The Higher Education Authority (HEA) has published some new reports and announcements today that could potentially affect everybody in the higher education sector. The main headlines are that they want institutions to merge and for regional clusters to be set up. While there is no specific mention of the National College of Ireland, it is clear that the future for all third level colleges and universities, including NCI, will be different from what it will be now.
|The Economist (1994) takes |
a dim view of mergers.
Image link to Educated Nation.
Where does all this leave NCI? Well - the first thing is to respond to the HEA, they have given all colleges six months to come up with a plan. After this they will no doubt implement what they intended to do anyway. They have even gone so far as to suggest what some regional clusters should look like. They are warning that they will not continue to fund Colleges which fail to act. NCI has a unique mission in providing access to education in the city centre of Dublin - but this may not be enough to save us if what the HEA is saying is to be believed. We could end up merged with DCU or DIT, or be forced to go our separate way as a private College without state funding. Who knows? My own sense is that the College will exist for many years to come, but the landscape in which it resides may dramatically change.
From my own point of view, the mention of the word "merger" sends shivers down my spine. I have been though one before - SmartForce and SkillSoft in 2002, and it sucked. What was billed as a large company (SmartForce for whom I worked) taking over a small company (SkillSoft) ended up being the reverse. In 2002 I was a company man who wanted to stay in SmartForce for ever - leaving never entered my mind. But when the SkillSoft "executive team" took time off from their world tour (using a private jet) to speak to the SmartForce staff for 60 seconds in September 2002 - I knew it was time to leave and I did. One
asshole person called "Checky" (not real name!) - even had the effrontery to tell us all how much he admired us and how great we were, right before jobs cuts were announced a few minutes later. If there are any ex-SmartForce folks reading this - sorry if I offend, but this was how I saw it.
Mergers will not be easy - some people are "protected" by the Croke Park agreement (I am not). Closing down campuses and ending courses for efficiency and non-duplication reasons will cause trouble. Unions won't take this lying down, and there are a lot of people already worried for their jobs. Students shouldn't worry as they can be reassured by the last paragraph from the Letter to Presidents on National Strategy from the HEA: