Saturday, September 02, 2006


Whilst I was away, there was a real stooshie about academic staff being "poached" by UCD from other institutions. In quite a remarkable display of public disunity university Presidents made their feelings about the situation clear. What is most intriguing though would seem to be the lack of appreciation by some, and some commentators in the press, that Irish higher education is a public service and none of the universities are private organisations. We are all effectively public servants and competition within the sector is not necessarily a healthy situation. It might seem that a little can do no harm and keeps people on their toes, however, at the end of the day we are all being funded by the public purse and have a duty to ensure that resources are used effectively for the public good.

Furthermore, the OECD report on the future of Irish higher education has highlighted the potentially precarious situation of small countries in the globalised economy, particularly if education continues to be "commodified." The argument goes that the long term survival of the sector will depend on greater degrees of collaboration and institutions acting in concert with one another on the global stage/in the global marketplace (delete as appropriate to your political standpoint!).

Of course academics will move between institutions and seek out the best options for their own individual career prospects as well as their perceived advantages for progress in research, but the implications of such actions need to be clearly understood, particularly when they might support the growth of one institution at the quite serious expense of others. The Irish Universities Association has been trying to establish an agreed protocol to ensure transparency in this whole area.

In an unrelated story, UCD is also in the press over its treatment of contract staff and a recent ballot has prepared the ground for possible strike action from next week.

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