The TCD-UCD partnership
Since I wrote on this topic last week, there has been a lot of media coverage and a lot of discussion, and indeed a lot of anxiety, over the nature and shape of the proposed collaboration between Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. The speculation, or at least most of it, has now ended with the formal announcement by the President of UCD and the Provost of Trinity, attended also by the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste, the Minister for Education and Science and the Minister for Finance. I hasten to say that I was invited to attend this, but for genuine reasons of conflicting engagements was unable to do so. I have however read the statements issued on the occasion.
It is right to state at the outset that we must all be aware that the country faces extraordinary challenges, and that universities have a particular opportunity and obligation to provide leadership and initiative in this current environment. It is also right to say that partnerships and alliances between universities must be the right thing to pursue. And finally, universities and other higher education institutions now have an obligation, in order to maintain public support, to demonstrate that what they do can generate economic activity, create jobs and help get us out of the recession. And in that spirit I welcome and applaud the initiative which the two colleges have taken.
I would go on to say that other institutions, including my own, must continue with and step up our efforts to make a difference and to help solve the country’s problems. DCU will be launching its new strategic plan within the next two months, and will be announcing its own initiatives – as well as those it proposes to take with Irish and with major international partners.
In the meantime however, we must also ensure that the institutions in Ireland do not fragment, and do not come to the view that they must take competing and perhaps incompatible initiatives aimed at gaining advantage over each other, rather than in pursuit of the national interest. Welcome though today’s announcement is, it was preceded by an element of secrecy which was not helpful and which could have sowed the seeds of serious distrust in the sector. It is our job now to overcome that and to reinstate national collaboration and mutual support.