International Educator - May/June 2012 - 28
By david tobenkin
After the Bubble: ireland Works to Rebound
InternatIonal educator M AY + J U N E . 12
an Interview with ruairi Quinn, Irish Minister for education and Skills
for education and skills in March 2011. Quinn has faced the challenge of maintaining Irish higher education’s dramatic expansion in scope and quality achieved during its Celtic Tiger years in the face of the subsequent collapse of the Irish housing and banking sectors which have caused across the board cuts in all government sectors, including support for higher education. Previously as minister for enterprise and employment and then minister for finance, Quinn has stressed the need for Ireland’s integration into the European Union and, in his new post, Irish higher education’s need to continue to reach a larger cohort of students, including retraining for those who have lost their jobs, and to synch its output with the demands of Irish industry. International Educator correspondent David Tobenkin discussed with Quinn how the Irish government is navigating economic and reputational challenges to the Irish higher education system. (See also “Weathering the Storm” on page 54 which details the effects of the current economic crisis in several European nations.)
IE: Ireland has had considerable success in attract-
uairi Quinn, a veteran irish Labour Party PoLitician, was appointed minister
ing international students, including more lucrative non-EU students, in particular. My understanding is there’s now a Higher Education Authority goal of increasing the number of international students at universities by 50 percent over the next five years.
QUINN: That’s right, in fact, to increase it, to double it basically. The American students are the biggest single cohort in the Irish university system, which is understandable. American, by that I mean Canadian and the United States, and the next biggest single group are the Chinese. IE: How important are those international stu-
dents to higher education in Ireland and why?
evidently a very homogenous society, so having people with different backgrounds and coming from different cultures is a positive in terms of the student mix. Also, we have a large number now of foreign academics on the staff of our universities which is equally good. We’ve quite an increase in the number, small in quantum terms but very big in percentage terms, of Chinese students doing Ph.D. courses here. We have recognition, a degree qualification recognition agreement—formal agreement—between China and the Republic of Ireland and that is a driver as far as Chinese parents are concerned. Ireland recently, Dublin to be precise, surfaced as one of the 10 most popular and safe cities of destinations for foreign students. That’s a big sell.
IE: EU students are charged the same amount as
QUINN: They’re very important. First and foremost,
they tend to be very bright people, so they raise the level of intellectual discourse and performance amongst students themselves. Secondly, Ireland is self-
Irish students but other international students are not. There are estimates international students could bring in another €1.3 billion a year to Irish