The Conference of Heads of Irish Universities [C.H.I.U.], at a recent Council meeting considered the Terms of Reference for the OECD Review of Higher Education in Ireland announced by the Minister for Education and Science, Mr. Noel Dempsey, T.D. The Council welcomes the Review as a positive and constructive initiative taken by the Government and the universities will co-operate fully with the Review.
C.H.I.U. is particularly encouraged that the context set for the review by the Minister is “Ireland’s strategic objective of placing its higher education system in the top rank of the OECD in terms of both quality and levels of participation and by the priority to create a world class research, development and innovative capacity and infrastructure in Ireland”. In the light of the inadequate state funding of Irish universities, C.H.I.U. considers that it is vital the Review Team would pay special attention to the requirement on it to examine potential approaches to the future resourcing of the higher education sector that can best enable achievement of this stated Government strategic objective. Achieving and sustaining top OECD ranking will require consistent competitive levels of investment and at a minimum, addressing immediately the current cutbacks in higher education funding.
Noting the under-representation of academics and educationists in the membership of the Review Team, the university Heads warned against a utilitarian approach being taken in the review and said that it was vital that the review take full account of the recognition given in the Terms of Reference to “the need to ensure that the higher education sector can fulfil the transcending roles of developing students to their full potential and pursuing knowledge for its own sake while being open and flexible in meeting an increasing diversity of needs and demands…”
C.H.I.U. Council confirmed its commitment to promoting greater inter-institutional collaboration in developing consistently high quality and standards, and its readiness to work closely with the Review Team in advancing this and other matters included in the Review’s Terms of Reference.
C.H.I.U. noted the Minister’s statement that the review would be an inclusive one and in this regard urged that the consultative process adopted by the Review Team provide for a country-wide series of open fora and not be confined to the one national seminar proposed. The University Heads were strongly of the view that the review process would be enhanced by providing accessible opportunities for interested parties to debate openly key higher education sector issues which would impact on the country’s economic, social and cultural development as comprehended by the Review Team’s Terms of Reference.