International Educator - May/June 2012 - 57
“The system at higher level has seen a reduction in core funding and, by and large, to their credit, it has absorbed an awful lot of that reduction without diminution in quality or, indeed, in quantity. But there is general recognition of a developing crisis in the funding of the third level sector,” says Irish Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn. “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.” [See the in-depth interview with Ruairi Quinn on page 28.] “I’d say whatever ‘fat’ was in the [Irish higher education] system has been removed,” says Brian MacCraith, president of Dublin City University and president of the Irish Universities Association, an
organization of the country’s seven public universities, as a result of spending cuts in Irish higher education. “We’re right at the bone. That provides a serious challenge if cuts continue to the same degree. The trend of two diverging curves—an upward curve of student numbers and a downward curve of funding—is not sustainable.” Teixeira, like many academics, says debt-ravaged Greece is the proverbial canary in the coal mine as the continent’s weakest economic link. “There is an illusion in many parts of Portugal that if we are well-behaved and if Greece gets into trouble we will be spared. However, the consensus of many is that if Greece falls, Portugal will be next. Part of the European challenge is that it will be hard to stop the chain reaction if one country falls. That’s why the current [Greek debt restructuring] negotiations are so important.”
European and International Monetary Fund €130 billion ($171 billion) bailout was greeted with lukewarm praise given the failure of a previous €110 billion ($145 billion) fund to significantly alter the country’s dire financial state and the reality that austerity measures tied to the new funding will likely reduce governmental funding further. The dismal state of Greece’s overall financial health was matched by dire educational challenges. Like most European countries, public education predominates and the country foots most of the higher education bill. Now, national funding cuts are endemic, faculty and students are fleeing, and a dramatic new law designed to address structural shortcomings in higher education remains largely unimplemented.
A Greek Tragedy
N EARlY 2012 , the specter of bankruptcy loomed over Greece. Even the likelihood of an additional
Academy of Athens