Home > Croke Park Deal, Education, IOT, Universities > Will Third Level Education be Irretrievably Damaged Like The Banks

Will Third Level Education be Irretrievably Damaged Like The Banks

From Paddy Healy, Former President TUI, Lecturer in Physics, Former member of Governing Body and Academic Council of DIT
Threat to Academic Freedom. Support call for gathering of academics to oppose this change:
email paddy.healy@eircom.net
Proposed university changes labelled “outrageous”
IRISH TIMES Fri, Jan 07, 2011
THE IRISH Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has labelled as “outrageous” proposals for work practice changes relating to the Croke Park agreement which would affect academics.
The preliminary NUI Galway document proposes a longer working year, student evaluation of staff and changes to academic freedom.
“The proposals as tabled are absolutely outrageous,” Mike Jennings, general secretary of the federation said last night. “They would destroy the whole concept of a university . . . they are so bad that I really wonder if the university authorities at the highest level are even aware of the document because if by some miracle IFUT were to agree to them, it would no longer be a university as understood in any country in the world.”
Meanwhile a former president of the Teachers Union of Ireland has called for a meeting of Irish academics to resist the proposals.
“It is vital in a democracy that academics have the freedom to say what they want,” argued Paddy Healy, a lecturer in physics at DIT. “But they intend to remove tenure . . . Erosion of tenure is very fundamentally anti-democratic,” he said.
An official document presented by NUIGalway to the Trade Unions containing it’s proposals to implement the Croke Park Deal has now become available. I understand that the implementation proposals in other universities are essentially the same. I am consulting with colleagues in Universities and Institutes of Tech nology with a view to convening a gathering of all Irish academics to resist this attack on academic freedom, the related entitlement to permanency and tenure and, indeed on Irish Democracy itself. Here is the NUIG document:
Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement – NUI Galway Implementation Plan

This plan is derived from the Public Service Agreement 2010 (P.S.A.) and the sectoral plan for universities. It reflects the individual needs and responsibilities of the university as an autonomous institution. It should be read in the context of the sectoral plan.

1. With effect from the start of 2010/11 academic year, the provision of an additional hour per week to be available to facilitate, at the discretion of management, teaching and learning in the university/institute. This will be allocated to individuals by the head of school via the workload model

2. Co-operation with the introduction of academic workload management and full economic costing models and with the compilation of associated data to support these and operational plans for all staff .

3. Co-operation with redeployment/re-organisation/rationalisation arising from the review of Higher Education strategy and changing economic and social circumstances and to facilitate the reorganisation of both work and staff to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the university. Additionally, co-operation with measures to promote value for money including inter alia, outsourcing as provided for in the agreement.

4. A comprehensive review and revision of employment contracts to identify and remove any impediments to the development of an optimum teaching, learning, and research environment. This review and revision to be completed in advance of the start of the 2011/12 academic year.

a) In the case of service staff (administrative, technical, professional, library, computing, general operative and craftworkers) the review and implementation will include –An increase in the working week with a view to extending the working day.
– a commitment to implement the time and attendance system
– reform of the current flexible working hours scheme to include eligibility, leave and appointments, etc
– consolidation of the overtime ban
– review of redeployment procedures
– annualisation of leave and review of “closed days “
– commitment to flexibility within and between departments/units
– unified technical and administrative structures at school and college level
– introduction of a performance management system (see below)
– working with and alongside private contractors

b) In relation to academic contracts this review will include

Attendance – there shall be a requirement to be in attendance at the university during the normal working week and for the duration of the college year which is 12 consecutive calendar months.

Tenure – tenure is to be consistent with the established corpus of employment law. In this context tenure refers to the duration of the contract.

Duties – duties encompass the three key areas of academic work – Teaching, Research and Contribution to the institution, the academic’s discipline and the wider community served by the university.

Flexibility and cooperation – staff will agree to flexibility and efficiency in the discharge of responsibilities; to provision for change of duties (subject to reasonable capacity to exercise the new duties); and a requirement to co-operate with management of the university in pursuit of the university’s plans, goals and objectives. Such co-operation will encompass a requirement to supply relevant data to management.

Professional development – opportunities will be available to staff and the contract will require staff to undertake such development including participation in the university’s Performance Management and Development programme which may be developed and amended in response to business needs.

Academic Freedom – it will be acknowledged that the freedoms contained within Section 14 of the Universities Act, 1997 are to be exercised within the context of the framework of obligations set out in the contract and they will be recorded along with other leaves.

Annual Leave – the time at which leave is taken is at the discretion of the university and all leave must be applied for and approved in advance.

Discipline / Dismissal – clarification that the University shall have the power to impose disciplinary sanctions up to and including the termination of appointment in accordance with such procedures as established from time to time and subject to any applicable employment legislation.

Development of redundancy procedures as required by the Universities Act.

Review of ill-health leave an its recording – i.e. Time and Attendance.

Review of Procedures relation to examinations and markings for all staff.

5. The Development and Implementation of a Performance Appraisal System.

This Performance Appraisal System will be at the heart of a high performing culture and staff who do not have a satisfactory rating in the P.A.S. will not be able to access:

 Promotions/Re-grading
 Incremental Progression
 Flexi-time
 Sabbatical Leave
 Private Consultancy Work
 The Triennial Grant
 Training and development other than as prescribed to address the performance deficit including further and higher education.

In the case of academic staff, targets will be delivered from the academic activity profiles and the workload models currently being developed and will include student evaluations of teachers.

In the case of other staff, targets will be derived from Competency Frameworks and K.P.I.s which will be developed for individuals and units

Will Third Level Education be irretrievably damaged like the banks before anybody blows the whistle?
Following conversations with colleagues in various universities, I now have a reasonable idea of the demands on unions being made by the University authorities under the Croke Park Deal. These demands confirm the predictions in my e-mail message but go even further. I include these demands towards the end of this piece. Though the discussions are taking place on a university by university basis the management strategy is being orchestrated by the Irish Universities Association.
I carry at the end of this piece the E-mail message referred to in University Blog by Ferdinand Von Prondzynski in which I reveal the demands to be put to TUI in talks on Croke Park Deal in respect of academic staff in Institutes of Technology. Some explanatory material has been added for a wider audience.
Professor Von Prondzynski remarks that holidays in Institutes of Technology “may be indefensible”. This, I hope, is due to a misunderstanding on his part. I shall return to this issue further on in this piece.
The discussion on conditions of service in third level institutions must be seen in a wider context. Government is determined to make savings (cuts) in all areas of public expenditure. This has particular effects in each sector. For example it is affecting the vital provision of health services to human beings. In education it threatens at once the fulfilment of a fundamental human need and the infliction of damage on the most productive sector of the economy- the provision of skilled professional labour. Teachers at all levels of education together with parents and those who pay tax collaborate in this hugely productive sector. The contention that education is a service “carried” by the private sector is manifest nonsense and self-serving propaganda of the rich. Indeed high tech manufacturing companies, both indigenous and multi-national, who benefit greatly from a highly educated workforce contribute little to education in Ireland due to the low corporate tax rate. The generation of a highly educated population with the capacity for critical thought is both a key human need and a necessity for a successful modern economy no matter what social system may be in place.
Inappropriate Change
The danger is that the government and societal establishment will damage this system in pursuit of the wrong type of change. Education in Ireland is under-resourced by international standards and there is need for genuine reform to improve the system. But this is not the type of change that government has in mind. There is the problem of further reduction of resources on the one hand and the putting in place of systems which damage the education process itself in pursuit of false efficiencies. A government which was so wrong about the needs of a well functioning banking system is unlikely to be right about the needs of the education system. One of these systems is the current arrangement that funding is contingent on number of students enrolled and on the number progressing to the next year of the course through passing exams. It is now intended to extend this principle further. Funding per student will be contingent on course completion by the student.!! A company salesperson may consider that payment by results is entirely natural. But should education be run on the basis of such a system.? Should competition for students between third level institutions be the norm? In fairness, some far sighted business people with a background in education do not agree with such an approach.
Such arrangements are already “dumbing down” qualifications despite the best efforts of most lecturers. There have been instances where students have been administratively progressed despite the opposition of lecturers and external examiners as Professor Prondzynski has noted. But the usual process is much more subtle and incremental. It is ,of course, a huge step forward that an increasing fraction of young people are going on to third level. Inevitably, many of these will have modest attainments at second level. Suitable structures should be put in place in Universities and IoTs to enable such students to genuinely learn. But there is competition to enrol students due to the funding system. This has led to the recruitment of students with very modest levels of attainment at second level to ab initio honours degree level courses (Level 8). These students should be enrolled in lower level courses on completion of which they may progress to the higher level course. There was great merit in the original course structure in Institutes of Technology where students could progress from certificate to diploma and on to a genuine honours degree level. But this would take additional years tuition which nowadays would be considered “inefficient” despite a hugely successful track record. In addition, an institution which graduates students in less time would have a competitive edge in the chase for students and the money attached. A lecturer faced with such a cohort has no choice but to cover material slowly and in less depth and with repetition if the students are not to be completely “lost”. The “dumbing down” is automatic. There is considerable pressure to “teach to the exam” to avoid huge failure rates. There is no standard external examination as at Leaving Cert for degree level courses. External examiners at third level are now effectively chosen by the academic Department carrying out the examination. Often the recommendations of “externs” can be ignored under the rules of the institution. Is this light touch regulation academic style?
If lectures are given and examinations set by insecure part-time lecturers, the dangers are obvious. But let me pay tribute to the many part-time lecturers who have bravely risked “losing hours” to protect standards. If permanency or tenure is removed from full-time lecturers the damage will be huge. Already many companies employing graduates are not taking degrees at face value and are insisting on submission, in addition, of Leaving Certificate results!!!
Anecdotes from the Common Rooms
Sometimes anecdotes from the common room are very effective in illustrating reality as long as they are supported by real evidence generally. “He sent me a first class honours student to supervise for a masters in English but the student could not make sentences. He was great at cutting and pasting” This I heard over lunch in one third level institution. “I have them for third year honours physics but they cannot use logs” I heard in another. At a cross- third- level meeting I once expressed the view that students with less than 300 leaving certificate points were generally not capable of learning in the first year of a level 8 course under the traditional lecture/tutorial/ library system and required small group concentrated teaching particularly in the earlier years. A colleague from another institution whispered in my ear “Paddy, would you believe 150 points”. The best story of all doing the rounds concerns the approach of a student representative to a Head of Department concerning a forthcoming examination. The student complained that they “had no idea what would be on the exam” The Head replied that the class were about to sit an examination after all and it would be extraordinary if matters were otherwise. “Does she cover the course” : “yes”. “Does she ask questions on topics she hasn’t covered”: “No”. The student began to leave but turned at the door to the Head and said: “ But we know what will be on all the other exams”. Many a true word has been spoken in jest.
Poaching for salmon from the river flowing through the estate of the landlord is an honourable Irish tradition. But there is nothing honourable about the new process of poaching students from competitor institutions. Here is how it is done. First artificially depress the number of places on the course concerned in the specifications supplied to the CAO. This artificially inflates the minimum points required rendering the course attractive to good students. Then use the list of unsuccessful applicants to telephone students already enrolled in other institutions and offer them a place! It is happening!

Managerialism and Collegiality
Reduction of resources and imposition of business models on third level institutions including competition for students is already doing serious damage. The notion of the student/parent as customer is fundamentally flawed in education. A current student has a prime interest in securing the qualification however devalued. On graduation the student acquires an interest in opposing further “dumbing down”. Students should of course be allowed and encouraged to complain if they feel they are not getting the education they deserve. But student driven quality assurance systems can paradoxically damage education. Many have seen the infamous message from an American student to her lecturer which was circulated by a British colleague some time ago: “I’ll thrash your grades next year if you don’t give me at least a 2.1 honours this year”
“Managing” in a competitive world with diminishing resources involves replacing collegiality with direction from above. This process is well advanced. Academics as a collectivity have an interest in maintaining standards. But their collective power is being diminished to serve the agenda of competition and false economy. The rule of the Human Resources Unit has become dominant.
Because of the vicious competition between institutions for students and, in particular, for reasonably able students, there is considerable pressure on academics to remain silent to prevent damage to the quantity and quality of student intake in their own institution including in their own course. Great credit is due to those who have taken a stand for standards in this atmosphere. But is this atmosphere not reminiscent of the atmosphere in the upper echelons of banks which prevented warnings being given. Vicious competition, loyalty to the individual institution and fear of career damage are common elements.

The vehicle through which change is to be imposed is an industrial relations agreement- The Croke Park Agreement. Irrespective of it’s appalling content, the focus of an industrial relations agreement is far too narrow and therefore damaging. Lecturers at Third Level have a commitment to teaching and scholarship. Scholarship includes inter alia research, creative writing and maintenance of world class practical skills in a rapidly changing world. The revelation that lecturers in a university were teaching “only” six hours per week at a Dail Sub-Committee enraged some TD’s. No account was taken of the number of post graduate students they supervised, the amount of research and scholarship they carried out, the number of publications they produced or the weight of course direction and co-ordination effected not to speak of lecture preparation and task correction. We recall that TDs are not required to turn up for work at all in order to draw basic salary.
Holidays not defensible in Institutes of Technology?
Ferdinand Von Prodzynski in a recent posting opined that holidays in IoTs were “hard to defend”. Lectures in the Institutes are required to teach for 16 hours per week and assistant lecturers carrying out the same duties are required to teach for 18 hours per week. Under Croke Park deal the management side is demanding that this be increased to 20+1 hours and 22+1 hours respectively.
A survey commissioned by TUI some years ago concluded that this was equivalent to a 50-54 hour week of teaching and related duties. It is extremely difficult to conduct the degree of scholarship appropriate to a third level institution in the context of such a workload. Currently many lecturers “tip away” at scholarly activity during term time and then put on a big push during the holidays.
The attempt by Institutes and Government to reduce vacation periods in addition to imposing the biggest teaching load in Western Europe cannot fail to damage the Institutes and literally make the adequate performance of academic duties impossible.
My judgement is that it is the intention of Government to bludgeon Institute staff into submission using the threat of redundancies. If they succeed they will then proceed to confront tenure and workload in Universities. The same damage will be inflicted there as has already been inflicted on Institutes if the Government has its way.
A bank can be bailed out with money extracted from the population. But it will take at least ten years for third level institutions to recover from the damage inflicted on them by cuts, marketisation, and the imposition of business models including bogus quality assurance systems.
Isn’t it time, Ferdinand, that you joined people like myself in shouting stop. Like banking chief executives you will be unable to claim that you didn’t know what was happening.
Demands being Made by University Authorities Under Croke Park Deal
1. That tenure be brought into Line with corporate industrial relations law. (This means that tenure until pensionable age with the individual university is being abolished and university academic staff can be made compulsorily redundant and/or redeployed to other parts of public service. This will require legislation PH)
2. Renegotiation of all existing contracts for implementation from September 2011
3. Contractual restrictions will be placed on Academic Freedom ( The restrictions are not yet clear but if the worst precedents abroad are followed they could include prevention of public criticism of government or the university authorities: they could also include forcing academics to carry out particular research projects or particular research outcomes could be suppressed due to commercial research agreements with private companies eg infamous heliobacter pylori case abroad- PH)

4. Staff must engage with workload monitoring and measurement.
5. Academic staff required to be in attendance at the university each day for twelve consecutive calendar months
6. Holidays to be at the discretion of the University. Staff member must apply and receive approval in advance for holiday leave (The effect of points 5 and 6 taken together is that holiday entitlements are to be set by The Holidays(Employees) ACT which sets minimum holidays for employees to protect them from predatory employers. If this were accepted it would reduce the holiday entitlements of academic staff below those of comparable public service employees and below those of trade unionised employees in the private sector—PH)

7. The current position under which the staff member automatically gets an increment unless management objects will be changed. Staff will only receive an increment following a satisfactory Performance Appraisal outcome. Failure to engage with Performance Appraisal System (PAS) will lead to a freezing of the incremental position and denial of access to promotion, sabbatical leave etc. The PAS system will include student evaluation of lecturers. (Performance appraisal will apply to all grades of academic staff including professors-PH)
8. Extra hour per week of teaching or administration to be implemented immediately
9. Staff may be redeployed to other Departments/duties within the University
10. Staff may be redeployed to other posts outside the university but within the wider public service (as set out in Croke Park Deal) with particular regard to HEA Proposals (eg Mergers to be recommended under Hunt Report PH)
11. Co-operation with Outsourcing (including teaching and research PH) in accordance with Croke Park Deal
12. New arrangements will apply to rewards for additional internal work and external consultancy work
My Email Message to TUI Colleagues in IOTs
Reliable information is circulating in HR Departments of the Institutes in relation to the demands being put to TUI in current talks on Croke Park Deal
1 extra hour per week teaching or other duties to be in addition to completion of 560 annual hrs teaching.
Summer Break to be reduced to 6 weeks
Full Maximum 560(L), 630(AL) hrs to be delivered annually
All night weighting(1.5) of teaching hours to be abolished
All hours credit on teaching time-table for course co-ordination to be abolished
Credit to be allowed for post-graduate supervision as part of annual 560 hrs at a rate to be negotiated
Post grad supervision to be continuously delivered on a 12month basis
I believe that all third Level Area reps(executive members) should be present at these talks (this is not the case)
I believe that attempts to make lecturers redundant and the above demands should be resisted in common
Any “trade off” would be disastrous for union
Talks with IFUT in relation to University Staff are being dragged out until Institute Staff have been bludgeoned into submission by the threat of redundancy. Then the assault on conditions of service of university staff including tenure and redeployment will begin.(This will require changes to the Universities Act. The acceptance of the principle of redundancy across the public service in the Croke Park Deal by ICTU led by SIPTU, IMPACT, INTO, PSEU lends support to the elimination of tenure and the required legislative changes. TUI, IFUT and ASTI remain opposed to Croke Park Deal)
It would be suicide to do a deal with a dying government

Paddy Healy 086-4183732

  1. Micheal O Feargail
    January 9, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Your comments are very worrying. More worrying still is the complete lack of action by the Union over the past year, and the seeming lack of solidarity with-in the union itself. My own view at the moment is that the TUI is a dead duck! I am considering withholding my union dues. I will be raising this with my own branch next week. I will sign your petition for what it is worth.

  2. Philomena Doherty
    January 10, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Very good article and spot on. This does not bode well for 2nd level “reforms” under Croke Park deal. This business model being promoted is worrying as it is exactly this kind of mind set which has the country in the current mess. Keep up the good work. It is ironic that the business world complain if the dumbing down of standards but this kind of approach will further contribute to such an erosion of standards.

  3. Dr Luke Raeside
    January 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm


    I fully agree with the view that academics must retain the right to academic freedom, we have witnessed an attempt to silence consultants within the health service as part of their new contracts, we must not allow ourselves to be placed in positions where we are not allowed to explore certain research areas which are “not value added” or to be restrained in expressing opinions about the education sector.

  1. January 4, 2011 at 6:40 am
  2. January 18, 2011 at 6:52 am
  3. January 20, 2011 at 1:23 am
  4. May 2, 2011 at 10:34 am

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