The Last Post

Nearly eleven years ago, in June 2008, I published my first post on this blog. Just a little earlier I had joined Facebook and Bebo (remember that?), and I was about to join Twitter. I was at the time President of Dublin City University, and I had become convinced that university heads needed to be more visible to those whose lives they affected, whether faculty or students. They should come clean about their views so that these could be challenged or discussed, and indeed so that there could be conversation and debate about the strategic educational, cultural and social role of the university and the wider sector.

So here we are, then – 2,318 posts and some one-and-a-quarter million views later, and I’m trying to figure out how much of it ever mattered. Well, nothing in this blog changed the world, and I’m afraid it didn’t start a trend. Some university heads now use social media (and many of these use it more wisely than I did), but few present their views in detail and invite comment, which is what I hoped might follow. But if it didn’t change the world, it did get noticed: over these 11 years this blog has been quoted in newspapers and magazines around the world, in at least 12 countries. And as is absolutely appropriate, it has been criticised here and there, with someone quite reasonably suggesting that it was all ‘unbelievable drivel’ written by someone with an ‘incredible ego’. Who could argue with that?

Well, you may have noticed that I have framed all this in the past tense – this will be the last post. I retired from university leadership eight months ago, and what I might say now would be increasingly uninformed. There are other interests and goals that I am now pursuing, and while I will continue to watch what happens in higher education (and may occasionally tweet), it seems a little silly to think that I have something especially valuable to say about it. So there will be no new posts published here, though the blog, as long as WordPress continues, will remain online.

I am grateful to the unexpectedly large number of people who have read this blog or subscribed to it, and to those who occasionally wrote guest posts for it. I am grateful to the many people who wrote comments – over 16,000 comments were contributed. I have learnt from these and occasionally changed decisions on the basis of comments here that had persuaded me. I am more grateful still to the many women and men who work in higher education, as students, teachers, scholars, information professionals, support workers, technicians and others. I have noted from time to time that most of these people do not get the credit they deserve, and unfortunately they often do not get the support and security that reinforces integrity and freedom.

I may, in time, reach for my pen (or my keyboard) to start another blog; but if I do it will be on topics other than higher education. But as I leave this blog behind, here are my hopes for universities and the higher education community: that there will be a greater appreciation of the value of our institutions; that they will have access to the resources that will sustain scholarship and learning; that people studying and working in higher education will be given the respect and working conditions that is their due; that there will be no abuse of power or bullying in future; that no one will ever again feel abandoned and lost in the system to the extent that they despair of life; that scholars will continue to change the world with their discoveries and critiques; that universities will engage still more with the wider communities that they serve; that university leaders exercise (perhaps to a greater extent than I always did) a degree of humility and recognise the value of collegiality.

When I demitted office as President of Dublin City University in July 2010, I said in my farewell address to the DCU community that, in the end, we manage best when we remain optimistic. So that is my parting wish to all of you who engage in higher education: that you will always end up believing that the values of higher education will win. We have to believe that.

Explore posts in the same categories: blogging, higher education, university


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33 Comments on “The Last Post”

  1. Thank you for your posts. They were always very thoughtful and I enjoyed reading them.

  2. Fiona Says:

    I will miss your blogs and your honest insights into the HE world. I look forward to hearing your views on a new topic in the future. Good luck.

  3. Sandy Brownlee Says:

    As a postdoc and now new lecturer I’ve really appreciated your insights into the wider sector, particularly coming from the head of rgu, where i obtained both my degrees. From what I gather from my former colleages you did a great job there. Best of luck for the future!

  4. Dominic Says:

    Wonderfully balanced final blog post. Your musings will be missed by many.

  5. J Doyle Says:

    Farewell! I will miss the posts but I imagine there is a freedom in setting aside all things related to the two decades of Uni leadership, and having more time for family and personal interests (a new calendar, featuring Scotland?). I hope it did inspire others but I think most leaders still have a long way to go on open-ness, “interactive leadership” and honest sharing. Then again, as a manager in the corporate space, I see the issues that make this not such a simple thing, and I do recall that not everyone in DCU fully appreciated the blog.
    Looking forward to seeing you in new areas.

  6. Fiona Says:

    Whilst I may not have always agreed with everything you wrote, you always made me pause and think.
    Best wishes.

  7. Vince Says:

    Well shit. I was hoping now you aren’t hamstrung you could take the mudguards off and really let fly.
    But I’m sad to read you have ended. And for what it’s worth you removed some of the rose tint from my glasses and made me more hardheaded when I read comment from elsewhere.
    I was also hoping for your take on Jordan Peterson, a man I find maddeningly accurate on some issues but a neo Rand on most others.
    And something you may find fun

  8. Thank you for your posts (and for allowing me to post once) and best wishes for the future.

  9. Tony Mackay Says:

    Dear Ferdinand

    I am very sorry to read your Last Post because I have been a devoted reader of your blog for many years.

    I wish you well in your “retirement”.

    Best wishes

    Tony Mackay

  10. I’ll miss reading this.I didn’t always agree with you, but you were always worth reading! I’ll be interested to see where you go next.

  11. Gavin Says:

    Thanks, Ferdinand. What a superb way to end a blog, which I have dipped into from time to time, and always found thought-provoking and useful, as an academic myself. I will probably print out your wishes today for academia and academics: they are are useful blessing or wish list for the future: something which, reality being as it is, will not always be achieved, but which I think we should always hope and strive for. Thank you and good luck in whatever you choose to do in the future.

  12. Donncha Kavanagh Says:

    Dear Ferdinand
    Go raibh míle maith agat. Thank you so much for an always insightful, thoughtful and timely blog, with so many interesting posts. You’ve been a great asset to all of us who work in academia, and I’m very sorry that your blog has ended. But you can rejoice in a job well done and one that’s very much appreciated, even from afar.
    Beir bua agus go n-eirí leat.

    Donncha Kavanagh

  13. This has been a valuable relationship, between yourself and the reader. I for one thank you heartily.

    You now touch on a subject that perplexes me: how can one comment on affairs when one is no longer a party to their inner workings?
    My own case is that of an academic exiled from academia by illness. I no longer have access to the latest research, nor the energy to pursue.
    What, then, is the position of those of us no longer in the flow?

    • Thank you, Michael.

      Your question is one I have asked myself also. I have concluded that I cannot credibly comment any more; but that is in part because people expect me to lay out an inside track which I no longer have. But absolutely anyone can make a valid comment about HE in general or any aspect of it, so don’t be discouraged.

  14. Al Says:

    Best of luck into the future!

  15. cormac Says:

    What a pity, I will miss this blog. I really enjoyed reading your posts and they provided many useful insights for me. As a self-professed ODA (ordinary decent academic), I often feel distanced from college management, and your blog reminded me that academic managers work within v tight constraints and we are all on the same side

  16. Gayl Wall Says:

    Thanks so much for your posts. Always thoughtful and insightful and I have enjoyed reading them over the last few years. Your blog has provided a pretty unique contribution and it will be missed. Best wishes.

  17. Dave Says:

    Congrats and best wishes on the next chapter. Was a pleasure having you as President during my time at DCU.

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