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What will happen in higher education this year?

So far I’ve managed to avoid the new years list idea.  The new years resolution and/or predictions phenomena just don’t work for me. Anyhow, with all the political happenings taking place at the moment in the country. the implications of associated “cost-savings” methods that some people seem certain will be implemented, along with some interesting websites I’ve come across, I’ve changed my mind.

Adrian Wreckler (he of the SBP) isn’t very complementary in this piece. One first reading, this type of content produces a whirl of annoyance. On reflection, I have to admit that it has some truth. Quote: “It’s sad. There is little or no debate about quality in third-level education. It’s all about access and free fees”. That’s a true statement.

The piece ends with some interesting questions for whoever might be the new Minister of Education.  He also gives the public-pressure “politician” answers.  Thinking and planning ahead into 2011, what should the answers really be.

  1. How are colleges to improve standards (recruit top people, attract best students, create the best research) without the reintroduction of student fees or additional exchequer funding?
  2. At a more general level, Irish third level institutions currently trail their counterparts in leading European and US cities in innovation and achievement. Is this of concern and, if so, how can it be reversed?
  3. Eircom wants the state to help fund a new fibre network. Do you intend to do that? (Note: that’s a spending commitment.) If not, do you have a plan (or any thoughts whatsoever) on how high speed broadband should be rolled out nationally outside urban centres?
  4. If elected, what kind of industry development would you prioritise, and how?

These are important questions and require constructive intelligent answers and subsequent action.  The problem is that we may have a weak incoming Government what will not have funding or the belief that answers and actions are required. We will likely end 2011 trundling along as we are now. with our existing problems getting worse, and a few more added along with way. Standards will continue to deteriorate, Irish colleges and universities will fall further behind their European / US counterparts, and Eircom’s fibre will remain dark.

On a more positive note. the guy behind Speed OF Creativity has launched an interesting project.  He wants people to outline their perspective of “vision for educational leadership in 2011” in a 30-second videoclip.  Upload your contribution to youtube with the tag “digitalvision2011”.  There’s an associated wiki here. This is an interesting opportunity to see what priorities educators in different international locations are setting for 2011. I wonder how many will address Adrian’s questions.