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

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

The Irish Times – Fri, Feb 25, 2011


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.