Funding the university sector – The Irish Times – Thu, Jun 03, 2010

Funding the university sector – The Irish Times – Thu, Jun 03, 2010.

Hard to improve on this Irish Times Editorial – it says it all. The sector is in crisis, and meanwhile is expected to be engine of the smart economy and to drive innovation and smart job creation. Guess what? It’s not going to happen with the current mind-boggling disinvestment in the sector. Maintaining standards as they are is going to be a challenge, let alone raising our game to the next level. And the effects of these cutbacks will be seen in the coming years as lower and slower economic growth.

How will the universities will deliver the Innovation Agenda, when staff numbers and resourcing are dramatically and arbitrarily cut? Want to know why there is no Irish Google? It’s because there is no Irish Stanford! Universities which function as beacons to attract the brightest and the best from all over the world are required here if we wish to transform the Irish economy for ever. We are fooling ourselves if we think the current approach of investing less to achieve more is going to succeed.

Money quotes:

THE EXTENT of the financial and operational crisis facing the university sector has been outlined in a stark letter sent to the seven presidents by Higher Education Authority (HEA) chief executive Tom Boland. He tells the colleges to brace themselves for an unprecedented range of cuts over the next year as the Government seeks to achieve €3 billion in overall exchequer savings.  Colleges are advised to take “whatever action is needed’’ in advance of reductions in core funding.

Cutbacks in staff numbers and in the range of programmes on offer appear inevitable. The colleges have been told also they can expect no increase in student charges for the next academic year.

And:

For its part, the Government appears to be in denial about the true extent of the crisis. It has identified the universities as a key player in economic revival. There is giddy talk about initiatives which will see thousands of foreign students clamouring for places in our universities; all this when many lecture halls are overcrowded and laboratory facilities are often meagre.

See also this post on science funding and the lack of an Irish Nokia.

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