CGHE Seminar 47

Commercial realities and ethical discomfort – the market in higher education in Ireland

  • Thursday, 23 Mar 2017 12:30 - 14:00
  • Room 418, UCL Institute of Education
  • Tom Collins, Technological University for Dublin

This presentation will explore the evolution of Irish higher education in the context of a growing – if largely silent – consensus at governmental level that the state can no longer afford to fund higher education. Universities are, therefore, expected to explore new funding avenues as costs are increasingly shifted onto the student and the international student market is plumbed for additional revenue.

Following the Aristotelian observation that when the primary object of an action is subverted by the secondary one of making money, Professor Collins will argue the case for ongoing public spending on higher education. He will argue that only in this way can we protect the ethical integrity of the university and buttress its social purpose.

The presentation will propose that where commercial considerations come to drive the academic programming and ideological positioning of the university, they can present the most fundamental challenges to the underpinning philosophical precepts of higher education.

The existential imperative of the university around academic freedom, freedom of expression and of speaking truth to power in the interrogation of orthodoxy can be jeopardised. Ultimately, the authenticity and integrity of the institution and its sense of agency and self-worth become exposed; a corporate culture becomes pre-eminent and the academic voice becomes increasingly distant from the centre of the institution.

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Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Professor Tom Collins is currently Chair of the Governing Body of DIT, of IT Blanchardstown and of IT Tallaght. He previously worked at Maynooth University: as Head of Education (2006-2011), Dean of Teaching and Learning (between 2008 and 2011) and interim President-Vice Chancellor (from 2010-2011). Professor Collins has been an active player in the evolution of Irish education policy at all levels for the past two decades. He was special government advisor in the development and publication of Ireland’s only White Paper on lifelong learning, Learning For Life, in 2000.

His scholarship, publications and other professional work throughout his career have focused on the links between educational underachievement and background disadvantages and he has led multiple initiatives in enhancing educational access to groups hitherto under-represented in higher education in Ireland.

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