International Educator - May/June 2012 - 32
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ity just over five weeks ago. We have now informed the institutes of technology—of which we have 14—that they have to look at each other and look at the landscape of higher education and start to see how they can form new alliances, new collaborations, and new forms of working together. They were set up in the mid-1970s, so it’s time for a major review of how they function. That call for collaboration is not confined to the institutes of technology. We’re also saying the same to the universities as well.
IE: A technological university may be a foreign concept for some of our readers. Can you briefly explain it? QUINN: In a classic Irish way, I’ll give you the reverse definition. It’s as far away from a liberal arts college as you could get. It’s really in the STEM area. By STEM I mean science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and aligned very closely to the needs of industry on the ground in that particular area. You can look at those in different ways, but if it has any kind of historical connection, it would be closer to some of the research institutes that characterized Germany before the Second World War, where the research and application of research to industrial development was coming from research institutes that weren’t your traditional universities. IE: In recent years, the number of Irish undergraduate students has increased substantially while state allocations to fund these students have steadily declined. These trends were expected to continue. That has led some Irish educators to conclude that, assuming student fees are not dramatically increased, the two divergent trends are not sustainable. Do you agree and can you summarize the government’s approach to addressing this so-called sustainability challenge? QUINN: We certainly recognize there is a
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to use the American phrase—coming to third-level education may not continue—it is currently at 65 percent. The target was by 2020 to have it up to 72 percent. It will be difficult really to meet that target. The commentary of presidents of universities and other colleges have said that there may have to be a cap or a limit on the number of students that will be accepted for certain kinds of courses. That’s pretty much the space where we are at the moment, and it’s a space that we’ll be exploring. We may need to be selective about the types of courses that people do. There is already de facto rationing of some of the high tech courses like medicine and physiotherapy and other similar types of courses. This means that Irish students, if they can’t get into an Irish university, may go across to Britain where from now on they’re going to be paying fees of ₤9,000 sterling to participate in those courses.
IE: My understanding is that further cuts in the Irish higher education system are expected through 2015. Upon what factors will that depend, and are there still significant inefficiencies and duplication to be cut out of the system or are you now cutting into muscle and bone? QUINN: I think there’s still room on the
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duplication. People on the other side of the table would say we’re already into muscle and bone and that’s part and parcel of the normal process of negotiation. Certainly, the Higher Education Authority believes, from what I’ve been informed, that there’s greater room for collaboration and for saving. But it is still only marginal I have to admit. I do recognize that in two years’ time, we’ll be looking at having to increase the funding for third-level in some shape, size, or form. That could very well include some form of student contribution that would go directly to the college.
IE: The Hunt Report said that annual
financing problem in the third-level sector. We also recognize that if there isn’t a change, then the continued increase in the third-level participation by Irish high school students—
funding must increase to support higher education. How will Irish higher education achieve that funding?
QUINN: Yes, funding has to increase. I think the universities themselves will have to find