The Irish government, via Minister Bruton, is to “clamp down” on essay mills. That trying, in effect, to outlaw d’internet is doomed to failure is indicative of how little sensible focus is exerted on real challenges facing the higher education sector. Here are ten things that are more deserving than essay mills of ministerial press releases, actions, legislation, appearances on morning radio. There are at least a dozen more but this is a start.
Theresa May’s plans for Brexit may have suffered a setback after campaigners won their high court battle over her decision not to seek parliamentary approval before starting the process. Nevertheless, any move by the UK to leave the EU is likely to pose significant challenges. If it is hard, as favoured by the British prime minister, it implies that the UK will be outside the customs union with all the trade dislocation that that implies.
The rationale, such as it is, for that decision, is that all modes of staying within the customs union will require freedom of movement of people. And that is the rub. The predominant reason for voting no was around immigration, conflated with a notion of taking back control (of borders, usually unsaid). This opens an opportunity for Ireland, if it can show the vision to grasp it
Governments usually, and often quite correctly, come in for severe stick for lack of joined up thinking. In that regard it is quite pleasant to see the initiative from the Department of Social Protection on moneylenders. Linking repayment to credit union loans to welfare payments allows low risk in lending and thus low interest rates. Would that similar joined up thinking pervaded the issue of student loans. Continue reading
So, the Social Democrats have launched their “not a manifesto“, making them second to Renua in the early stages of the 2016 General Election. As I reviewed the Renua offering on education, so as not to be accused of partisanship, I will, time permitting, do them all. So what do the SD’s promise on education Continue reading
There has been a disturbance in the force? Do you feel it? The opening words of the trailer for the much awaited new Star wars movie might as well describe how the ground seems to be shifting on higher education funding. We seem to be moving towards a student loan model, although there is zero chance of anything remotely as contentious as that being announced this side of an imminent general election.
A perennial trope of the Irish economic debate is that of the “Smart economy”. This is to be contrasted one imagines with the “dumb politics”. So how smart is the economy?
A TL:DR of Irish university internationalisation plans would be : get Chinese students, link with Chinese universities. Im not at all sure that this makes sense, economically or otherwise.
Ireland, or at least the government, is in the grip of a frenzy around entrepreneurship. From local government, through the higher education system, to the highest in the land, hardly a day goes by without some new band jumping on the wagon. We are being flogged with the mantra that we must start up, become entrepreneurs, be self-employed, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a diversion of resources, built around a self-perpetuating meme. The SME sector is really important, in Ireland and in Europe. In Europe, as of 2012, SMEs accounted for over 99% of all companies, employing just under 90m people. They account for 66% of total employment and for about 58% of total output. However, when we think of SME’s in Ireland we think of small and medium-sized companies. The SME definition is companies with less than 250 employees, €50m in total turnover. This is by Irish standards a fairly substantial enterprise. In Ireland, SME account for 68% of total employment. Thus, it makes sense, to some extent, to ensure that SMEs as a sector are in rude health. What it may not make sense to do is to pour more and more scarce resources into creating startups and micro enterprises, in pursuit of a problem that doesn’t exist.
Irish universities have a plethora of missions. Many of these are laudable – the reduction of inequality, acting as a reservoir of skills for the modern economy, acting as engines of that selfsame modern economy, a sponge to soak up youth who might otherwise be unemployed… That they are laudable is not the point- they are distant from what has for centuries been seen as the core of universities. That core goes by various terms. In the European tradition it is called Humboltidian, in the Anglo-Saxon Newman. Both are essentially the same, and were the formalization of the centuries old approach as well as being the template of modern ones. The basic tenets of these are the same : a liberal education in its broadest sense, a focus on the person more than on the skills, universities containing the broad range of human knowledge, and a general sense of anti-utilitarianism. These are ideals which I would like to see actualised.
Over the last number of years blogging I have written a good deal about higher education. Below are links to these blogposts, for easy reference. I will update this as and when.