International Educator - May/June 2012 - 30
We have seven universities in the Republic of Ireland— we don’t need any more traditional universities in a country of this size. There is, however, given the nature of the way the Irish economy is developing, a role for a technological university.
IE: Aside from the actual reputational
damage, do you think the damage to the system itself has been fairly limited to-date?
QUINN: Yes, I do but I’m not kidding myself. We can’t go on like this. We’re looking for symmetries and for collaboration across different institutions so that we can eliminate a lot of the duplication that’s already there. That will give us some time. I’d say about two years, but not much more. IE: The HEA’s recent Landscape reports stated that since the collapse of Irish public finances, the perception of the quality of Irish higher education internationally
has suffered. In addition, a number of Irish institutions have suffered dramatic falls as measured by some third-party rankings. How accurate are such perceptions and how concerned are you by them?
QUINN: Well, first of all, the rankings exist. You cannot ignore them even though they measure those things that they want to measure themselves. They are, like any ranking system, biased in a certain degree by those people who designed the ranking system to begin with. The major factor that caused the drop in our rankings was related to Ireland’s international reputation, which went from a boom economy that seemed
to be able to do an awful lot of things very well to a bust economy very quickly. We are now recovering from that. At one stage, Ireland was in the middle of the financial crisis discourse. In the media, the print media and online, we were seen as one of a group of economies in very serious difficulty. That’s no longer the case. There’s no longer a linkage between Ireland, Portugal, and Greece, as was the case before. And the regular visits by the troika representing the institutions of the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission has been reporting positive progress in the recovery of the Irish economy. The weak end in our economy is employment creation. Strengthening employment creation will generate extra tax revenue which in turn will, in turn, be good news for the third-level education sector.
IE: Is 2012 an important year in terms of determining the future and if so, can you elaborate why? QUINN: In the third-level sector, there
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are some major reforms now being implemented across a number of sectors. First and foremost, we had a report known as the Hunt Report which sketched out a profile of change as far out as 2030. They made a number of recommendations which are now in the course of implementation. The first item was defining the criteria that would constitute the definition and the image, if you like, of a technological university. As the report noted, we have seven universities in the Republic of Ireland—we don’t need any more traditional universities in a country of this size. There is, however, given the nature of the way the Irish economy is developing, a role for a technological university. We then proceeded to get the criteria, and the shape, and the definition of what that would actually constitute. That was signed off by the Higher Education Author-
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