Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More Rumblings from the HEA

Today the Higher Education Authority has published Completing the Landscape Process for Irish Higher Education. Proof that things move slowly in this field is that after almost a full year since the HEA first started this process that the new document does "not represent, at this point, the considered conclusions of the HEA". There's a lot more to come.

The document is, like other documents on this subject from the HEA, essential reading for all involved in third-level education in Ireland. The landscape being painted for us all is quite different from what we have at present, though there is very little on how this new environment is going to be achieved. The document does state that the HEA "does not address the funding, pension, HR and legislative issues which will need to be considered as a necessary part of implementation". You could be cynical and translate this into "cuts in funding, redundancy payments, and changes to employment conditions" will not be discussed at this time. However, I do accept that this is a position paper for further discussion.

Included in the "landscape" are merges and clusters, with an overall reduction from 39 institutes to about 15. The document dithers on what to do with the likes of NCI as further "discussion with these institutions is required". It is clear that the HEA's earlier stance on smaller colleges being "unsustainable" and that they either have to merge or go it alone, it not as easy to do as it sounds. We are in good company here as there are eight other colleges (including IADT and NCAD) needing "further discussions". The next step is a "consultation process with the HEIs in February" following which the HEA will "provide the Minister with our definitive advice in March". Sounds as if actions will actually take place quickly, so we don't have long to hold our breath. I'd love to be a fly-on-the-wall at these discussions.

NCI's old campus in Ranelagh.
Image source: Irish Press Releases.
The National College of Ireland was founded in 1951, so it is a relatively young College when compared to many others in Ireland. It would be an extraordinary pity to see it disappear from the Irish education landscape by either being merged with other Colleges, or going out of business due to lack of funding. We have made our mark on third-level education and there is definitely a role for us to play in the future to provide access to education for the City centre and for second chance learners (all 3,000 of them!). 

In an uncertain future, greater minds than mine in the HEA and DoE are working on a strategy for us all. Let's hope they come up with something that makes sense, is fair, and is workable.

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