Posts Tagged ‘Universities’

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

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

University heads told courses and jobs at risk in funding cut, Irish Times, Wed 2 June 2010

“UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS are being told to brace themselves for unprecedented cuts which could force them to cut staff and cancel courses.

In a confidential letter to the seven presidents, the chief executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Tom Boland, says he is alerting all colleges now to take “whatever action is needed” to prepare for the next academic year.

Mr Boland advises colleges to budget on the basis that there may be further staff reductions in 2011. He also says the colleges can expect “further reductions in core allocations” and no increase in student charges.

It is clear, he writes, that “overall recurrent funding will be reduced and this is likely to require reductions in pay and non-pay across the sector.””(more)

IFUT’s “utter astonishment” at threat of more funding cuts to universities.

Redundancies not an Option
2 June 2010
The Irish Federation of University Teachers has reacted with utter astonishment to the prospect of more funding cuts to universities as reported in The Irish Times today, 2 June 2010.
“I note that in a panic reaction to the prospect of more cuts, some university sources are allegedly considering redundancies for academic staff”, said Mike Jennings, General Secretary of IFUT. “I wish to state categorically that under no circumstances will IFUT agree to any compulsory job losses in the university sector”, said Mr Jennings.
“At a time of unprecendented demand for higher education and at a time when we have record numbers of students in our universities, it beggars belief that the Department of Education could even be considering more cuts.”
IFUT calls on the Minister for Education, Ms Mary Coughlan TD, to issue an immediate statement denying these reports.
– ENDS –
For further information on this media release, please contact:
Mike Jennings,
General Secretary,
Irish Federation of University Teachers,
11 Merrion Square,
Dublin 2.
Tel: (01) 661 0910
(087) 677 6747

‘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

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)