Saturday, September 29, 2007


As you can see by the dates, I've been somewhat distracted of late. However, I am planning a modest relaunch of this particular blog in early October so thanks for you patience.

There have of course been lots of interesting developments in HE since I last posted and not just at the local and national levels. So to keep up to date, I'll be scheduling a weekly post session, most probably every Friday.

Here in Ireland, the thing that's been keeping many of us busy in the last few weeks and will continue to so do until Oct 19th, is the recent call for proposals under the Higher Education Authority's Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF 2). With millions of euros available, creativity and innovation is indeed stimulated. However, the scheme demands exact matched funds (euro for euro), long term sustainability, multi-institutional partnerships, all of which actually severely constrain the options. Indeed given the first two in particular, it is likely that the extent to which projects are radical innovations will be limited. A system which demands equal matched funds from existing institutional resources has an intrinsic inbuilt bias against radical new departures. Nevertheless, some of us see such constraints as an interesting challenge and we'll see what emerges!

A number of conferences are beginning to appear in the calendar also with the IUQB event in Galway on October 12th and 13th (yes that is a Friday and Saturday!) on "Institutional Research: benefiting the student experience and university performance". IUQB are also joint sponsors of an event in November with NAIRTL (the National Academy for the Integration of Research, Teaching & Learning), of which, more later.

This week's Times Higher has some interesting reports including one on the continuing trend in some institutions to push academic staff into noisy open plan offices and now, the latest take on this, to even deny them a desk at all. Coventry is asking staff to work at home, on the bus or in cafes - anywhere but on campus, where space is a premium.

The New Yorker website has posted up videos from the presentations at its Conference earlier this summer. In this example, Malcolm Gladwell speculates on the nature of 'genius' and reiterates the 10,000 hour finding (if you work on something for 10,000 hours then you achieve complete mastery) that argues that the distinction between experts and novices is purely down to the sheer amount of practice and effort put in by the latter over the years. Old news, but repackaging for a new audience is I suppose the skill of such popular writers.

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