Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"a philistine mind at work"*

Former NCI President Dr Paul Mooney has a provocative and pretty vicious go at third level lecturers in an article "Inside third level" in today's Irish Times. In the article he says that "lecturers have light workloads, research pet projects that have no benefit for Ireland Inc, and management is poor". Of course he is entitled to his opinion, but I as a lecturer take grave exception to his unjust statements**.

Image link to Tandem Consulting.
Dr Mooney does accept that some lecturers are "brilliant teachers", however he does state that "lecturers are lazy and don’t update their material" (I understand that he has used the word "lazy" before in relation to lecturers). Dr Mooney has form in this - today's Irish Times is not the first time he has had a go at lecturers. Two years ago I reviewed his book "Accidental Leadership". In this review I wrote:

"I didn't know either what to make of the description of Academics as being either Minimalists or Status-Ticians (pp 74-75). As I was first reading this I turned the page to read what the next/third description was as I (honestly) didn't recognise myself as either of the above two - to my surprise there was no other type!".

Academic research comes in for particular attack. Dr Mooney claims that a "percentage of university lecturers are actually completing their own research for a PhD during work hours" - he forgets that a big majority of university lecturers already have PhDs. I suspect he is targeting Institutes of Technology and other Colleges where the percentage of PhDs is a lot lower. The funny thing is that I distinctly recall a staff meeting when he praised a certain NCI academic staff member who had just started a part-time PhD. Dr Mooney even supported the introduction of a "research day" for academic staff as part of an NCI submission to HETAC for a new PhD programme (which was approved). You can't have it both ways! He rubbishes research in Ireland as "not even close to reality".

Dr Mooney was President of NCI for three years - in the article he had a go at management in third-level. I do partially agree with his stance on performance management at third level (I have written about this before on this blog), however - I do not recall any attempt by him to initiate reform in this in NCI. He wants to increase the amount of teaching from 24 to 36 weeks - forgetting that students will also be opposed to this.

I am wondering about the motive for this diatribe against lecturers two years after he left NCI - read the full article and judge for yourself. I am a Lecturer, so naturally I will not like what he has written. Clearly, this has been a bug-bear of his both during and after his time as President of NCI. I feel personally insulted by the article, in my opinion it also insults NCI, and finally it insults the hundreds of Lecturers in Ireland who do a good job.

* this post title is a direct quote from Dr Mooney's article in today's Irish Times
** all opinions expressed in this post are my own, and are not intended to represent the opinion of anyone in NCI

1 comment:

  1. I disagreed with a lot of the content in Dr. Mooney's article published yesterday. In particular I don't think he gave enough attention to the many lecturers in Irish third level education that make an enormous contribution to their student's educational experience, and also the important research that is being done here. I don't really understand the idea that a lecturer studying for his/her own phd during working hours is a bad thing. Surely an academic researching their own area of interest should be encouraged, whenever it takes place.
    I would suggest, however, that the article was designed to act as a type of jeremiad, and used a scatter gun technique to make particular points. Anyone who works in Irish higher education (and has an eye in their head)can see that along with a great number of good lecturers there are quite a number of bad ones. Out of date reading lists, and lecturers insisting on working through one particular book in class are certainly not unheard of.
    The low levels of masters/phd qualified academic staff in the I.T. sector is an important issue, as these instutions want to merge into technological universities. These mergers are currently not possible because there are not enough suitably qualified academics from the I.T.s to staff the new institutions. That's not really good enough if Ireland wants to produce enough quality engineering and computer science graduates to enter the so-called knowledge economy Ireland wants to develop.
    What Mooney is talking about is not all the fault of the lecturers. Academics are just like any other group of worker. Their skills and abilities need to be developed, and the dead wood needs to be thinned out-just like what happens in the private sector. The big problem here is that the senior management of Irish third level institutions is quite poor (including the dept. of education). They have not designed the hr and industrial relations systems to help lecturers to improve, or to get rid of the ones who can't make the grade. We are now ring-fenced by Croke Park which allows poor performers to hide behind the agreement.
    The improvement in lecturers' performance is quite important for the sector, and for the future prospects of the Irish economy. Amongst a number of other factors, it can help Irish universities climb the world rankings. Not to have one Irish university in the top 100 (despite the dept. of education's view that ranking systems should be used with caution)is a fairly bad omen. The other foundation of the sector, the I.T.s, must have staff with appropriate qualifications. How can Ireland compete in a global economy that demands technically skilled workers if their teachers are not up to scratch?