Minister concerned by lack of teaching time at third level – The Irish Times – Sat, Jan 30, 2010 (and raises the use of ‘anecdata’ to a whole new level in policy-making)
Expressing concern about the lack of contact time for students, he said two “high-profile academics” had recently briefed him about the workload of many lecturers.
The Minister has asked the Comptroller and Auditor General to conduct a “forensic audit” of spending at third level, suggesting he may may push for a renegotiation of the teaching contract.
The Minister for Education and Science is concerned at the apparent lack of teaching done in our third-level institutions. His evidence – a conversation with two senior academics. (Name them, please, and let’s have their assertions tested by peer-review, and some, you know, actual, evidence). This bizarre and essentially evidence-free assertion raises the use of ‘anecdata’ to drive policy changes to a whole new level of, well, words fail me…
Well, there are lots of people who earn vast sums for little work. Footballers clearly only play football on Saturday afternoons; Formula one drivers when they are driving in races; TDs only work when they are speaking or voting in the Dail; TV presenters only work when they are on TV; radio presenters only work when they are broadcasting on the radio; journalists clearly only work for just the hour it takes to knock out an 800 word column; barristers and judges only work for the few hours they are in Court; actors only work for the few hours they are on stage; musicians only work when they are performing on stage; Minsters when they are on TV giving interviews or opening supermarkets or reading civil servant prepared scripts in the Dail chamber;
…. and academics only work for the hour they give a lecture.
I guess the Minister is unaware of the Full Economic Costing project of the IUA which is doing exactly what the Minister wants the C&AG to do. I guess he is unaware of the contents of his own SSTI report which wants academics to run large-scale research groups. I guess he is unaware that universities are complex entities that need to be adminstered according to the demands of multiple entities (from professional bodies to the HEA to the demands of our international peers). How will this forensic audit differ to the one conducted by the Minister for Education Dempsey a few years ago into the vast financial reserves that our universities allegedly had available to them? (Dangerously low or non-existent levels of prudential reserves, as I recall).
I guess he has no idea of how much effort goes into PhD supervision, or PhD examing, or research grant writing, or project supervision, or research paper writing, or, or… even preparing an honors level lecture course, which requires an extensive mastery of the primary literature, which requires that you are an active researcher, which feeds your teaching, which gives an uplift to your student’s subsequent lifetime earning potential. And that makes the country more attractive for locating commercial activity, because there are better educated people who have been trained to evaluate a whole body of evidence, and to not rely on anecdata to fuel their thinking.