What did I make of 2008? It was without doubt the most interesting year in a long time, with a wholly unpredictable environment, a gallery of villains, rogues and heroes, major achievements in DCU and extraordinary calamities in public life. In my own life, I will remember 2008 very fondly, but it was also a year in which everything changed, for everyone. And I suspect that for many who have moved quite suddenly from personal prosperity and security to something much less reassuring, and for those throughout the world whose experience of this year was one of war, famine or oppression, it may seem right to follow the poem by Tennyson and let 2008 go, and hope for something better in 2009:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
From the perspective of Dublin City University, these are some of my hopes for the coming year.
• I hope that circumstances do not force us (and all the universities and colleges) to scale down our access programmes that support people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I hope that we will be able to become still more inclusive and move decisively towards a higher education system that is fair and socially aware.
• I hope that the universities will succeed in presenting a much better public image that emphasises the role we play in overcoming economic downturns and in securing a stable and just society.
• I hope that we get a good working relationship with government with a much higher level of mutual trust.
• I hope that DCU’s reputation as a radical educational innovator is enhanced by our new strategic plan (to be adopted in February) and by the energetic implementation of our Academic Framework for Innovation.
• I hope that DCU’s vibrant research performance – which has allowed us to out-perform much larger and older institutions in securing major research grants and contracts – will continue.
• I hope that we can persuade the government and its agencies that high levels of regulatory bureaucracy will not improve anyone’s performance.
But overall, I hope that contrary to all expectations 2009 will be a good year for this country and for the world. May the hope and optimism that has been generated by the election of Barack Obama take root and be reflected in similar optimism everywhere.
I hope that 2009 will be a good year for you, wherever you are and whatever you do!
Happy New Year!