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

Is IFUT’s no vote a warning bell for society?

Perhaps it might occur to others (obviously not Ms O’Kelly, article from SINDO below) that those who are entrusted with the formation of our young population at all levels might be genuinely fearful for the ultimate implications of the Croke Park Deal for their students. IFUT after all has only voted for Industrial action once in its history and its “no vote” is clearly a warning bell of the serious damage being inflicted on standards in learning and indeed on critical thinking in our society generally.
‘Copper-fastened’ deal all comes down to the nuts and bolts The cracks are beginning to show already in the Croke Park agreement, writes Emer O’Kelly
“The anti-democratic charge, with its potential to scupper the agreement, has been led by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT). It’s hard to believe that the men and women entrusted with the educational formation of many of our citizens at second level, and all of our citizens at university level, can behave in such an unprincipled fashion. At least, it’s hard to believe of the IFUT; we’re used to the outrageously selfish impropriety of teachers at primary and secondary level. But how uneasy does it make you feel to envisage the intellectual elite of the country being taught ethics, philosophy, and particularly, politics, by people who refuse to abide by a democratic, if reluctant, vote? “ (more )

Joe O’Toole Supports Croke Park Deal – My reply

Public sector reform deal is the best we can hope for says NUI Senator

Joe does not mention the requirement to negotiate changed teaching contracts for teachers and lecturers or the agreement to the continued elimination of posts of responsibility in schools and large numbers of lecturing posts at third level or the damage to collegiality–

Senator Joe O’Toole represents NUI graduates in Seanad. Eireann. He is a former primary school principal, former general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, and a former President of ICTU. In the most recent election to Seanad Eireann he was nominated by David Begg, General Secretary of ICTU.
Joe is recommending a “yes” vote to the Croke Park Deal

Members of TUI, ASTI and Irish Federation of University Teachers have voted strongly against the Deal. UNITE which represents lecturers in University of Limerick has voted against the DEAL. The Dublin based Education Branch of SIPTU has recommended a” no” vote as has the Academic Section of SIPTU at NUIG

INTO executive recommended acceptance and the members voted in favour though 35% voted “no”.
The only arguments made by Joe (Irish Times, 7 May) in support of the deal is that there is “hope” that pay losses may be restored and union leaders will be able to “influence” changes in the public service.
He makes no mention of the requirement to negotiate changed teaching contracts under pain of continued pay reduction. The failure of the DEAL to halt the wholesale elimination of posts of responsibility in primary and secondary education and the provision in the agreement to make all teachers carry out the duties as additional unpaid work. The huge ongoing reduction in numbers of lecturers at third level and the provision in the agreement to force remaining lecturers to carry out the duties of the unreplaced go unmentioned. The threat to tenure and academic freedom from the redeployment provisions of the agreement goes unrecorded. In a word the Croke Park deal is to be used together with the moratorium on recruitment to devastate the education system, seriously worsen conditions of service and to replace collegiality with managerialism. It would be too much to expect Joe to mention a 4year pay and pension freeze no matter how steep the increase in consumer price index!!
As this is the effect of the deal negotiated by ICTU Public Service leaders, it is clear that public servants would be far better served by depending on their own unions and foregoing the “influence” of ICTU in discussing changes in the public service.

But Joe is well aware of the huge increase in the workload of teachers and the large cuts in education provision inherent in the DEAL. He has state on record:“I met Batt O’Keeffe (Minister for Education) and Mary Harney(Minister for Health) during the talks(Nov/Dec 2009) and they were both salivating at the prospect of getting at the things in the union documents on offer—We are very near an agreement (in current talks) because  the deal was virtually done last December.” Senator Joe O’Toole, Former President ICTU on RTE, Marion Finucane, Sunday March 22 urging Government to accept the ICTU offer to Government in December 2009 which became the Croke Park Deal.

But the approach of Joe is not surprising. Teachers will remember his infamous statement in the context of the ASTI dispute. “Benchmarking is just an ATM machine” Senator Joe O’Toole rubbishing the attempt of ASTI to achieve a catch up pay rise outside of Benchmarking which incorporated industrial style productivity dealing in the public service. IBEC have not ceased to quote the statement of Joe since then as part of a campaign for pay reductions in public service. The effect of the statement was to give comfort and ammunition to the enemies of the public service.

Irish Times Fri, May 07, 2010
OPINION: The Croke Park deal on pay and reform is grim but a yes vote will keep the unions in an influential position, writes JOE O’TOOLE 
PUBLIC SECTOR workers deciding how to respond to the Croke Park deal find themselves in a conundrum. Inherently they want to do the right thing but they feel it is unfair that they, and private sector colleagues, should have to shoulder the financial consequences of the greedy and reckless policies of our former icons.
It is impossible to contradict those who maintain that it’s the worst deal ever they saw. I’m with them in that assessment. As agreements go this one has to be at the bottom of the pile.
Add to that the fact that there is a complete breakdown of trust and confidence in the Government and, above all, there is a ferocious anger towards it and a firm desire to give the Government a bloody nose and it becomes apparent why it has so few champions.
It was a young teacher who put it at its simplest to me. “I just don’t trust this Government. I don’t believe them and I’m going to vote against the deal. I distrust anything proposed by this Government. Why should we do anything to accommodate them?”
And she had a solid point, reflective of thousands of public servants who find themselves in exactly the same space.
Intuitively I want to lash out against this deal too but strategically I come to a different conclusion. . Some union members are of the belief that they can vote “no”, keep the head down and there will be no change. Unfortunately, not so. The only certainty in all of this is that, whether the vote be won or lost, the Government will have to continue to make savings in public service costs at the next budget. Another certainty is that only after those savings are made can there be any chance of regaining some of the lost pay.
Union members are faced with choices which, though unattractive, are very clear. They can be represented around the table, influencing and informing crucial decisions regarding the timing and implementation of public service reform and fighting for pay restoration. On the other hand they can be involved in a less-than-attractive long-term campaign of action against the Government, seeking the reversal of cuts.
Which is best then? The certain pain and possible gain of such a campaign or the certain advantages from a negotiated set of outcomes as posited in the agreement.
The agreement, bad as it is, does offer hope, opportunity and influence. Hope that we have hit the bottom of pay cuts; an opportunity to begin the reclamation of what we have lost; a chance to have an influence in shaping the direction of public service reorganisation.
As regards paying back the Government, voting against the agreement is not the way. There will be other opportunities to do that. The general election is around the corner.
Public servants with more secure employment and good pensions are easy targets. They rarely see their contribution publicly acknowledged. As with many in the private sector, their pay cuts have been savage and devastating and, like most of the population, every euro of monthly income is spoken for by way of direct debits, standing orders or ordinary living expenses.
Unlike our bankers, these were undertakings honestly entered into on the basis of certainty of income and security of employment. Now, with net pay cut, those public servants, like their private sector colleagues, are struggling to cope and worrying about more cuts and rising interest rates.
The uncertainty is terrorising. If they could truly believe that the deal would end pay cuts and begin a process of reclaiming lost income then they would flock to it.
In that regard, the immediate challenge to the Government is to authenticate its bona fides. To bolster up the deal, politicians must win the trust and confidence of the voting trade union members and convince us of their commitment to both the spirit and letter of the Croke Park document.
If public servants could truly bank the pay assurances in the agreement then there would be a solid level of support.
We’re not being served up a great-looking dish from Croke Park. Hard to find much meat in it and there’s little enthusiasm for the veggies, only the hope that the pudding will be better when it arrives.
It is a big ask but, unappetising as it is, these proposals are the best we can expect just now. And, if we can make them work, not only will we be the winners but also the country and the economy. Voting “no” offers no protection whatever. Voting “yes” at worst offers a sporting chance of beginning the reclamation of lost ground. Let’s go for it..

Letter to Irish Times
Public sector pay and conditions
Sat, May 08, 2010
Madam, – I’m incensed by Joe O’Toole’s assessment of the Croke Park deal (Opinion, May 7th). He quotes a young teacher, whose objections to the deal are based purely on mistrust of the Government – and by extension, not logic, and he goes on to imply that opposition to the deal is a lash-out, knee-jerk reaction.
He also implies that public service interests will not be represented when reform happens, if the agreement is not ratified – the alternative being prolonged industrial action. This is just scaremongering nonsense, based on the false premise that this agreement is the only option open to the public service. This is not only spurious, it is dishonest and wrong. Why was this deal brokered in the first place? It was certainly not negotiated in the interests of the rank and file union membership. The connivance of the ICTU leadership with this Government has manufactured a situation where workers are forced to vote on an agreement that should not exist.
This deal offers workers nothing. This is a Government- sponsored document which bestows draconian powers on employers and Dickensian conditions of employment on employees. If passed, this deal will have dire consequences for all workers in this country, and not just those of us in the public service. – Yours, etc,
Hazelhatch Park,
Celbridge, Co Kildare.
© 2010 The Irish Times

‘The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom and the End of the American University’, (via 9th level Ireland)

“Ellen Schrecker, a history professor at New York City’s Yeshiva University, starts The Lost Soul of Higher Education with a blunt assessment: ‘In reacting to the economic insecurities of the past forty years, the nation’s colleges and universities have adopted corporate practices that degrade undergraduate instruction, marginalize faculty members, and threaten the very mission of the academy as an institution devoted to the common good’ …” (via 9th level Ireland (excerpt) and full article)

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

May 24, 2010 2 comments

Jim McKernan
Social and Cultural Foundations of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA Email


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 invite widespread discussion and debate, are not only applicable to education at University College Dublin, but for education in the round. I also write as a former lecturer in the Faculty of Arts who watched how the university began to ape the same processes which drove the Irish Celtic Tiger and adopted much of that education-for-profit strategy as a prolegomenon for the current situation. I have chosen as the title of my essay that of John Henry Cardinal Newman in his famous work The Idea of a University based on lectures he gave in setting up the Catholic University of Ireland in 1854; now University College Dublin. It is instructive to note that Professor Garvin’s thesis is in accord with the sentiments of Cardinal Newman. It is of further notable interest that plans are afoot to canonize Cardinal Newman in September of this year. This should be a big event for University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland. I feel sure Cardinal Newman would roll over in his grave were he to see how “education” is conducted at the university he established. It is my thesis that we are in danger of losing our concept of education in favour of lower notions of instruction and training . Let me explain. By ‘training” I mean a process which suggests the acquisition of skills and the enhancing of performance capacities. By ‘instruction’ I mean learning facts and new information-the results of retention. But by ‘education’ one understands induction into the forms and fields of knowledge: those thought processes and intellectual activities that allow one to know the epistemologies of the culture so that we can think rationally, by using it. Too often nowadays, even folks in universities confuse training and instruction with pure ‘education’. We lose sight of this concept of education at our peril.

Professor Garvin is right to lament that intellectual activity for its own sake is being hi-jacked in favour ofa penchant for managerialism and the intrusions of technical rationality so characteristic of the business-industrial complex today. Traditional (basic) research, what Garvin calls “blue sky” inquiry, in the human and social sciences is being viewed as inappropriate in favour of applied scientific “evidence-based” research methodologies where grant money is being currently channeled. This strategy is acknowledged as the legitimate way forward in official policy statements from the OECD and US Federal Government on the future of research in higher education. Those who have sought to find the truth through historical and other qualitative research methods are being ignored by funding agents across the Western World.
Professor Garvin’s thesis is sustainable. Personally, this author witnessed the same rampant technical rationality when I accepted the first Deanship of Education at Limerick University. I resigned and resumed my professorial duties in America apart from that environment. I admit I expected some of this managerialism at Limerick, which had emerged from a technological base, but not the out-of-control intrusions of technical rationality resulting in a now discredited “Total Quality Management” strategy (which has been abandoned in most American universities) for the entire university and its emphasis on “entrepreneurship”. I see this managerialism evident in every facet of education today in both the USA and Ireland. Yesterday I heard the Governor of North Carolina, a former teacher, Beverley Perdue; state that the first word a six year old should learn should be “entrepreneurship”. She was delighted to learn that our local Pitt Community College had received 21 million dollars of the President’s Stimulus Package to set up IT programs to educate hospital administrators digitalize medical recordkeeping.
What is the aim of a university education? Let us recount what Cardinal Newman argued:
“I am asked what is the end of University Education, and of the Liberal or Philosophical Knowledge which I conceive it to impart: I answer, that what I have already {103} said has been sufficient to show that it has a very tangible,real, and sufficient end, though the end cannot be divided from that knowledge itself. Knowledge is capable of being its own end. Such is the constitution of the human mind, that any kind of knowledge, if it be really such, is its own reward.”
Further on in the work Newman expands his ideas:
“Now, when I say that Knowledge is, not merely a means to something beyond it, or the preliminary of certain arts into which it naturally resolves, but an end sufficient to rest in and to pursue for its own sake, surely I am uttering no paradox, for I am stating what is both intelligible in itself, and has ever been the common judgment of philosophers and the ordinary feeling of mankind. I am saying what at least the public opinion of this day ought to be slow to deny, considering how much we have heard of late years, in opposition to Religion, of entertaining, curious, and various knowledge. I am but saying what whole volumes have been written to illustrate, viz., by a selection from the records of Philosophy, Literature, and Art, in all ages and countries, of a body of examples, to show how the most unpropitious circumstances have been unable to conquer an ardent desire for the acquisition of knowledge. That further advantages accrue to us and redound to others by its possession, over and above what it is in itself, I am very far indeed from denying; but,independent of these, we are satisfying a direct need of our nature in its very acquisition; and, whereas our nature, unlike that of the inferior creation, does not at once reach its perfection, but depends, in order to it, on a number of external aids and appliances, Knowledge, as one of the principal of these, is valuable for what its very presence in us does for us after the manner of a habit, even though it be turned to no further account, nor subserve any direct end.”

Newman argues consistently that knowledge for its own sake is a significant purpose of a scholar in a university-moreover, this is the very essence of conduct within a liberal education:
“This process of training, by which the intellect, instead of being formed or sacrificed to some particular or accidental purpose, some specific trade or profession, or study or science, is disciplined for its own sake, for the perception of its own proper object, and for its own highest culture, is called Liberal Education; and though there is no one in whom it is carried as far as is conceivable, or whose intellect would be a pattern of what intellects should be made, yet there is scarcely any one but may gain an idea of what real training is, and at least look towards it, and make its true scope and result, not something else, his standard of excellence; {153} and numbers there are who may submit themselves to it, and secure it to themselves in good measure. And to set forth the right standard, and to train according to it, and to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities, this I conceive to be the business of a University.

The Technologisation of Education

It should be pointed out that this notion of technical means-ends rationality in education began with the Americans. In particular Franklin Bobbitt, a former engineer who became Dean of the School of Education at Stanford University. In 1918 Bobbitt argued for a form of efficiency-accountability that schools should be like factories where students are viewed as products and that the physical plant should be utilized on a shift basis throughout the school year. He became so enthralled with this that he produced a book outlining some 800 behaviours all responsible citizens should be able to perform. He operationlised the use of behavioural performance objectives and the American and European systems of educational planning have never been the same since. This “Science in Education” movement led to Educational Psychologists embracing Behaviourism as an appropriate theory for curriculum design. That is, that teachers should state specific outcomes in students in terms of behavioural performances in order to be accountable that students had mastered subject knowledge. I liked Professor Garvin’s comment relating to a remark made by Picasso that predicting outcomes makes a nonsense of any activity and in essence in education it would deny the use of imagination. My mentor Professor Lawrence Stenhouse once remarked

“Education as induction into knowledge is successful to the extent
that it makes the behavioural outcomes of the students unpredictable”

Professor Garvin also grasps an important nettle in commenting about the loss of imagination in educational culture. Mary Warnock, the English philosopher wrote that “imagination is the faculty by means of which one is able to envisage things as they are not”. The trend nowadays in education is to plan all the outcomes as behaviours in advance of instruction, and test student by means of objective type multiple choice tests to see if they have mastered this ‘rhetoric of conclusions’. On this model students never exercise their own creative imagination or critical discourse-they select random options already printed on the test page. This is not education but mere training and instruction-teaching to the test.


I believe that there are very real possibilities that education can be reclaimed from these ‘grey philistines and merchants of managerialism’. The idea of a university is that it is a community of scholars having a discourse, using a variety of research methods appropriate to their discipline to advance knowledge, to contribute to searching for truth through inquiry, to conduct teaching of this knowledge and these methods, so that students can get into perspective the knowledge which they do not yet possess and to offer service to the university and the community. The main thing is to permit academic freedom in the pursuit of these inquiries. Academic freedom means that lecturers and professors have an unfettered right to select materials and methods appropriate to their discipline and the right to conduct research that matches their curiosity and interests. The health of Irish education and society is indeed tied to this notion of academic freedom-which is being eroded at present by arguments to abolish tenure with fixed term appointments and by not appointing Professors to disciplinary chairs such as the languages (German, Spanish, French) at UCD, which Professor Caldicott, pointed out in his response to Professor Garvin’s piece. The UCD administration seems only interested in the “bottom line” here-saving funds through cost cutting vital disciplinary appointments and operations that have been hugely successful like the Language Laboratory. The reorganization of University College Dublin into Schools that are integrated and interdisciplinary does not speak to the definite epistemology of the disciplines of knowledge as historically understood. This reorganization, albeit in the name of efficiency, seems utterly incoherent to this observer. I have watched in my lifetime whole departments of Logic, Philosophy, (subjects at the core of a liberal education from medieval times) and indeed Colleges of Teacher Education, disappear due to the ‘bottom line’ mentality. The control by universities and other agencies of higher education over teaching, research and learning and their inalienable right to academic freedom must not be relinquished to external agencies and government. Dublin City University President Ferdinand Von Prondzynski’s accountability arguments are not sound. The logic of his argument makes academic freedom a joke. He says that universities should not be a place of leisurely intellectual pursuits. This is what has characterized the greatest universities throughout history. As scholars we are accountable to the standards immanent in our respective disciplines first. Of course it is right that any government or foundation granting money for research demands accountability-but the idea that these agents would run the university is a sacrilege. Further the idea that the Arts disciplines would not be funded is indicative of a Philistinian philosophy of education. As Professor Garvin suggested , one of the better ideas of mankind was to establish universities where truth and knowledge could be pursued for their own sake. I would argue that it was the setting up of universities in the 11th century in Europe (first in Italy by the Pope at Salerno and Bologna) that saved world culture and literacy from extinction during the ‘Dark Ages’. Ireland, to give her fair dues, played an essential role in establishing Monastic Schools keeping learning alive in a desperate time during the early Middle Ages. Hence the phrase “land of saints and scholars”. In this respect we owe a great debt also to our Arab friends who had perhaps the greatest institutes of higher education by the 9th and 10th centuries and who had transcribed many of the lost works of the Greeks and Roman scholars. My favourite scholar was, however, Peter Abelard, (1079-1142) the Scholastic philosopher and logician, who criticized state and church and was perhaps the greatest scholar of Paris in his day and precursor to the establishment of the secular University of Paris in or around 1160 A.D. Abelard taught us that the critical thought of an independent and free scholar would be a valuable aspect of higher education. We need to respect the various methods by which scholarship is engaged and invite our students into this search. It is a search that does not discriminate between the arts and sciences. That, I believe, is the idea of a university.

May 23rd, 2010

The View from the HEA- Tom Boland guests on von Prondzynski’s Blog

“The issue is not so much that we need universities of a particular size but that it is difficult to see how we can resource the present structure and ensure quality outcomes with the current fragmented system of stand alone institutions. The cross institutional collaboration or merger of departments, schools and, in time, even whole institutions is one way towards stronger, better resourced institutions and a better service to students.”(more)

Independence would enhance role of universities in society, Garrett Fitzgerald, Irish Times, May 1

“What is not a matter of judgment however, is the simple fact that the lazy system of making equal cuts in every department’s budget is further damaging our education system, which, even before this crisis, had been suffering from neglect over recent years. In this new crisis, as in the 1980s, education should have been given priority, instead of being further damaged.” (more)

University Agenda Revealed! “Colleges told: merge or die”, Indo 29th April

April 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Colleges told: merge or die
Major shake-up ahead for third-level system, Irish Independent, Thursday 29th April

Tom Boland has signalled that huge changes are on the way

By John Walshe Education Editor

Thursday April 29 2010

IRELAND has too many universities and colleges that must now merge to survive, the head of the State’s third-level funding body has warned.

In a landmark address yesterday, Higher Education Authority (HEA) chief executive Tom Boland set out a reform agenda for the biggest ever shake-up of the country’s third-level system.

The proposals are certain to form a key component of a new national strategy currently being prepared for the Government.

The strategy will recommend merging colleges and courses, sources said last night.

The Irish Independent has also learned that the strategy group is also considering the provision of new employment contracts; ending a number of programmes and courses; and more effective monitoring of academic staff. (more)