As of now my last two blogs are at number 1 and number 2 on the wonderful http://9thlevel.ie/.
In the first blog I suggested that quality reviews had a fundamental weakness in that many of the proposals made by review panels were based on ideology or opinion rather than evidence. In the second I suggested that universities needed to be a lot more transparent about how they spend their money before running to the government for more funding. And I suggested that there was a lot of cynicism among ‘ordinary’ academics about priorities in the modern university.
Both of these blogs posts are likely to have been received badly by senior and middle management in many of the universities. But here’s the thing: I don’t care.
Education is important to me, more important that advancing up the academic ladder. Anyway, I think there is little chance of that at this stage – my research track record isn’t good enough. I’m a journeyman in that regard.
Without wishing to get too personal, education saved my life – literally. Education is more than training. It’s about more than gaining “skills” despite the fact that curriculum designers and educationalists at all levels of the system seem to think so.
Education is about gaining the knowledge and the wisdom to live an enlightened and informed life – and a happy one; and of course it’s about laying the foundations for a rewarding career. That cannot be denied.
Education represents the very purpose of our universities. Even the person in the street believes and knows this. Of course the more a university can do for society the better but not if it’s at the expense of its education mission. It is through education that higher level institutions can best serve society.
If universities prioritize other activities, including research, over education, then they are betraying their students – especially their undergraduates may of whose parents will have made huge financial sacrifices to be able to provide for the education of their sons and daughters. It’s that simple.
As places of learning and research, universities should adopt policies that are evidenced-based. So quality reviewers and extern examiners should be challenged rigorously even if to do so might be somewhat controversial. And teaching innovations, even if they have to potential to increase the profile of an institution, and to gain funding from major corporations, should always be informed by evidence. If they are not, they should be rigorously challenged even from within. I can think of a few such innovations but I have my limits; I’m not inclined to commit career suicide.
Anyway, its for reasons like these that I blog.
This blog post was inspired by UCD’s decision to spend €14m on a “University Club”.