Michael Shattock focused his talk on the coming period of 'austerity' and asked us to think about its likely impact on HE and what appropriate decision and policies need to be in place to ensure that a system that we recognise and value emerges from the troubled times. Having chaired the OECD report on Irish universities in 2003, the audience were keen to hear his views both on this and on the wider international picture of HE today. Issues that were of particular interest to an Irish audience include the thorny question of fees and there are strong opinions often voiced on both sides of that particular debate. Michael covered this in his talk by emphasising the aspect of the decisions that need to be made at both an institutional and a sectoral level with regards income as we approach a new period of austerity and also in the context of global comparisons.
International reputation, league tables and their impact, the private sector's inroads into HE provision in a number of countries and competition versus collaboration all figured in the discussion. One respondent asking about optimal size of institutions and greater cooperation within a small country such as Ireland. Kathleen Lynch (who spoke the next morning) asked whether the picture painted of the lack of progress in widening participation (in terms of socio-economic groups) was actually relevant to Ireland, where she claimed significant progress had begun to be made as can be seen in more recent statistics. Certainly, there was a huge amount of discussion generated after the presentation on so many aspects of the current international context and the options open to Irish institutions. Many participants were very keen to hear Michael's perspective on a range of topics and issues. So if you were unable to attend the event, you can watch and listen to his presentation at the link below (uses Flash, don't worry about the 'download' indicator moving slowly, the video starts playing when it reaches 10%!!).
View his presentation here.