Getting to the point

One politician who continues to impress is Ireland’s new Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn. Yesterday I attended an event organised by the Royal Irish Academy at which the Minister outlined the issues facing higher education and addressed certain challenges to the academic community.

Of particular significance is the Minister’s view that the CAO points system needs to be changed – a view I have been putting forward for some time. In his speech the Minister said that the points system is ‘designed around the dominant needs of a cohort of full-time, school leaver, entrants’, which no longer reflects the overall student body or how this is likely to be affected by demographic and other trends. He told his audience that they need to find ‘radically new approaches and alternatives to the current arrangements.’

Elsewhere in his comments the Minister refused to rule out new student contributions or tuition fees.

Irish higher education is clearly facing some very difficult times, and given the state of the pubic finances there are no easy solutions. But the country has an education minister with a genuine interest in higher education and a determination to get things done. That’s a good start.

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5 Comments on “Getting to the point”

  1. Al Says:

    Two points.

    There is a danger is attempting this “World Class” strategy. Why isnt “as good as we can be” or more to the point “adequate as our funding” good enough.
    I am all for pushing standards as high as possible, but between “as good as we can be” and “world class” is a speculative effort and more to the point a speculative use of funds.
    Remember the reviews of the Olympic team performance after the games, an insult to athletes!

    Third level, if it is to take on 70% of school leavers cant be all about management programmes.
    An army cant be totally composed of officers.
    If society, industry, etc, be the same, Third level will need to look at what is the best fit for programmes.

    • jfryar Says:

      I agree Al. But there’s a difference between a university system ‘being as good as it can be’ and a university system ‘being as good as it can be but preventing students from being as good as they could be’.

      The distinction is between universities attempting to be all things to all people, and universities (and funding) being focused on a small number of priorities – the core mission of a university is to educate undergraduates. When the role of universities expands, and funding doesn’t, they become jacks of all trades and masters of none.

      There are two ways of being as good as you can be – general mediocrity in lots of areas, or excellence in a few.

      • Al Says:

        Good points.
        I would also add that it isnt just money and/or the lack of that can reduce someone to ‘jackery’.

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