Unions warn against public-sector pay reductions

Posted in Governance and administration on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“… SIPTU said it would resist cuts to premium pay and overtime for health service workers, while IMPACT said any deferral of increments would breach the Croke Park agreement and hit low-paid workers hardest …” (more)

[BreakingNews.ie, 25 June]

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Future proofing the arts

Posted in Teaching on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“On May 24th last, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) announced it intended to appoint an international panel to review the provision of third-level creative arts education in Dublin …” (more)

[Aidan Dunne, Irish Times, 25 June]

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‘Gay-friendly’ universities highlighted in Stonewall guide

Posted in Governance and administration on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“Stonewall, the equality charity, has published its latest guide to the universities it considers to have the most gay-friendly policies and support for students. The Gay By Degree guide rates universities on a list of 10 criteria …” (more)

[David Matthews, Times Higher Education, 25 June]

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The Sexist Ad from The EU Commission: The Female Scientist’s Perspective

Posted in Teaching on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“There’s definitely a time and a place for a video released as an attempt by the EU Commission to get more girls into science. The time for ‘Science: It’s A Girl Thing’, a 53-second cringe featuring overly-sexualised minors strutting around in safety goggles and minidresses and salivating over how bubbling flasks and chemical formulas always lead to neon make-up is never, and the place is nowhere …” (more)

[Tea and Toast, 25 June]

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Varadkar: Hard to justify public sector pay increments

Posted in Governance and administration on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“The Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has said public sector pay increments should be deferred, despite the fact that they are protected under the Croke Park Agreement …” (more)

[BreakingNews.ie, 25 June]

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What does austerity mean for Greek universities?

Posted in Governance and administration on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“Austerity has hit Greek universities in many ways: University budgets (excluding salaries) have been slashed by more than 50%, leading to serious problems (lack of heating, lack of funding for basic needs). Funding for adjunct faculty has been reduced by almost 70% leading to hundreds of lay-offs …” (more)

[Kostas Skordoulis, Education Activist Network, 24 June]

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Dissertation for Sale: A Cautionary Tale

Posted in Research on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“A Google search brought me to a link to BarnesandNoble.com, where with one click I soon discovered that my dissertation was being sold. It took a minute of staring at the computer screen to fully accept that my work could be purchased for (at the time) $32.34 as an eTextbook for the Nook reader …” (more)

[Manuel R Torres, Chronicle of Higher Education, 24 June]

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Student’s funeral takes place today

Posted in Life on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“The funeral of 21-year-old Co Wicklow student James Nolan, who died after he fell into a river in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz, takes place today …” (more)

[Irish Times, 25 June]

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Call for minister to stop extradition of British student

Posted in Legal issues on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has made a rare political intervention to call on UK home affairs minister Theresa May to stop the extradition of British student Richard O’Dwyer to the US for alleged copyright offences …” (more)

[James Ball, Irish Times, 25 June]

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State’s chief scientific adviser prepares to step down after rich achievements

Posted in Governance and administration on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“The government has benefited from having a chief scientific adviser even if Cabinet members haven’t beaten a path to his door. And while the expertise Prof Patrick Cunningham has provided over the past five years was only infrequently tapped, he provided reports and position papers on a range of controversial issues …” (more)

[Dick Ahlstrom, Irish Times, 25 June]

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Croke Park deal a likely casualty of HSE overspend

Posted in Governance and administration on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“There is growing concern in Government at the scale of the financial problems that have emerged in the health services over recent months and on how these should be addressed …” (more)

[Martin Wall, Irish Times, 25 June]

The overpayments dispute: Winning the battle but losing the war

Posted in Legal issues on June 25th, 2012 by steve

The universities appear to have got off relatively lightly from the overpayments debacle. No money need be repaid, either by the individuals who benefited or by the universities which paid them. However, the universities must now allocate equivalent amounts ‘directed towards improving student services and specific new innovations in front line services’, the policing of which lies with the Department and the HEA.

Like all settlements, it reflects the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case, and the benefits each gain from drawing a line under the matter (on the legal issues see here). The government had a strong, though not absolutely watertight, case that the payments were illegal; but their demands for repayment were always legally weak, whether they meant repayment by universities or repayment by the recipients. Besides, any recovery would certainly have impacted on student services, and it would have been hard for the government to maintain that this was the universities’ fault rather than theirs. The university management teams, for their part, will be pleased to have ended a semi-public spectacle from which they were never going to emerge smelling of roses whatever individual battles they won or lost. Neither side would have seen any gain in pushing the matter before a judge, who would no doubt rule (expensively) that each side was in some respects in the wrong.

Both sides, then, will be glad that a firm result has been reached. But the entire episode represents a major defeat for universities in their struggle to maintain autonomy from government. The bad publicity the matter has generated will linger for years, far out of proportion to the amounts of money involved. The image of universities as irresponsible, privileged and wasteful will be a standing rebuke to anyone who argues that they deserve greater freedom. It is the soundbites which will linger. Róisín Shortall’s misunderstanding of the concept of ‘contact hours’, which lead her to suggest that Irish academics typically work only 15 hours a week, was never corrected – for all the public knows, she still believes that. And Tom Boland’s rhetorical question of ‘what part of “NO” did UCD not understand’ is still quoted, impervious to the simple retort that UCD were never firmly told ‘No’. The truth is that dealings between the HEA and the universities were on a different footing then. The HEA did not then say ‘No’ unless it was sure it was on sure ground, which it was not. Whereas today, the HEA fears for its own existence, which it can only justify to government by saying ‘No’ on a regular basis, whatever question it is asked.

Long term, the consequences are all bad for universities. The politicians are now queuing up to explain how bad they have been. Daniel McConnell serves up several quotes, some attributed and some not, that the universities were ‘bang out of line’, that what they have done was ‘a flagrant breach of the rules’, there ‘there should be penalties’ and that the settlement is an ’embarrassing climbdown’. The rather obvious fact that taking money back from universities harms their students is portrayed as some perverted kind of hostage situation. Party warfare continues: Ruairi Quinn reminds everyone that ‘these overpayments happened on the previous Government’s watch’, Brendan Smith insists that the government ‘should be taking stronger action’ (a safe thing to say if no-one asks him for details). Other obvious candidates for blame are let off: ‘Mr Quinn retained confidence in the HEA despite its failure to spot the payments over several years’. Why?

No university ever became great, or retained its status as great, by doing what it was told by government regulators. If Irish universities do well, it will be despite this settlement, which leaves the universities on the back foot in reversing the current slide towards micro-management of their activities, by politicians and civil servants with no real interest in what universities actually do. The universities have won this battle, but the war has not gone away.

— The Blogmeister

The Real Threat to the Humanities

Posted in Teaching on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“To anyone who takes higher education seriously this is all pretty horrifying. If you have to defend the Classics, or any other academic discipline, on the grounds of profitability or immediate practical usefulness then the battle has already been lost. Profit and practicality are not what college is about. Exactly the opposite, in fact …” (more)

[Jason Rosenhouse, EvolutionBlog, 24 June]

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University ranking rankles: playing the prestige game

Posted in Governance and administration on June 25th, 2012 by steve

“Australian universities compete with providers all over the globe. The stakes are high and it is hard to ignore world rankings. In The Conversation recently, however, University of Southern Queensland’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jan Thomas, questioned the value of rankings locally, and outlined why her university steers clear of rankings altogether …” (more)

[Robert Nelson, The Conversation, 25 June]

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