to encourage and develop education. As part of his role with NUI Maynooth Bertie Ahern has agreed to deliver annual lecturers to post graduate students, academics, mediation and conflict intervention practitioners, as well as providing inputs on NUI Maynooth mediation and conflict intervention programmes …’” (more)

[Irish Election, 30 March]

Does the lecture have a future?

Posted in teaching with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“About a year ago a research group involving four Australian universities published a report entitled The Impact of Web-Based Lecture Technologies on Current and Future Practices in Learning and Teaching. One of the key findings of this report was that students on the whole were enthusiastic about web-based lectures – i.e. lectures delivered in the traditional way but recorded for transmission on the internet – while faculty were on the whole more cautious, and a sizeable minority actually hostile. This raises the question of whether traditional teaching methods – the lecturer standing in front of a class wielding chalk and delivering talk – are still sustainable. There is a debate to be had in this about the value and appropriate use of elearning, but that is maybe for another post. My purpose here is to ask whether we need to re-consider the usefulness of the lecture in particular as a teaching tool …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 30 March]

Rise in university gender pay gap

Posted in Legal issues with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

UK“The number of women lecturers and researchers at British universities rose more slowly last year and the pay gap with men widened slightly, according to figures published today by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Academic staff numbers increased by 2.9% to 174,945 in 2007-08, up from 169,996 in 2006-07, the figures show. Women make up 18.7% of university professors – up from 17.5% in 2006-07. The proportion of female academic staff in all grades has increased over the same period, from 42.3% in 2006-07 to 42.6% in 2007-08. Female academics were nearly twice as likely to work part-time in 2007-08 than men – 42.4% compared with 23.1% …” (more)

[Anthea Lipsett, Guardian, 30 March]

Wanted: 33 smart people for top posts

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Prestigious hi-tech research jobs at Ireland’s biggest university are going a-begging, despite the economic crisis and rising unemployment. The School of Computer Science and Informatics (CSI) at UCD is finding it difficult to attract enough high-calibre interest for 33 vacancies. Professors at the school have turned to the media to try to fill 23 PhD posts, eight post-doctoral positions, and two research assistant posts. ‘It may surprise you to hear that we are finding it difficult to fill these positions with suitable candidates,’ said CSI research officer, Dr Nicola Stokes …” (more)

[Katherine Donnelly, Independent, 30 March]

New universities ‘drive mobility’

Posted in Life with tags , on 31 March 2009 by Steve

UK“New universities in England and Scotland are drivers of social mobility, according to research from the Million+ organisation. The research tracked the social backgrounds of students and their occupations after leaving university. It found that 8% of entrants in these universities were from professional families – but that three years after graduating 17% had professional jobs. Million+ chair, Les Ebdon, says it proves the ‘pessimists wrong’ …” (more)

[BBC News, 30 March]

Joint research project between Trinity and UCD

Posted in Governance and administration with tags , , on 30 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“The recent announcement of a research merger between Trinity and UCD should be greeted with a cautious welcome. Much of the debate on the future of universities and university funding has focused on the suggestion that the State should concentrate Exchequer resources on certain universities. This is usually based on the presumption that there is a saturation of universities, which the taxpayer cannot afford to subsidise. It should be noted, however, that there are seven universities in the State for a population of 4.2 million (1.67 universities per million). But Massachusetts, for example, has 17 universities for a population of 6.5 million (2.6 universities per million) …” (more)

[David Browne, Irish Times, 30 March]

Debate on third-level tuition fees

Posted in Fees and access with tags , on 30 March 2009 by Steve

Ireland“Sarah Carey’s concerns about the Labour Party’s commitment to social justice would have been quickly assuaged had she checked her facts first (Opinion, 25 March 2009). She is correct in pointing out that the road to third-level begins even before a child starts school, and that early intervention is essential if we are to give every child a genuine opportunity to get there. This is why, even before abolishing the university fees that were an obstacle to PAYE families, Labour established the Early Start pre-school programme for disadvantaged children. This programme in disadvantaged areas is exactly what Ms Carey advocates. If she is unaware of its existence, this may be because it has languished for years as a perpetual ‘pilot project’ under successive Fianna Fáil ministers for education …” (more)

[Ruairi Quinn, Irish Times, 30 March]