Posted tagged ‘comprehensive universities’

Peter Sutherland and the Irish universities

January 27, 2010

Following recent reports on his comments about the Irish university system, Peter Sutherland has now written a letter to the Editor of the Irish Times correcting these reports, or at any rate some interpretations of his comments.

In his letter he denies suggesting that Ireland needed fewer universities, but rather says that we ‘cannot have seven world class comprehensive universities’. He proposes that there should be ‘a small number of comprehensive research universities’, and that the rest should specialise in certain subject areas where they can have critical mass or should see themselves as regional institutions.

There may be something in what he says, although I suspect that most would read such comments as supporting a two or even three-tier system of higher education. In some ways it would not be logical for me to complain, since DCU does not see itself as a ‘comprehensive’ university, though we would certainly not accept that we are in a lower league from any other Irish university, including the universities of Dublin 2 and Dublin 4.

I guess it also is connected somewhat with the concept of ‘world class’, a description which is perhaps used too freely and without much objective meaning, beyond perhaps suggesting a place in a particular range of the global university rankings. But it would be right, I suspect, to look more closely at what Peter Sutherland is saying here, and to ask whether we need to consider what mission each of the Irish universities has or should have.