Wednesday, June 02, 2010

University heads told courses and jobs at risk in funding cut - The Irish Times - Wed, Jun 02, 2010

I read today in an article by The Irish Times Education Correspondent Se├ín Flynn, that there are more difficult times are ahead for Irish Universities, with "unprecedented cuts which could force them to cut staff and cancel courses". HEA boss Tom Boland is getting tough and has called on the Universities to take  “whatever action is needed” in the coming year. What happens at University level will surely affect the ITs and other third-level colleges such as NCI. 

There is no doubt that there are hard times ahead - and all this in the context of an increasing number of students wanting to go to College. The same article above quotes that "CAO applications are at record levels as some 70 per cent of students proceed towards college". The number of part-time students (the largest number of NCI students) is expected to grow by 10,000 (or 30%) students by 2013.

Reducing staff and courses while at the same time educating a growing number of students just doesn't make sense, or does it? We could of course fit more students into each class - I've never yet had a class in which every seat was filled. Some loss-making courses with only a few students probably should be cancelled in these tough times where we all have to get full value for every euro spent on education. Every extra student costs each college money, yet it is hard to see how less money can provide the same, or better, standard of education. Each college will have to cut costs drastically - most of the costs in third-level are salaries, so it is hard to see cuts being enforced without job losses, and/or changes in work practices.

What I fear most about third-level education in Ireland is that opportunity for younger graduates/postgraduates to get on the academic ladder will be minimal or non-existent. This happened to me during the last recession in the late 1980s when after gradating with a PhD, I could not even get an interview for an academic post because of the huge competition from my fellow graduates for positions. New, young people are the life-blood of education - I dread to think that a generation of people graduating with PhDs in the next few years will have to seek positions outside of Education. There is the added issue of the current crop of educators getting older. New people have new ideas, make better use of technology, and are the most enthusiastic researchers.

I'm not an strategist, an economist, or a politician - I don't have the answers to the question "How do we educate more students with less resources". I'm happy to "do my bit" and keep delivering my classes to my students in the best way I know how. All our colleges have to to look inward and see where we can eliminate waste and provide a better education for our students. We now know that we can't turn to Government to bail us out - they are more broke than we are!

We (third-level educators) are heading for a tough time - I hope we are ready for it.

1 comment:

  1. With an increasing number of PhDs it seems inevitable that most will end up working outside of education. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Can industry benefit from the skills that a doctorate brings? The answer has to be yes, if we are to bring about the 'knowledge economy' though I'm not entirely convinced of this myself.