Posted tagged ‘Brian MacCraith’

Reforming the Irish Leaving Certificate

August 6, 2011

One of the recurring themes of this blog since it began in 2008 has been the urgent need to reform Irish secondary education, and in particular the Leaving Certificate. It has been my contention that the Leaving Certificate uses outdated pedagogy, promotes intellectual conformity, discourages critical inquiry, undermines excellence in science awareness and numeracy, encourages inappropriate career choices and disrupts the earlier (or indeed all) stages of higher education.

One of the more heartening aspects of the education debate is that the inadequacy of the Leaving Certificate has become much more of a matter of consensus, now including also the views of the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn TD. In the meantime the President of Dublin City University, Professor Brian MacCraith, has highlighted some of the issues in a most interesting paper delivered at the MacGill Summer School on July 27. In this he argued that success in the Leaving Certificate owed more to ‘stamina’ than ‘intellect’, and did not deliver a ’rounded education’.

It is time to move from a debate on reform to quick and decisive action. Ireland’s ability to recover from the recession depends on this.


Irish higher education and a strategic purpose

January 11, 2011

As I write this on the morning of January 11, we are awaiting the formal launch of the report by Dr Colin Hunt’s group on higher education strategy. Just now, if you go to the website of the Department of Education and Skills, and click on the link headed ‘Strategy for Higher Education’, you get a page that tells you that there is an ‘error’ and that the ‘object is not found’. But what is the ‘object’? Presumably a clear vision for the future of Irish higher education.

The early criticisms of the not-yet-published report, including the latest (by my successor as DCU President, Professor Brian MacCraith), all tend to point out that the report lacks a clear strategic focus, or a vision about the future direction of Irish higher education. There is also an early stream of criticism by trade unions.

As I have noted previously, my own view is that the report has avoided pedagogy and scholarly insight for a framework of bureaucratic oversight. It is not too late for those launching the report to indicate that there is a better, more compelling vision underlying it. Let us see what is said today.

PS. The link from the Department website has now been changed (at midday) – though now, rather than linking to the (now published) report, it just links to the HEA home page.

The ex-President, and his successor

July 14, 2010

This blog will not normally feature such self-indulgent posts as this one will be. But yesterday (Tuesday, July 13) was a roller-coaster ride of ceremonial and emotion. I began it as President of Dublin City University, and ended it as one of its faculty, but on leave for the coming year. In between the university held an extraordinarily well planned hand-over ceremony, and the inauguration of my successor, Professor Brian MacCraith. I spoke one last time as President to the large group of people of well over 1,000 who had gathered in the Mahony Hall of the Helix performing arts centre, and received an extraordinarily warm response. And after that, Brian was formally confirmed in office and assumed the role of President. All of this was interspersed with music and short speeches by a number of friends, staff and supporters of DCU.

In his inaugural address, Brian MacCraith drew attention to the risks faced by universities due to financial constraints and funding cuts, but he also set out a strategic agenda for DCU as a university committed to enterprise, the translation of its knowledge for the country’s economic and social benefit, and the engagement by the university with the local, regional and national community. He announced the establishment of an enterprise advisory board (which will include Intel’s former chief Craig Barrett) and a lecture series given by Nobel Prize winners. Under his leadership, DCU will continue to pursue an ambitious and exciting agenda of change and development.

My role as DCU’s President and (often) its public face is now over, but I am confident that it will go from strength to strength. And while I may not be at the helm there any more, I may not fade away altogether from public visibility…


July 12, 2010

I spent yesterday clearing my office, in anticipation of the arrival of its new occupant, my successor Brian MacCraith, later this week. In fact, today (Monday) will be my last full day in office, as the hand-over ceremony and inauguration of the new President will take place at lunchtime on Tuesday.

I guess that many jobs create a strong bond between the employee and the organisation that employs them. It would be arrogant to claim that being President of a university has that effect to any greater extent than another job. And yet, for the past 10 years DCU has been everywhere with me, day and night. To that extent, breaking that bond as I must now do is not an easy move. And in my awareness of that, I am conscious of the disorientation that many must feel when they leave their jobs. For me at least there is no personal hardship involved, while I know that over the recent months of recession many have not been so lucky.

But I am also conscious now of what a privilege it is to work with so many talented and enthusiastic people as I have been able to do in DCU. It is now more clear to me than ever that universities are the key facilitators of a better, more knowledgeable, more tolerant and more prosperous society. It is a message that requires to be re-formulated and re-emphasised constantly – and there is a task for me over the coming period.

I hope readers may forgive the self-indulgent nature of some posts this week – on Tuesday evening I shall describe the inauguration here – but I shall be addressing other more ‘normal’ issues also over the next few days.


December 18, 2009

It’s been one of those days on which the sheer pace of activities stops you from thinking too much about what is going on and what it all means for you. As I mentioned in my last post, on Thursday the Governing Authority of DCU appointed Professor Brian MacCraith to be the new President of DCU, from July 14 next year. Since I made the earlier announcement, here and on Twitter and elsewhere, I have been completely inundated with emails, tweets, handwritten notes shoved through the door, phone calls and every possible form of communication – and I have appreciated every one of them (with just one surprising complaint that I was handing out ‘totally irrelevant information’).

So let me first of all explain to some who have asked this: under Irish law (the Universities Act 1997), all university presidents hold office for 10 years. I was appointed in early 2000, and my term of office began in July of that year. I am in fact a committed believer in fixed terms for such posts, not least because after a while everyone, no matter how good they might be, becomes less fresh, and a new person at the top can inject some new life and energy. So I think it’s a good principle. And I am genuinely delighted with the choice of my successor (in which I played no part): Brian MacCraith is a truly wonderful research leader, but also a civilised and inspiring man who has a wide breadth of interests and a lively curiosity. DCU will be very well led by him.

But I am not quite finished yet. I have another seven months (or nearly that) in the post, and some interesting issues will be up for decision during that time; and I intend to stay wholly active right up to the last minute.

Some readers of this blog know DCU very well, others perhaps less so. But let me assure all of you that it is an extraordinarily wonderful institution. Its successes and its excellence stem from the collective work of the entire university community, both staff and students over the years. I have no doubt that it will go on to achieve new heights and will set the standard in so many ways for quality and initiative in higher education. And I would like to think that when we get it wrong, as of course we sometimes do, we learn quickly.

And as for me? I have not yet taken any final decision on what I shall do next. But I am not going to retire! And as long as I don’t run out of things to say, this blog certainly will continue.

DCU: new President-elect

December 17, 2009

The Governing Authority of Dublin City University has today appointed as the next President of the university Professor Brian MacCraith, Professor of Physics in DCU and Director of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute. He will take up his appointment on July 14, 2010. I am personally delighted with this appointment!

More can be read here. A more detailed comment coming up on this blog tonight.