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Brian Cowen’s very big, VERY BAD, idea for the third level sector

Fewer with one big brand leader known as the University of Ireland is in the wider national interest

The Irish Times – Fri, Feb 25, 2011

SEÁN FLYNN

EDUCATION: IN THE COURSE of discussions on the University College Dublin-Trinity research alliance two years ago, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his advisers had a Very Big Idea. The secret discussions with the two universities had focused on how to build a world-class research capacity in our leading higher education colleges. But some of the Cowen team wanted to go further.

The logical step, they argued, was for a full merger of UCD and Trinity, pooling the best of both in a reshaped institution that would glide onto any list of the best universities in the world.

This is a terrible idea. It presupposes that it is worthwhile chasing international rankings. This quest is ephemeral at best. But even if it is worthwhile, Cowen’s strategy assumes that scrapping a very strong brand (TCD) and an emerging brand (UCD) and replacing them with an entirely new one is the way to do it. And that cannot be right.

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One Response to “Brian Cowen’s very big, VERY BAD, idea for the third level sector”

  1. Tertiary21 says:

    I’ve flip flopped on the idea a few times myself. Chasing rankings is dinosaur racing, and i think in 5 years time the ranking models will have evolved considerably. What might seem a smart way of wining rank in early ranking models, will be death in the smarter rankings of 2020.While I’m generally a fan of scale, I think the critical scale benefits come from school and departments being large, not necessarily the overarching administrations. Small, specialising HEI’s do very well for themselves.Setting aside TCD and UCD, I do wonder if letting the NUI go was a miss. None of it’s regional children (NUIM,NUIG,UCC) are really big enough to have the scale they need, and now we have lots of Duplication between them.I suspect we need 4 mega institutions, with highly autonomous schools inside them:TCD, UCD, an Irish National IT and a reintegrated NUI. Let individual departments and schools of quality go built their own brands if it’s worthwhile, but integrate to cut the overheads and duplication, and get the scale you need.

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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.

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