the Irish for rights

A Minister for Universities?

DIUS logo, via their website.If newly re-elected Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern’s post-election Cabinet reshuffle was marked by characteristic caution, then newly-installed UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s post-appointment Cabinet reshuffle was marked by uncharacteristic flexibility.

For example, Brown divided the Department for Education and Skills into two, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS; full Ministerial team here) and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Then, both David Cameron, the leader of the opposition Conservative Party, and Sir Menzies Campbell, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, both reshuffled their respective front benches to appoint shadows to these Departments.

However messy the split might be to implement, it is nevertheless an important one, recognising that it is inappropriate to locate policy for the very different education sectors in one department: inevitably, the focus tends to be on one strand, to the detriment of the others. Stand-alone departments, arguing their separate cases at government level, avoid this.

It is therefore disappointing, to say the least, to see that, whilst the university sector merits a full ministry in the UK, it doesn’t even merit a junior minister in Ireland. For all the Irish government’s cant about the importance of research to the national development plan, this lack of recognition is another disheartening example of how the third level sector continues to be marginalised in Irish government policy-making.

One Response to “A Minister for Universities?”

  1. Tom says:

    Eoin, this indeed is an interesting post. I had not spotted the fact that the new Prime Minister has taken this approach.

    Some bloggers and other scribes have reported that academia in the UK is a potential problem area for governments, similar to national health services etc.

    I could be wrong with this comment but my impression is that the UK university and academic structures are heavily unionised and grossly underpaid, even at the level of fulltime fellows or academic management staff.

    Strikes had also been mooted in that area in the UK.

    I comment that third level education, research and output – graduands, directly impact the competitive environment of the national economy. There is a clear intellectual divide between the UK and Ireland. Yes, our country is perhaps the size of one of the UK’s major cities, e.g., Manchester. The divide might be down to the consumption and upgrade of the old polytecnic institutions to being academic or quasi academic in nature, rather than vocational.

    While I have problems with aspects of the Irish pre-university structure where literally children have to get over the hurdle that can be the leaving cert.

    “While I have no doubt that minister Hanafin’s reforms are motivated by a genuine desire to assist students, she would do well to remember the cautionary words of Ronald Regan, who once claimed that the most terrifying words in the English language were: ‘‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.â€? [Quote from below article].

    I have genuine agreement with James McDermott in this article [URL=”http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2007/06/24/story24574.asp”]If it ain’t broke, don’t break it[/URL] with respect to the leaving certificate.

    I remain undecided on the entire basis for reform in Ireland though, or indeed further regulation/policy intervention at university level. Is it that broken here, unlike the UK? ….I remind you of your post of late, in re. TCD and its global ranking.

    Firstly, I’d personally like to see a matriculation period or requirement brought back, to regulate and normalise the turbulence that students can experience one coming from a nazi-esque primary regime into the more liberal and less structured world of college. Many younger students end up with depression, sexual identity crisis, drugs and alcoholism ‘issues’ after or during the transition. They were taught how to Goose Step, now they have no generals to guide them. They are virtually alone in the sink or swim world of third level education.

    Secondly, I’d like to see academic institutions being run more like businesses. I find it completely unacceptable to read of the bullying, intimidation and pure nonsense that has gone on in many an academic parish in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. Two cases which have resulted in court action by parties. Tolleration for this behaviour, even from the most esteemed professor, fellow, PhD whatever should result in censure, reprimand and removal. My premise is basically that nobody is indispensible.

    We are lucky in Ireland. We have less unionised structures working behind academia, we have more rigorous criteria to enter academic institutions and I’d add, I feel we have some of the best brains in academia spanning many sectors, Law, Business, Medicine etc.

    Do we need this?
    Who would you appoint?
    Would it be accepted?
    Would and ombudsman do? (Sitting above the NUI etc.)


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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights.

"Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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