DCU conference on ‘Re-inventing the University’

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week DCU will be hosting a major conference on the future of higher education, in Ireland and globally. Here are some teasers on arguments that will be put by some speakers at the conference.

• The current system of higher education has become unsustainable and needs to be radically re-conceived.
• Universities may need to be run as a ‘system’, rather than as entirely separate institutions.
• University governance will need to be re-thought – it should involve smaller boards with high-powered public figures, and no political appointments.
• The future of our universities cannot be built on their history.
• Universities must be willing, in a much more explicit manner, to accept responsibility for delivering on society’s needs.
• Universities also need to be seen as cultural institutions.
• Students need to be taught in an interdisciplinary context.

Speakers at the conference will include the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills, Ms Mary Coughlan TD; the President of Arizona State University, Dr Michael Crow; the Chief Executive of the HEA, Mr Tom Boland; the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr John Hegarty; and the chair of the Higher Education Strategy Steering Group, Dr Colin Hunt.

Some additional participants can still be accommodated, and you can find out how to register here.

The conference website is here, and if you want to contact the organisers you can do so here.

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7 Comments on “DCU conference on ‘Re-inventing the University’”

  1. Al Says:

    Looks to be a very interesting conference.
    Unfortunately, meetings on both days!!

    With the impressive line up, I have to ask the question of whether parrhesia will be possible?

    Such a conversation needs to start at first principles.
    What does academia actually do, or should do?
    The distinction is important, to separate it from what academia ‘could do’!!!

    The boom years of spending has attempted to liberate the potential of academia on various things.

    But now, the question of what academia needs to do to conserve its potential is equally important!!

    For example, is it currently doing something on the ‘could’ list to the detriment of the ‘should’ list?

    In dealing with this, it would be prudent to ask whether academic govenors saw the current situation: crisis of funding, as a possible outcome from the funding increases?

    Further, it seems that the Irish political environment isnt up to having a completed conversation on the issue of funding for academia.

  2. Al Says:

    Message interupted…

    Just to finish on the funding.

    With X amount of resources, on average, we will get Y no. of students at Z quality.

    Whatever the actual numbers X,Y, and Z are, Govt seems to want to increase Y and decrease X and assume no change to Z!

    Done in ignorance it is foolish,
    Done informed, it is dishonest!
    Which is it going to be?

    Although one could argue that most politics occurs between foolishness and dishonesty!!

    Ignoring the important question of whether Irish Academia has priced itself out of the national and international market like the rest of the economy apparently has…..

    Looks like it will be a good one!

  3. Debra J. White Says:

    A university president should be a prudent leader, not someone who exhibits mean spirited behavior such as Michael Crow who runs ASU with an iron fist. He spends millions each year to fend off discrimination lawsuits all linked to him. Take the case of fired Prof. Kathryn Milun who won her discrimination case with the EEOC and ASUs arbitration committee. Crow refuses to settle and it’s dragging through the courts at considerable expense to the taxpayers, one of many cases. Crow did the same at Columbia. See Chichilnisky vs Columbia. This is not the sign of a prudent leader or how to re-invent education. It’s how to trash education.

  4. iainmacl Says:

    Thanks for the event, Ferdinand. It certainly provided food for thought by virtue of voicing some unpleasant sentiments for those of us who sympathise with the plight of many overworked academic staff. It seems ASU’s approach is not far short of flog em and sack em and that ‘interdisciplinary’ is a smokescreen for hiring and firing a mixture of compliant staff, with individually negotiated pay and no academic loyalty. Never quite sure how you can be interdisciplinary without first having a discipline or two under the belt.

    Then I guess you’d expect me to say these things… 😉

    • Iain!!! That doesn’t do justice to Michael Crow/ASU at all! Yes, he needed to lay off staff, but that was because of dramatic state funding cuts. But the meat of his talk was not about that at all, but about the way in which universities do or don’t reach out to communities to address their problems.

      By the way, ASU staff are anything but compliant! I’ve been there a few times.

      • iainmacl Says:

        fair enough , I was certainly provoked by the bullish way in which he described the laying off of large numbers of people and the comments about scientists effectively being self-indulgent in their research on cancer, for example. Most cancer researchers I know are highly motivated by personal encounters with the disease in their family. I know the point he was trying to make, but he could have criticised the system for the determination of priorities rather than the rather casual manner in which he associated it with the academics themselves. So it was a combination of those types of remarks and the recurrence in some of the other presentations of comments which effectively were laying the blame of much of the current problems at the feet of lecturers, despite the evidence (also eluded to) that shows how relatively efficient Irish HE actually is. I agree that there is intransigence in the system amongst a number of staff but there have also been huge changes in structures, workloads and approaches over the last few years and we shouldn’t forget that. Ireland has, with the ECF effectively now stopped tenure, much of teaching is to huge classes with poor staff-student ratios and declining resources. I don’t think we should let prejudices about stubborn academics override the reality on the ground for many, particularly junior staff. Hence my defensive reaction, I guess. I know it must be frustrating as hell to manage a university but it’s also a privilege.

  5. Al Says:

    @ Ian

    One thing that surprises me watching all the organisational changes (improvements if you believe it) is the lack of a sense of collectivism.

    Surely it is in academics interest to seek right of representation in dealing with managements.
    There is little repesentation in most of the universities. Is it a political belief structure or limited social skills????

    Efficiency loss or gains should be debated…

    That most of these attempts at improvements are questionable is a seperate point. Most of it seems to be personalised attempts at improving questionable metrics.
    I question whether it will be sucessful??? more likely everyone will be talking the same management vocabulary bullshit in a few years.

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