Understanding the reshuffle

Maybe readers were expecting this particular change, but I wasn’t. Anyway, we have now learned that the Department of Education and Science is to become the Department of Education and Skills, and that the Minister is to be Tánaiste Mary Coughlan. She therefore replaces Batt O’Keeffe, who will swap places with her in the (also re-named) Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. There are other changes, too – but I think I need to get a fix on the education changes before worrying too much about anything else.

What are we to make of this? It has of course been a subject of intense speculation over past weeks whether Mary Coughlan would be moved from her post, and most of the reasons given would not have been complimentary to her; though in fairness she has also had her supporters, who have argued that perhaps the chorus of criticism of her performance might have sexist undertones. But nevertheless, what does it mean? What significance is there in this in terms of the government’s sense of priority for education? I’ll give it all the benefit of the doubt and assume that, particularly as she remains Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Mary Coughlan’s appointment indicates that Education is seen as a key Department representing urgent national needs. Also, the part of education that she would have got to know best in her last post would be higher education, and so we may perhaps hope that she will show a strong sense of commitment to this brief; but we will need to wait and see what she says early on.

Progress in the higher education agenda can only come from close and constructive collaboration between the Minister, the HEA and the universities and colleges. We will need to play our part to ensure that this is how it plays out in practice. Mary Coughlan has my best wishes, and I hope that she will find her appointment to be rewarding and successful.

More comments on the changes will follow later.

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10 Comments on “Understanding the reshuffle”

  1. Aidan Cooney Says:

    Fair points but how many FF ministers can you give the benefit of the doubt too? This reshuffle will amount to the minister treating Education with complete indifference! On the upside Donegal might get a university! Coughlan doesn’t care about national policies!

  2. cormac Says:

    Education and skills? What a truly uninspiring name

  3. iainmacl Says:

    With PRTLI moved to Enterprise and the focus on research being geared more overtly towards the economy, it should be interesting to see how that plays out in practical terms with universities straddling two departments for funding. The ‘skills’ agenda will also be interesting to watch and hopefully will not lead to a further ‘industrialisation’ of third level as has happened elsewhere when those two aspects have been linked. Shame they didn’t have the imagination to create a Department for Knowledge, Ideas and Creativity – that would have been a really fascinating reframing….one day perhaps….

  4. Perry Share Says:

    … seriously though, there is a paucity of imagination. Why are ‘arts’ (or culture as they are now described) ‘innovation’ and ‘education’ split across different fields – think what could be possible if they were all in the one department.

  5. kevin denny Says:

    I don’t know why people get so worked up about the title “A rose by any other name…” etc. The people in the office & the ideas in their heads are the same.

  6. Aoife Citizen Says:

    On a more positive note, it might not be fond to think that Mary bears rebel blood: how is your base spaniel fawning?

  7. belfield Says:

    Education and skills could be worse; could be Training & Skills.
    Unlike Kevin, I would think the name is important. DfES is just about right, in my view. It flags precisely where we are in education policy terms which would be England (circa 2003) somewhere between DfEE days and those wonderfully & transparently titled twins the DCSF and DIUS. Oh the joys of not having to actually think beyond Dover, and the benefits of being downstream from it all.

    Perhaps there’s a few hundred tons of discarded DfES letterhead we can get at a knock-down price from HM Stationery Office…. By Grabthar’s hammer, what a saving! 🙂

  8. cormac Says:

    kevin denny: a truly inapproprite quote. PR companies and advertisers spends thousands on names for a reason


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