Do we need another university?

Posted in Governance and administration, Teaching on January 3rd, 2019 by steve

Ireland“Sir, – Dr Joseph Ryan’s claim (‘Dublin college merger: technological universities arrive with a TUD’, Opinion & Analysis, December 31st) that ‘policymakers in this country have been strong in defending our diversified provision that caters to differing talents and learning approaches’ is, well, a dud. They have done no such thing …” (more)

[Patricia Mulkeen, Irish Times, 3 January]

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What’s in a name – how much does the word ‘university’ matter?

Posted in Governance and administration on June 14th, 2018 by steve

“Oxford and Cambridge, with their medieval foundations, photogenic colleges, ample wine cellars and large endowments, are held up as the archetypical universities. Their graduates go from PPE to PR to PM …” (more)

[George Feiger, Wonkhe, 13 June]

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‘The Slow University: Work, Time and Well-Being’

Posted in Research on May 16th, 2018 by steve

“A seminar held in the Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute explored how dialogues within and beyond the Higher Education sector are converging around the need for a socio-cultural shift towards slowing down the pace of work, life and consumption, improving well-being and providing counter narratives to processes of globalisation and the ‘Gridlock’ that Hale, Held and Young (2013) write about …” (more)

[Ireland after NAMA, 15 May]

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‘Long history’ of students going to university ‘beginning to erode’

Posted in Governance and administration on November 24th, 2015 by steve

UK“Universities have gone ‘too far’ into the business model of providing full-time residential degrees to be able to ‘adapt’ provision to offer the higher technical and professional education needed to boost productivity. In an interview …” (more)

[John Elmes, Times Higher Education, 23 November]

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The Nature of Universities: Multicultural Edition

Posted in Governance and administration on November 23rd, 2015 by steve

Canada“I find myself increasingly annoyed with particular a line of rhetoric that academics sometimes use when they want to make a point. ‘The university is not a corporation’, they say, ‘it is a community of scholars dedicated to the truth – if it is not that it is nothing.’ You know, the Steffan Collini-types …” (more)

[Alex Usher, HESA, 23 November]


What’s really behind the drive to paint colleges as businesses?

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Governance and administration on May 26th, 2015 by steve

Ireland“With a widely recognised funding crisis, and the recent appointment of an expert working group on university financing, we face a decisive juncture in the politics of higher education. Six years of austerity, and relentless increases in the student contribution, have helped normalise the idea of full-blown tuition fees in one guise or another …” (more)

[Eoin Daly, Irish Times, 26 May]

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So what makes a university?

Posted in Governance and administration on February 17th, 2015 by steve

Scotland“As Ireland continues to struggle with the not very well thought out idea of ‘technological universities’ – now under fire because the somewhat daft requirement for candidate institutions to merge with others first …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 17 February]

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Universities challenged

Posted in Governance and administration on October 15th, 2014 by steve

International“What is a university? To Shelby Foote, the US novelist and Civil War historian, it was merely ‘a group of buildings gathered around a library’. To generations of students, it provided the best times of their lives. To many Nature readers, it is an employer. For Nature itself, many are customers …” (more)

[Nature, 15 October]


Education (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014: Second Stage

Posted in Legal issues on September 24th, 2014 by steve

Diarmuid Wilson (Fianna Fail): I welcome the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, to the House. Amendment No. 1, in the name of Senator Barrett, is related to amendment No. 11, and they may be discussed together, by agreement …” (more)

[Seanad debates, 23 September]

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“Colleges to be called ‘universities’” – A legal note

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on March 5th, 2014 by steve

The Independent reports that “colleges and institutes of technology will be allowed to describe themselves as a ‘university’ when trying to attract foreign students”. It is not clear what level of legal advice has been taken over this, though the article does mention that changes to the Universities Act, 1997, s 52, will be required.

This misses the more basic point that, however useful degree providers may find it to mislead their potential customers, such practices have rightly been banned for a number of years. By the Consumer Protection Act, 2007, a “trader” (a term which almost certainly includes a degree provider) “shall not engage in a misleading commercial practice” (s 42(1)). This would include “the provision of false information” on a variety of topics, including “the nature, attributes or rights of the trader, including .. the trader’s identity .. or status …” (s 43 (1) and (3)(f)). This category of prohibited activity also includes “marketing or advertising [which] would be likely to cause the average consumer .. to confuse .. a competitor’s product with the trader’s product…” (s 44(1)). There’s more, but you get the general idea.

The government has the legal power to grant further Irish institutions university status (under Universities Act, 1997, s 9), but it has no intention of doing so, though at some point in the future (carefully left undefined, and almost certainly beyond the lifetime of the current government) a status of “technological university” may be conferred on a handful of institutions that have dutifully jumped over whatever hurdles the government has chosen to put in its way. That being so, it seems a clear breach of consumer protection law to use the title in relation to programmes not run by one of the seven universities.

There is a worrying disconnect between ministerial utterances, and what the minister can legally do. The minister is treating the “university” label as within his personal gift, to be conferred or withheld as each day’s political circumstances dictate. But the reality is not like that. The title has been limited not by some technicality but by very deliberate political decision. It is safeguarded by law, in ways intended to maintain its force and credibility, nationally and internationally. There are arguments – many of them good ones – for allowing the term to be used more widely – but they have been rejected by the current government, who must therefore stick with the legal consequences of their decision. There is no right to mislead consumers, and an entitlement to do so is not in the minister’s gift.

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Colleges to be called ‘universities’ in bid for foreign students

Posted in Fees, access and admissions, Legal issues on March 5th, 2014 by steve

“Colleges and institutes of technology will be allowed to describe themselves as a ‘university’ when trying to attract foreign students …” (more)

[Fionnan Sheahan, Independent, 5 March]

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Defining the University

Posted in Governance and administration on October 7th, 2013 by steve

“A set of principles for the Irish university was recently produced in DCU by a group of academics. A petition has been organised to provide support for these principles. For me, the principles are hopelessly inadequate – far too ideological – but I will leave the reader to judge for themselves …” (more)

[educationandstuff, 6 October]


How specialised is your university?

Posted in Governance and administration on November 27th, 2012 by steve

“What makes a university a university? A few years ago I had this discussion with a group of academics, and two of them suggested that, in order to be a legitimate university, an institution had to address a number of academic subject areas, which would have to include history and mathematics …” (more)

[Ferdinand von Prondzynski, University Blog, 27 November]

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An Idea for a University

Posted in Life on November 23rd, 2012 by steve

“Amidst the attempts to fathom the ‘direction of Higher Education’ in an environment of cuts, privatisation, managerial hubris, ministerial expediency, redundancies and parodies, the more obvious question is ‘what do we want university to be?’ …” (more)

[Mark Johnson, Improvisation Blog, 22 November]