The purpose of higher education reform

Over recent months a significant number of commentators – in the media, in politics, from industry and elsewhere – have suggested that major reform in Irish higher education is needed. Furthermore, the Minister for Education and Science has, as we know, established a strategic review process for higher education. Most of the discussion that this has generated has been about the reform of structures, and in particular the possibility of rationalisation; this has been covered in previous posts in this blog.

In fact, the time is right for considering reform – including some quite radical reform – of the Irish higher education system; but as in all questions of strategic reform, it is doubtful whether this should start with structures. Before we can really begin to say what structures are appropriate for our system, we need to be clear about what we want this system to deliver; it is only then that we can say whether the structures we currently have need to be changed. Therefore, rather than suggesting that rationalisation should be the first and foremost topic for review, I might have suggested some discussion of the following:

• What entry criteria should we use for student admissions to universities – should we abandon the points system?
• What is the potential (or what are the risks) of the further development of modular teaching?
• Should we be re-considering the largely discipline-based framework of teaching in universities and colleges?
• Should there be a more strategic link between teaching and research? 
• What do we expect of university research? Will we still encourage basic research? 
• Are the links between universities and industry/business about right, or do they need to be developed further?
• What is our modern understanding of academic tenure and academic freedom? 

I do not think that there is a clear consensus on any of these issues, and it may well be right for some of these questions to be answered differently between institutions, but I believe they are all more urgent and, in the first instance, more important than the questions being raised for the strategic review. And unless we start addressing them, we will not be in a position to address the reform of Irish higher education in a coherent manner.

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One Comment on “The purpose of higher education reform”

  1. Daniel John Says:

    Higher education is important for bright future…

    thanks for this info.


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