Home > Education, IOT, Uncategorized, Universities > Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom

Further Down :    Report On Academic Gathering, Sat, Jan 22nd 2010

Gathering was attended by 200 academics from universities and third level institutions in Ireland

————————————

Technological Universities Bill 2015-Destructive of

Academia in General and the Institutes of Technology in particular.

Universities Act(Amendment Bill) On the Way

The note given to Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) in relation to Universities (Amendment Bill) says:

“Provisions based on Heads 55 to 57 have not yet been included in the Bill. Those Heads reflected the content of the Universities (Amendment) Bill as it was drafted at the time of the preparation of the General Scheme. That Bill has since been revised and is at an advanced stage of drafting. As noted below, it is intended to insert provisions based on the final Universities (Amendment) Bill into the Technological Universities Bill by way of amendment during the passage of the Bill.”

Critique by Eddie Conlon, DIT, Bolton St

“Business Interest/Academic Council

The Bill as set out is unnecessarily slavish to the needs of business and enterprise. In clause after clause the needs of enterprise and industry are acknowledged and privileged over what the Bill refers to as “other stakeholders”. While we have not counted there is a stark contrast between the number of times the words enterprise and business appear relative to terms such as community. Indeed the Bill would have us believe that business and community interests are the same thing. TUs are to serve the community and public interest by , in the first instance,  supporting the development of business and enterprise at  local, regional and national levels (22 k (i)).

This slavishness to business is best illustrated in the provision relating the Academic Councils for the new Tus. These councils are traditionally composed of academic staff and are forums for debate and the making of decisions on all matters related to academic programmes and research activity. Their main focus is on upholding academic standards. We note that the Bill says:

28 (3) (a)the majority of members of the academic council shall be members of the academic staff of the technological university,

This raises the prospect of non-academics from outside the institutes being members of the AC and the prospect that those with unduly narrow views of education will come to have influence over the structure and content of our higher education programmes. All those committed to a broad view of education should oppose such moves.”

ISSUES IN TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITIES BILL

  1. Amalgamations, rationalisation and costsThe rationale for the requirement to amalgamate before an application for TU Status has never been clearly set out. In the context of ongoing cuts in the sector which has seen

 

  • Funding for the sector has been cut bya massive 35% (€190m) between 2008

and 2015

  • Lecturer numbers in the Institute of Technology fall by 9.5% – or

535 wholetime posts .

  • Student numbers within the sector rose by a staggering 21,411 or 32%
  • The reduction in academic staff numbers and the increase in student numbers has brought the student/ teaching staff ratio in third level institutions above the OECD average of 16:1 to a high of 20:1 (OECD Education At A Glance, November 2015).

 

there must be concern that the passage of this Bill will lead to further rationalisation across the sector.

 

It is the TUI view that IOTS should not have to amalgamate before applying for TU status. The Bill is a recognition of the tremendous development that has taken place in IOTs. Many of them can now compete with the University sector in terms of their programme provision and research activity. This development has taken place despite the fact that academic staff carry teaching loads far in excess of the University sector and international norms. In light of this it should be possible for stand-alone Institutes to apply for TU status.

 

The requirement for amalgamation cannot become a Trojan horse for rationalisation and the elimination of programme provision .  The IOTs have provided access to higher education for many who would traditionally be excluded. The location of colleges in areas where participation has been low has provided a valuable pathway to higher education. There must be no attempt to remove local provision as a result of the passage of this Bill.

 

We must be concerned that one of the motivations for the HEA in seeking amalgamations is the desire to remove what the HEA calls “uncessary dulplication” in programme provision. Indeed in its Towards a Future Higher Education Landscape (February 2012)  the HEA argues that progress on this issue “is critical” and that higher education providers in a region should “proactively come together  to examine the scope for rationalisation of programmes”. Such rationalisation can only undermine provision and access in area like Tallaght and Dublin West and must be opposed. Indeed given growing demand for Higher Education provision in our IOTs will need to be expanded.

 

We should be very clear. That kind of change proposed in this bill cannot take place in a context of cuts and rationalisation. The changes proposed will require additional resources for the sector. The estimated cost in Dublin is almost €24million over three years. There is clearly little or no money available from the HEA to fund the process and  the suggestion from it that the cost be met from further efficiencies is  completely unacceptable in the current environment.

 

  1. Dissolution of IOTSThe Bill effectively provide for the dissolution of the following IOTS: Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Cork and Tralee.  Tallaght and Blanchardstown are to be amalgamated with DIT. There is no further process other than the issuing of an order by the Minister setting a “dissolution day”.

It has been argued that given that an international panel has already assessed the case for the amalgamations in Dublin and Munster that no further process is necessary. But given that we now have the legislation setting out the terms and conditions for being a TU, surely individual institutions should be allowed to look again at the issue.  This is particularly important given the opposition of staff in many of the IOTS to forced amalgamations. Indeed it is our understanding that the TUI is about to ballot members for industrial action on this specific i issue. Clearly there is disquiet about the level of consultation and engagement with staff.

 

In light of this there should be provision in the Bill for the Institutions involved in an amalgamation to collectively trigger the process prior to the Minister issuing an order and only after agreement has been reached with staff on the terms of the amalgamation.

  1. Business Interest/Academic CouncilThe Bill as set out is unnecessarily slavish to the needs of business and enterprise. In clause after clause the needs of enterprise and industry are acknowledged and privileged over what the Bill refers to as “other stakeholders”. While we have not counted there is a stark contrast between the number of times the words enterprise and business appear relative to terms such as community. Indeed the Bill would have us believe that business and community interests are the same thing. TUs are to serve the community and public interest by , in the first instance,  supporting the development of business and enterprise at  local, regional and national levels (22 k (i)).

 

This slavishness to business is best illustrated in the provision relating the Academic Councils for the new Tus. These councils are traditionally composed of academic staff and are forums for debate and the making of decisions on all matters related to academic programmes and research activity. Their main focus is on upholding academic standards. We note that the Bill says:

 

28 (3) (a)the majority of members of the academic council shall be members of the

academic staff of the technological university,
This raises the prospect of non-academics from outside the institutes being members of the AC and the prospect that those with unduly narrow views of education will come to have influence over the structure and content of our higher education programmes. All those committed to a broad view of education should oppose such moves.

 

The Bill also provides, in relation to ACs,

 

(b) the regulations of a technological university under subsection (2) shall provide

for the following persons to be members
(i) a member of the academic staff with sufficient experience, in the view of

the technological university, of business, enterprise or a profession,
(ii) members of the academic staff with sufficient experience, in the view of the

technological university, of collaboration with business, enterprise, the

professions and related stakeholders in the region in which the campuses of

the technical university are located for a purpose as referred to in section

22(1)(h), and

 

We can see concretely here the privileging of the needs of business.   We need to be very clear here. Our education system is not a tool of the business community. It’s not just  about preparing students to adapt to the demands of employment and for individuals to remain competitive in the labour market. The needs of employers are not a good basis for designing a curriculum. The reality is that what concerns industry is what is relevant to industry and it is a mistake to believe that the needs of employers are the same as the needs of society or students.  We must remain committed to a view of education as a vehicle to enhance the capacity of citizens to learn, develop critical thinking and contribute to a society which  provides a good life for all. This will involve being critical of the practices of business and students should be prepared in their education to do so.

  1. Governing Bodies

The proposal in the Bill dealing with the Governance of TUs and amalgamated IOTs are unsatisfactory (Sections 25, 65, 66, 81 and 104). They will see a diminished role for the Minister and the establishment of a system of self regulation which may diminish public accountability.  Following the first appointment of Governing Bodies the Ministers role will be reduced to the appointment of 2 external members.

We would argue that levels of staff representation on any new bodies arising from this legislation should be no less than current  levels (ie 2 academic and 1 non academic). (The Bill provides for academic staff representation of between 1 and 3 in TUs). Indeed given that TUs will be formed from amalgamated IOTs staff (and student) representation should be expanded to provide for representation from all relevant IOTs.

We also note there is no provision for Trade Union representation on GBs as currently exists.

  1. Collective Bargaining /Conditions of serviceThe Bill represents a threat to the operation of national collective bargaining across the IOT sector. All staff currently working in IOTs are covered by national collective agreements covering the whole sector.

 

The Bill provides (27 (2)) in relation to TUs that

 

The staff of a technological university shall be employed on such terms and

conditions as may be determined by the technological university, subject to the

approval of An tÚdarás given with the consent of the Minister and the Minister for

Public Expenditure and Reform, from time to time determines.

 

The implication of this is that staff working in different TUs may have different terms and conditions.

 

We note that the Heads of Bill contained the following:

 

Head 55 Directions of Minister in relation to remuneration, numbers or agreements

Provides that

(1) The Minister may, in relation to the performance by a technological university of its functions, give a direction in writing to that technological university requiring it to comply with a (a) policy decision made by the Government or the Minister in so far it relates to the remuneration or numbers of public servants employed in that technological university, or (b) collective agreement entered into by the Government or the Minister.

 

(2) A technological university shall comply with a direction under this section.

 

We further note that this provision is missing from the Bill as published.

 

The impact of this will be that there will be fragmentation in terms of and conditions of those currently working across the IOTs. This could lead to competition for staff between institutes but more importantly will weaken the bargaining position of the union representing academic staff across the IOTs: the TUI.

 

This is clearly unacceptable. The Minister must retain a role in ensuring similar pay and conditions apply across all new institutions created by this legislation. Otherwise there is the prospect of differential pay and conditions making it less attractive to work in some IOTs and undermine their ability to attract the high calibre staff they need to provide a high quality education.

 

Finally we note that staff who transfer to new amalgamated institutions are only guaranteed their current levels of remuneration and not their current conditions of employment. The demand of the TUI that transfer of undertakings (TUPE) regulations be applied to the amalgamations should be supported.

 

Update March 6 2015

From  Conor D. McCarthy

I wanted to alert all to a talk coming up in Maynooth, which is directly pertinent to  concerns for academic freedom. Thomas Docherty may be known to you: he taught in UCD and TCD in the 1980s and 1990s, and now teaches in Warwick. His last several books have developed a powerful critique of the corporate-bureaucratic university.  He has been subject to suspension and a complaints enquiry at Warwick  – and has emerged from this process vindicated.

Department of English    NUI Masynooth

 Research Seminar Series Spring 2015

 Professor Thomas Docherty (Warwick)

 ‘On free speech and academic freedom: responsibilities and complicities’

  Professor Thomas Docherty has taught at University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Kent at Canterbury, and at the University of Warwick, where he is now Professor of English and Comparative Literature.  He is the author of many books on modern literature, philosophy and cultural theory, and on the institutions of literature and literary study.  Most recently, in books such as Aesthetic Democracy (2006), For the University (2011) and Universities at War (2014), Docherty has emerged as the pre-eminent analyst and critic of change in the British university system.

 

Andrew Gibson has hailed Docherty as, along with Stefan Collini, ‘a major contemporary heir to Newman, a defender of a sober, principled, honourable, sophisticated, demanding and by no means idealized concept of the university’, while Henry Giroux has said of Docherty’s most recent book, Universities at War (2014), that ‘Thomas Docherty not only is a brilliant critic of those forces that would like to transform higher education into an extension of the market-place and a recruiting tool for the conformist prone, low-paid workforce needed by corporate powers, he is also a man of great moral and civic courage, who under intense pressure from the punishing neoliberal state has risked a great deal to remind us that higher education is a civic institution crucial to … democracy’.

 

This talk will take place at JHL6, on the second floor of the John Hume Building, North Campus at 4pm on March 25, 2015.  All are welcome!

 

 

Transatlantic trade deal talks, Education and Academic Freedom

 Letter from Gen Sec IFUT to Irish Times     Nov 10,2014

Sir, – The support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) by Chambers Ireland (November 1st) is misguided.

The proposed inclusion of an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in TTIP and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) would give secret decisions in boardrooms overseas more control of Irish education than the Department of Education.

The ISDS clause places the interests and profit of private corporations ahead of the interests of citizens and society. It would give private, for-profit education companies the right to challenge, before international tribunals, not domestic courts, any government measure that they feel interferes with their profits.

A US congressional report in 2012 was damning of the “forprofit” education sector there, citing a 64 per cent student dropout rate.

It found that over 22 per cent of their revenue was spent on marketing and 19.4 per cent taken in profits. Just 17 per cent was spent on instruction.

It detailed “substandard academic offerings, high tuition and executive compensation, low student retention rates and the issuance of credentials of questionable value”.

TTIP applied here would provide judicial protection to these discredited education speculators and would discriminate even against domestic companies. The ISDS circumvents the domestic court system and poses real and serious dangers to democratic decision-making and governments’ right to regulate.

As a matter of urgency the Irish Government and Ireland’s new European commissioner should oppose the inclusion of the ISDS mechanisms in both the CETA and TTIP.

The EU Council of Ministers has already excluded the audiovisual sector from TTIP, based on the public interest goal of preserving and promoting cultural and linguistic diversity within the EU. – Yours, etc,

MIKE JENNINGS

General Secretary,

Irish Federation of University Teachers, Merrion Square,Dublin 2.

 

Report On Academic Gathering, Sat, Jan 22nd 2010

 

The Academic Gathering to Defend Academic Freedom met at Gresham Hotel Dublin on Saturday January 22. There were 200 academics present from almost all third level institutions within the state.

Paddy Healy delivered an opening address which is carried below.
After a member of the public berated all those present due to the failure of his son to be interviewed for an academic post in Ireland , Professor Colm Kearney (TCD) addressed the gathering. He said that the freedom of speech accorded to the previous speaker was an example of the freedom academics sought to retain

Prof Tom Garvin was highly critical of the “half-educated senior academic administrators” who had taken over our universities and on whom resources necessary for teaching and scholarly activity were being wasted.

Steven Hedley, Professor of Law, UCC
warned that the Universities Act (1997) which provides for academic freedom and tenure could be amended to weaken its provisions.

Dr Paddy O’Flynn, UCD, pointed out that it was essential that all academics join trade unions to effectively respond to current threats.

Apologies for inability to attend and expressions of support for the gathering were sent by Prof Jim McKernan, East Carolina University, Prof James Heffron (emeritus) UCC and Dr Tom Dooley, Dundalk IT

Many speakers explained why academic freedom and permanency to retirement age were necessary to maintain freedom of speech and information to the public, educational standards and fruitful scholarship including research. Speakers included Professor Peadar Kirby, UL; Professor Michael Cronin, DCU; Professor Mary Gallagher, UCD; Martin O’Grady, IT Tralee, Dr Kieran Allen, UCD, Dr Colman Etchingham, NUIM, Dr Kevin Farrell, IT Blanchardstown, Marnie Holborow, DCU, Dr Thomaé Kakouli-Duarte, IT Carlow, Dr Paul O’Brien, NCAD; Prof Helena Sheehan (emeritus), DCU and many others

Senator David Norris addressed those assembled and expressed solidarity with the Gathering

Former Taoiseach, Dr Garrett Fitzgerald addressed the Gathering and pointed out the need for an association which addressed academic matters only.

Decisions

It was agreed that a petition would be launched in each institution calling on the governing authority to make a declaration in favour of academic freedom and to remove all threats to tenure and permanency to retirement age.

Such a declaration has already been secured by IFUT President, Hugh Gibbons and his colleagues in the IFUT Branch at TCD

A motion to the same effect would be tabled at all Academic Councils.

An ad-hoc steering committee was formed to co-ordinate the campaign

It was suggested that a pledge in favour of academic freedom and permanency should be administered to all political parties in the forthcoming election. This will be considered by the steering committee

It was agreed that the Gathering would be reconvened in the coming weeks to consider whether further organised work was necessary.

Paddy Healy 086-4183732 paddy.healy@eircom.net

Opening Address Paddy Healy

Academic freedom is a necessity in a healthy democracy. Citizens have a need for a diversity of expert opinions to enable them to take informed decisions and to direct their political representatives. The warnings of a possible banking collapse came from outside the banking industry and indeed from outside the regulatory and political system. The warnings of Professor Morgan Kelly and others went unheeded.

Analysis and criticism of social, economic, scientific and artistic policies by academics is the right of citizens. If academic freedom is restricted this flow of information and analysis is likely to be reduced or stopped.

Citizens have a right to objective information on the content of food products, the safety of structures and other engineering systems, on pollution of the environment, on aesthetic matters and on health issues. Academics must retain the unrestricted right to give this information.

Academic freedom and tenure is not just a ruse invented by academics to protect their employment as some letter writers have suggested.

The purpose of “tenure” as protecting a university professor or lecturer against dismissal, as set out in the UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel of 11 November 1997, is to provide protection for the independence of university academics in their teaching and research by ensuring that they cannot be dismissed for the expression of unpopular or novel ideas. Savage (“Academic Tenure and its Functional Equivalent in post-secondary Education” ILO Working Paper June 2004) suggests that “tenure” might also ensure that those among the academic staff teaching “highly technical but not popular subjects” are also protected “so that such learning is not easily removed from the university milieu because of ephemeral undergraduate student demand”. As Savage goes on to point out: “dismissal procedures are the key”. Tenure exists in reality if academic staff can only be dismissed for “just cause”, such as professional incompetence, financial corruption, sexual or racial harassment or the abandonment of position, proved before a “fair and independent body”. One of the more “vexing” questions in his opinion is the effect of “financial exigency and programme planning” and whether these factors can override the guarantees of “tenure”.

TCD Declaration on academic Freedom

At a large meeting of academics held in UCD on Thursday last, the representative of the Irish Federation of University Teachers informed us that as a matter of policy IFUT would be making no concessions on the issues of academic freedom and tenure. The President of SIPTU Education Branch gave similar assurances.

My colleagues and I are encouraged by the declaration of the Board of Trinity College in favour of academic freedom and tenure. We must of course be careful of the meaning of those terms. We are also encouraged by the declared opposition to research by command from above. It would be most appropriate if the governing authorities of other third level institutions made similar declarations.

I would like to congratulate Dr Hugh Gibbons, IFUT President, and his colleagues in IFUT at TCD for their hard work and persistence in securing this declaration.

Academic staff in institutes of technology were believed to have effective tenure through the permanency of public servants until the emergence of the Croke Park Deal. Academic freedom is written into existing contracts. I call on the governing bodies of these institutions to unconditionally withdraw all threats of redundancy to academic staff


Educational Standards

It is important that third level institutions continue to produce graduates who combine a high level of professional expertise with a capacity for critical thought. That is necessary for a healthy democratic society and a successful economy.

The funding model of third level institutions penalises failure of students to progress by passing examinations. This has led to very unhealthy pressures in the direction of lowering criteria for progression. There have been incidences of administrative passing of students. Academics must retain the unfettered right subject to reasonable criteria to say that a student has not reached the required standard. Academic freedom based on permanence of employment is necessary in order that academics can resist unhealthy pressures. If “dumbing down” becomes rampant, serious damage will be done to our society. The qualifications of existing graduates would be devalued. Authorities in many areas such as health, social services and education would be denied a reliable criterion in employing professional staff. Companies seeking to employ graduates would have similar problems. The reputation of Irish qualifications abroad would be destroyed.

Scholarly Activity

Let us repeat here the concern expressed by Savage(above) lest highly specialised but not popular subjects be removed from third level institutions. I would add a concern that creative arts and sociological enquiry would be increasingly de-prioritised through funding mechanisms. I also echo the concern of Tom Garvin that open-ended or “blue sky research” would be deprived of funds in favour of focussed problem solving for commercial purposes. I am reliably informed that the next round of cuts under the HEA Employment Control Framework will necessitate redundancies in addition to non-replacement of staff in some institutions. Areas of knowledge, inquiry and cultural endeavour must not be selectively deprived of resources. Nor should resources be squandered on a large management layer arising from the inappropriate replacement of collegiality with a command model of management to the detriment of teaching and other academic activity.

There are also serious concerns in the areas of science, engineering, computing, medicine and other health sciences. There must be no drift towards allocation of academics to research projects outside their own research interest. Genuine research simply cannot be done on such a basis. Institute of Technology staff must not be prevented from engaging in scholarly activity by timetabling for 19 to 21 teaching hours per week.

We have no objection to having industrial research partners. But the co-operation must be on terms which do not affect the independence of academic staff. There must be no question of suppressing unwelcome research outcomes or impeding the development of knowledge as has happened in a number of cases abroad.

Academic freedom based on tenure and permanency is an indispensable prerequisite for a healthy democratic society, for the maintenance of academic standards and for the continued flourishing of genuine scholarship in Irish academic institutions.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: