Posted tagged ‘Michael Murphy’

Higher education participation: quality vs. quantity?

November 3, 2009

As a PS to my recent blog post on access to higher education, I see that the President of University College Cork, Michael Murphy, has said that we should focus on the quality of students rather than on the quantity. He expressed the fear that student were being admitted into university programmes as a result of the drive to increase participation, whose ‘academic abilities are not sufficient for the particular course.’ His message is that if we continue to drive up participation we shall encounter serious quality problems that will undermine the reputation of the Irish higher education system.

Perhaps another way of putting this is to say that as participation increases even more, the reality is that students will be targeted for a third level education whose academic achievements might suggest that they will find it hard to succeed in their studies.

On the whole it seems to me that we could, if we had the resources, educate a still higher proportion of the population; there are, I believe, many young people out there who do have the talents and the ability, but who have assumed (perhaps because of their backgrounds) that they could not proceed to higher education and who have not directed their efforts for that purpose. This means that they can still succeed in a university or college, provided they get strong and individual support and some remedial teaching. This is expensive, but it is also usually successful: in DCU many access students had an unpromising academic history at school, and yet they have a strong record of success in their degree programmes at university.

So maybe I would qualify Michael Murphy’s statement slightly, and suggest that if we want more quantity together with high quality, we need to accept that it is expensive to do it right; but also rewarding, and I suspect that any public money invested will be repaid easily.