Posted tagged ‘Irish Independent’

Closing a university?

April 17, 2010

Yesterday’s Irish Independent newspaper carried a story on this recent blog post published here. In the post I had warned that the deterioration in the financial position of Irish universities potentially placed some of them at risk of closure.

The Independent’s article also contained a response from the Higher Education Authority, which was reported as saying that ‘it would never allow a university to go bust or allow a situation to arise where it would need to be bailed out.’ It is hard to know how to interpret that statement, in that it is not easy to see what steps the HEA could take, even theoretically, to prevent a university that was getting into financial difficulties from ‘going bust’. The HEA does indeed monitor the financial performance of the universities and has annual conversations with each institution about their financial plans. It is also known that the Authority has pushed some individual universities to return balanced budgets and to recover their accumulated deficits.

On the other hand, even such monitoring cannot compensate for declining revenues and, ultimately, the inability of  universities to fund minimum standards on the back of wholly inadequate resources. If universities in financial trouble will not be ‘bailed out’ (and this has been a consistent message), then it is hard to see how the HEA can be confident that it will keep all universities operating.

Of course if a university – any university – faced a serious risk of closure the effect on the country would be catastrophic. But guarding against that is not achieved through monitoring and control, but through a reconsideration of the basis on which the higher education system is resourced. Ultimately that cannot be avoided.

Newspapers online

February 4, 2009

As far as I can recall, the first newspaper I ever read online was the Irish Times, and this was some time in the mid-1990s. At the time I was living and working in the United Kingdom, and having instant access to the news from Ireland was very attractive. By today’s standards the whole thing was quite basic, and I believe I am right in my recollection that what you could read was not the whole paper, but just selections from it. But it was a kind of revolution nonetheless.

Today I happened to come across the youtube item – which you can see here – that shows a much older attempt to take a newspaper to remote readers on their computer screens, in 1981. I confess that at the time I wouldn’t have had any idea what ‘online’ even meant, much less have direct experience of it. And if you see the video clip, with the really old phone modem (which I do recall seeing in someone else’s office), you might wonder whether the effort (and cost, as is explained) would have been worth it.

For me, the availability of online newspapers has never seemed a substitute for the paper version: putting my laptop on the breakfast table so that I can read the paper doesn’t seem a good idea. But it is nevertheless extremely valuable. Today I was able to read not just the Irish papers (the Irish Times and the Irish Independent), but also the New York Times and the Frankfurter Rundschau. So I am glad that this facility exists, and hope that I shall always be able to read my primary newspapers on paper, and a wide selection from around the world online.