Why I blog

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 aUniversity Club”.

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3 thoughts on “Why I blog

  1. I know where you’re coming from! I believe that universities have taken on far more than they should. I don’t think we should have degrees in actuarial mathematics, nursing, accountancy, law etc., i.e. in those disciplines that used to taught via an apprenticeship model.
    However I do think that universities are an integral part of our culture. I think our society and individuals need learning. They need knowledge of history, of literature, of science, even of music, religion and philosophy. But learning is hard and without universities, few people would bother educating themselves in disciplines that aren’t obviously vocational. Knowledge of non-vocational subjects informs so much of our lives, from the books we read to the music we listen to, to the shows we watch on Netflix, to how we interpret world events. How can anyone make sense of Brexit unless they have some understanding of the second world war and the history of the British Empire?
    We need educated people in our society and without formal higher education, I don’t think we’d have the critical mass of people required to ensure that our societies develop as they have.

    Like

    1. The only binge-watchable series, a brief course in how to learn from old man Hamming. From the perspective of a mathematician, -come maths physicist, -come computing specialist. This intro is general enough for all disciplines.

      Opinions one wont hear from the educational bureaucracy.

      Like

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