Archive for the ‘Universities’ Category

Academic Freedom

January 24, 2011 Leave a comment

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.”


  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,


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.


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

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.

UCD staff face forced redeployment (via Ninth Level Ireland)

January 20, 2011 Leave a comment

UCD staff face forced redeployment "Staff at UCD face compulsory redeployment if they do not voluntarily move to other jobs within the university when they are asked, new proposals drawn up by management reveal …" (more) [John Walshe, Independent, 20 January] … Read More

via Ninth Level Ireland

Call for Academic Gathering To Defend Academic Freedom (via Ninth Level Ireland)

January 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Call for Academic Gathering To Defend Academic Freedom From Paddy Healy, Former President TUI, Lecturer in Physics, Former member of Governing Body and Academic Council of DIT, 086-4183732. Full information on my Blog. This call is being made by 160 academics across many Irish third level institutions. Signatures are appended to the call. The Gathering will take place on Saturday, next, January 22, at 2pm in the Gresham Hotel, Dublin. Links to relevant discussion material are carried below the signat … Read More

via Ninth Level Ireland

Academic tenure in the Universities Act, 1997 (via Ninth Level Ireland)

January 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Eoin O’Dell’s piece on academic freedom, tenure and the crokeparkdeal

Academic tenure in the Universities Act, 1997 "… In earlier posts on this blog, I have looked at various issues relating to the various legal protections of academic freedom and at the concomitant concept of academic tenure as a matter of principle. In today’s post, I want to look at it as a matter of law …" (more) [Eoin O'Dell, Cearta, 18 January] … Read More

via Ninth Level Ireland

The Idea of a University: an Essay in Support of Professor Tom Garvin’s Thesis of Grey Philistines Taking Over Our Universities, Jim Mc Kernan, East Carolina (via Paddy Healy’s Blog)

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment

This is a new message (Jan 2011) from Professor McKernan in Response to recent plans by Irish University authorities to restrict academic freedom and undermine the right to tenure under Croke Park Deal
The original essay is linked below

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Necessary Rights for Irish Academics

Jim McKernan
Professor of Education,
East Carolina University, North Carolina, USA

Academic freedom is the right of the faculty member to select one’s materials, methods , pedagogy and points of view in teaching one’s discipline. That is to be empowered with a “voice”. Academic freedom is an absolute necessity for a democratic society. It pertains to both teaching (freedom of speech) and research (search for truth). These aspects of the academic life are indispensable for the success of the university. Faculty need to be free of the constraints of censorship and interference in the conduct of their duties by the institution or other agents and agencies in the community.
The very essence of the university, for faculty and for students, is freedom to seek the truth. In fact, one might claim that the university is the only institution in our society that has the privilege of devoting itself to truth, beauty, and rationality. This undertaking is not to be taken lightly. The word university literally means ‘the community of scholars” and institutions of higher education have been created precisely for these reasons.
Let us begin by considering the issue of academic freedom. The very essence of the institution of higher education, whether it is a university or polytechnical unit, for faculty and for students, is freedom to seek the truth. In fact, one might claim that the academy is the only institution in our society that has the privilege of devoting itself to truth, beauty, and rationality. This is quite a privilege and quite a challenge; and it is not to be taken lightly. The university community has been created precisely for these reasons.
Faculty members, after a probationary period have a property right to their position and cannot be removed barring “just cause”. Tenure does not guarantee a post for life. When I was first appointed at UCD in 1981 there was one condition in my contract letter for removal-being guilty of “gross moral turpitude”. Irish academics had real tenure in those days. I do not know if new conditions for removal of tenured faculty have been introduced. In North Carolina there are I believe five reasons for justly removing a faculty member with tenure: moral turpitude; negligence; inadequate performance, financial exigency; and mental or physical incapacity. I cannot see how the NUIG Plan can work as it would be a definite “breach of contract” if one side unilaterally creates new conditions without the agreement of the faculty member. Tenure really means that one “owns their position and the right to return to that position year after year after the probationary period. I strongly suggest that the legal position of tenure in Irish law be investigated as prolegomenon to challenging the NUIG Plan.
When an individual cannot enjoy academic freedom because of real threats to continued employment, advancement or career, the educational function of the institution ceases to be realized. While this is simple to say, its import and power cannot be ignored or diminished. Academic freedom is an enormous issue and it must be protected at all cost. But is tenure important to the protection of academic freedom? The answer, clearly, is Yes. Tenure secures a working community of scholars based on accepted academic values and aims, and it guarantees that a person cannot be dismissed from that community without due process and without consideration based on well established objective academic criteria. As it turns out, the truth is not always popular, especially within circles of power and wealth. Remove the system of tenure and we shall witness a “Flight of the Dons”. That would be an unanticipated outcome of the same nonsensical market model the current grey philistines are promoting. I ask that faculty resist these plans that would undermine the current academic freedom and tenure system in Ireland.

Dr. Jim McKernan
College of Education,
East Carolina University,
Greenville USA 27858
Note: the author was previously the King Distinguished Professor at East Carolina University; Dean and Chair of the Faculty of Education, University of Limerick and College Lecturer in Education, University College Dublin. Email:

Just a little reminder of an article posted here last year

Jim McKernan Professor, Social and Cultural Foundations of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA Email Introduction Professor Tom Garvin’s eloquent and critical essay “Grey philistines taking over our universities” is cogent, timely, and also necessary reading at this critical juncture in Irish higher education. His remarks, which invit … Read More

via Paddy Healy's Blog

Co-ordinated university attack on staff conditions- Indymedia, 6th Jan

January 6, 2011 1 comment

Post by “gramsci fan” on Indymedia today
“There are two particularly odd aspects of this. One is that these demands are being made “under Croke Park”, despite the fact that the unions representing most academic staff – IFUT and TUI – voted against Croke Park. In other words, management are unilaterally demanding the right to rewrite contracts which they have notionally entered into as binding agreements with their employees. It is not clear what threats they have available to force staff to sign away tenure, academic freedom, holidays or the right to flexible work.

The other is that this process is being rushed through while most staff are in the throes of exams and in a “lame-duck” government which has nothing to lose by supporting this process of “putting the boot in”. It is to be hoped that effective resistance can stall this until at least after the election – and garner political support for reversing these demands.” (more)

Will Third Level Education be Irretrievably Damaged Like The Banks

January 3, 2011 7 comments

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:
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