Thursday, January 21, 2010

Goodbye To The National University

Money is tight in Ireland and difficult decisions have to be made. Savings must be found and realized.

That being the case, the National University of Ireland will have to go.

The body was founded a century ago to oversee doctoral degree programs at Ireland's universities. It was, in essence, a bureaucracy that tended to its little niche in higher education, approving courses of study at University College Dublin or Maynooth or Galway, while lower education ran along its own track.

At a potential savings of a couple of million euros, it's been determined that the individual universities can oversee their own Ph.D.s, using existing office space and staff. They can pay the bills from their own coffers, hire and fire, and all the rest.

The fifteen people who were employed by NUI will thus be made redundant.

Naturally, those fifteen people are lobbying to hang on to their jobs, with the Chancellor leading the call. In Dr. Maurice Manning's eyes, to dismantle his bureaucracy would be to dismantle a national brand. Higher education in Ireland would fall to pieces without NUI to manage things.

For the past hundred years, the universities haven't been involved, so they'll be starting from scratch, and won't that be a disaster in the making?

Not if you ask the presidents of University College Dublin or Trinity College. They see NUI as a drag on their own efforts to create a highly marketable brand, and they'd be happy to see the back of Dr. Manning as he walks out the door.

Dr. Manning is wishing that the final decision will be delayed until there is a change in government, in the hope that Fine Gael will win the next election and spare NUI. Unfortunately, it makes no difference who is in government. There is no money.

Two university presidents are in favor of a cost-cutting deal that will save some taxpayer cash when it is all about trimming anything resembling fat. They believe they can get to where Dr. Manning would like the nation`s universities to be, but without Dr. Manning and his fiefdom. Hard to argue with money when it speaks with a loud voice.


Anonymous said...

Methinks the import of Manning's statement about a potential change of Government is that, as a FG grandee, he has extracted a promise from his former colleagues. In any event, the decision was not made on financial grounds, as some other body will have to perform the NUI functions. Your post makes little sense in the circumstances.

O hAnnrachainn said...

It's what Barry O'Callaghan refers to as "synergies". Two existing employees can do the job of three, creating a redundancy which equals a cost savings.

As I see it, the idea is to eliminate the NUI and have its functions devolve to admissions and curriculum departments within the universities. Offices already exist, personnel are on site, and fixed expenses are covered.

I suspect that those in favor of the dissolution are looking at the American model. Each university acts independently, sets curriculum at all levels, and churns out both undergraduates and graduate degree holders.