|Pictured at the Annual General Meeting of Educate Together in Gorey were; Diarmaid Mac Aonghusa, chairpreson of Educate Together, and Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD, May 28, 2011 |
The Minister for Education
Ruairí Quinn said today that the CAO (Central Applications Office) system needs
to be reviewed to take into account the new profile of Irish third level
a major speech at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin on higher education, the
Minister said the current system was designed around the dominant needs of
full-time, school leaver applicants. He said: "We
have to think in terms of how we manage for a more diverse cohort of students,
with new levels and forms of demand for flexible learning and non-traditional
routes of entry."
Ruairí Quinn said that as a
member of government of a country in effective receivership, "I am all too aware of the scale of the task of restoring
Ireland's economic and social well being. The reality of the public expenditure
corrections that we face is harsh and unpalatable."
He said that unlike our European
neighbours whose populations are ageing, our birth rates are increasing and in
recent years have reached levels not seen since the 19th century.
However, while that demand growth can be seen as a short term cost pressure, it
is also our potential passport to recovery.
The Minister said our future
research investment strategy will be grounded on maintaining a broad base of
knowledge across all disciplines while at the same time selecting priority areas
for concentrated strategic investment. The current national research
prioritisation exercise will be important in giving direction on this. He added:
"In sustaining that broad base of knowledge, I want to
be clear about the expectation that all teaching staff will be research-informed
or research-active and that all researchers will be active in teaching."
Ruairí Quinn said there are
untapped capacities within technology institutes and "I
believe that the creation of a very small number of technological universities
has the potential to release those. But we must be vigilant and ensure that
excellence continues to be the hallmark of our higher education institutions and
of our system of higher education."
"We cannot afford to be influenced by conventional prejudices, territorialism or
institutional ambition for new status without new substance. A technological
university must first and foremost be a university in the quality of its
programmes, teaching and research, albeit one with a quite different mission to
our existing universities."
Quinn said on academic
freedom: "I recognise that some of the recent specific
control measures that have been introduced in the sector create concerns around
future direction in managing that balance between autonomy and accountability.
However, these measures need to be seen as a necessary immediate feature of our
current extraordinary circumstances and should not divert us from the challenge
of striking the right longer term balance in defining an appropriate strategic
He added that the "new
relationship that I envisage will be respectful and collaborative. It will be
consultative and it will be fair; It will recognise the autonomy of
institutions; It will be realistic and it will not make the mistake of pushing
the scale of operations into unsustainable territory by ignoring realistic
resourcing requirements; It will recognise that much of what is truly excellent
and unique in higher education institutions can sometimes be difficult to
capture in numbers, and the need not to put important, perhaps fragile qualities
at risk. But at the same time - it will be and it must be challenging in a way
that we have not seen before."
Higher education funding
remains a critical issue - IBEC
IBEC head of education policy Tony Donohoe said: "The Minister acknowledged
that a knowledge economy needs people who can renew and refresh their skills and
competences over the course of their lives. Therefore business particularly
welcomes his commitment to end the funding discrimination against part-time
“We also welcome his emphasis on the need for higher education to engage with
enterprise and society. There is significant scope to improve how business and
education institutions work together on a range of issues, including knowledge
transfer, joint research projects and the development and provision of employee
education and training.
“However, we are disappointed that the Minister has asked the Higher Education
Authority to undertake further work on developing a model for higher education
funding. Two years ago, the Department of Education and Skills published a
comprehensive report on the different options for a student contribution system.
There is no time for further delay on addressing this issue.
"Students and their families have been faced with significant increases in
student fees without any support system, while universities and institutes of
technology are trying to cope with increased enrolments on an unsustainable
funding model. Ireland needs to broaden its funding base if it wants to meet
demand for education and retain quality,” concluded Donohoe.