Keeping it all in the family

Without necessarily wanting to go through all the arguments again, we might note that Tom Garvin’s Irish Times article of last Saturday has been strongly criticised (also in the Times) by two UCD professors, Mary Daly and Brigid Laffan. However like Professor Garvin, the two writers here also treat the issue as almost entirely UCD-specific, using the occasion to list all sorts of advances and achievements by their college over recent years. I hate to say this, but this particular debate should not be about UCD and various people’s views of it. Whether UCD’s modular teaching programme is good or bad, or whether its research culture has changed, is maybe a matter for the college’s PR department, but is not central to the debate on how universities should be run. There are, if I may whisper this, other universities out there.

Then again, maybe I am just impossible to please.

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11 Comments on “Keeping it all in the family”

  1. Vincent Says:

    You’re not suggesting that some Universities are provincial in outlook ?.
    Mind you, I can think of about ten medieval institutions off the top of my head that still exist more or less intact, starting with the Church, then the Law and so on.

    Gotta go, Brown has held his seat.

  2. iainmacl Says:

    Indeed, in an ironic twist they partially support his contention by turning their argument into a pure-spin press release for their institution.

    • Perry Share Says:

      Fair enough Iain. But it must be said that the article in question was much better written than the one they were responding to, if somewhat less entertaining for all that. In my view some of the changes they referred to were indeed positive in intent: modularisation of programmes; alternatives to terminal exams; and a greater focus on student-centred learning. I don’t know enough about UCD to know whether this is all spin, but it does reflect the sorts of changes in the area of learning, teaching and assessment that many of us have been trying to encourage and facilitate over the last decade.

      There are other lines of argument, in particular in relation to so-called ‘global rankings’, that I would find much less productive. I fail to see how the obsession with rankings in certain Irish institutions is positively contributing to the experiences of students and staff on the ground. And when the rankings of certain institutions begin to slip, as they inevitably will, it will end in tears!

      Another concern I have long had is that the one-eyed focus on peer-reviewed publication in ‘international’ (ie US or UK) journals has served to reduce the capacity of many Irish academics to intervene in any useful way in Irish debates about our social, economic and cultural direction. But that’s a debate for another day!


      • Perry, I’m not sure I agree with your last point. I doubt that you would ever intervene much in the social, cultural or economic debate in academic journals, at least not with visibility to the public. But you can do so in the newspapers as we are seeing, and that is continuing to happen with all available decibels…

      • kevin denny Says:

        Perry on the last point you are simply wrong. Firstly, international journals are not just UK or US though the US does dominate. Secondly, the reason why academics can contribute to domestic debates is because they are up to speed with international research and are contributing to it. Certainly economists have been very active in recent years commenting on debates and publishing academically. With a few exceptions, the ones best known to the public are also best known academically: if you look at the repec rankings for Ireland you will see this. So economists as well as having two hands (apparently a bad thing) also have two eyes.

        http://ideas.repec.org/top/top.ireland.html

  3. Steph Says:

    As someone who has seen UCDs modular programme grow since it’s beginning, and had many friends adversely affected by it, including many people out of pocket by thousands of euro due to it’s bureacracy these academics would be better off dealing with the huge issues surrounding Horizons rather than boasting as to how good their research is.

  4. Mark Dowling Says:

    What percentage of Irish students choose courses based on world ranking – or is it the non-EU ones who pay big bucks we’re concerned about?

  5. Belfield Says:

    Maybe that once-mooted DCU conference on University Futures, Ireland, might be the place for less decibles and more discussion… ?

    Or perhaps the NUI Galway conferecen which looks almost organised at this point: http://www.nuigalway.ie/celt/conference/conference2010.html

  6. John Power Says:

    I think Tom Garvin made a perfect case. Of course, they should cut the universities back to teaching only the academic subjects, and leave the others – like management studies, journalism, nursing and so on – to the Institutes and to the hospitals.


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