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June 22, 2009

Irish Education head warns of greater government intervention in higher education

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This from Dick Ahlstrom, our Irish correspondent. Could it be the shape of things to come in other countries? -- BO
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The days of limited government regulation of higher education are drawing to a close, and higher education sector may see its income linked to national economic priorities, according to the chief executive of the Higher Education Authority.

Tom Boland was speaking on 12 June at an international colloquium on higher education at the Dublin Institute of Technology. He was expressing his personal views rather than the official line of the HEA, he told delegates.

He said that the days of low-key regulation by government were coming to an end. Lack of controls had “given us unnecessary and inefficient duplication in programme provision. It has give us mission creep, inflexible staffing structures and practices and it has given us a fragmented system of institutions which to a very great extent stand apart and aloof from each other,” he told delegates.

He suggested there was a case for significant change in the sector, where university income was coupled to national economic priorities.

The current situation could not remain, however, he said. “We cannot afford this mode of operation and organisation any more. We cannot afford the cost and we cannot afford the implications for quality,” he stated.

The sector needed to place a greater emphasis on collaboration and coherence. This would make it possible to build up a critical mass of expertise in particular disciplines. It would take a “shrewd use of resources” but was necessary if Ireland were to have any research impact internationally.

“Collectively our higher education institutions represent a very valuable national resource and it is imperative for Ireland’s economic and social development that its full potential, across all institutions of all types, be realised,” he stated.

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