Colleges In Ireland For International Students - Why Ireland needs to create a single super university Radical solutions are needed to stop Irish colleges slipping down global rankings
Many international experts say Irish universities such as Trinity College Dublin must face reality.
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Presidents of Irish universities lamented their international standing and collectively called on the Minister for Education to increase their funding, to allow them to rise again to global standing.
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The education minister replied – give your students marketable skills and produce entrepreneurs with patents from your expensive science, technology and engineering labs.
Our investment in universities and institutes of technology, particularly in research and science initiatives, is consistent with similar initiatives in other OECD countries.
The race to restore the preeminence of German universities that ended in the early 1930s began in 2005 with 140 competitors. As of 2012, eleven universities have achieved elite status. Despite political lobbying, eight of its 16 federal states, each the size of Ireland, have no elite universities.
If you divide Germany's population by the number of elite universities, it comes to about 7.5 million people per top-tier university.
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If Ireland had been part of Germany, it would not have been able to support a single elite university. With 4.5 million people and nine universities, our ratio is 0.5 million people per university, we have a huge mismatch between reality and wishful thinking. Instead of lobbying for the impossible, what should Irish university presidents do?
The Sorbonne - the old university of Paris - was divided into 13 universities after the student riots of May 1968. They are invisible in the global Anglophone world because of language and size.
PSL Paris - Quartier Latin (2011), has produced eight "new" research universities with an international approach followed a year or two later by USPC Sorbonne, SUPER-Sorbonne, and University of Paris-Saclay.
That's one "new" institution for every three million people in the Greater Paris area, and one for every six to eight million people in the four regional centres.
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This "new" marginal cost French university is a collegiate structure that incorporates existing institutions, benefiting from respect and their distinct traditions.
The mismatch between Irish aspirations and international reality is once again evident. It's a Hobson's choice for Ireland: a world-class institution of higher education and research, or nothing. Due to the size of our population, there is no other option.
Friends from our small country have already decided on an international champion: Karolinska Medical University, Sweden (population: 10 million) which awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; ETH-Zürich, Albert Einstein's alma mater in Switzerland (8 million); Israel's Institute of Technology (8 million), and the National University of Singapore (five million). It is our benchmark competitor for foreign direct investment.
The size of the population base for each international champion is important not only for the supply of grants, fees, contracts and grants, but also for the supply of excellent and highly motivated students.
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Although there is an element of competition in research programs at third level institutions or Science Foundation Ireland's investment in Irish colleges, the latest figures show that each institution receives its fair share of funding.
This is evidenced by the absence of political controversy and the continued unity of Irish university heads. All of them have achieved international visibility in one or more areas of excellence.
We can build on this achievement. Our Higher Education Authority policy rejects mergers by political fiat, praises spontaneous alliances and calls for regional clusters and "other formal relationships with respect to specific subjects".
They talk about "system level", but not about international champions. The authorities have failed to recognize the importance of scale, and the need to have only one internationally visible structure for Irish universities and institutes of technology in proportion to our population.
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The only step for Ireland to avoid further decline in world rankings is to create a new "International University of Ireland".
It can be a world-class research university made up of an exclusively international component that can be seen in all our existing institutions, and a very flexible and dynamic way at a low cost using joint academic appointments, joint facilities and joint student registration.
The "new" French collegiate university offers elements of the model. PSL - Paris Sciences et Lettres - Quartier Latin brings together 19 autonomous institutions that have contributed 11 Nobel Prizes. Its 18,000 students make it comparable to Trinity College Dublin or University College Cork, but six times the population.
An Irish international university with a population base comparable to the PSL, in an all-Ireland structure, could claim 10 Nobel laureates, four in literature, five in peace and one in physics.
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There has been no reduction in the cooperation of participating organizations in PSL. The pinnacle of the 24 academic and performing arts institutions partnering with the PSL is the Collège de France, founded in 1530. It has no student enrollment and does not award degrees. Attendance is free and open to all. The women and men who hold its 47 chairs (2016) conduct world-class research and inform the world through an impressive website. PSL is not a merger; It is a collegial structure comparable to Oxford or Cambridge.
We have many Irish examples of joint degree programmes, joint facilities and jointly appointed staff, within and between existing third-level institutions, at home and abroad.
An Irish version of what they have done in Germany, France and elsewhere could be launched immediately by awarding research professorships to all internationally visible staff, and paying for one day per week of "outside work" at the new university.
In other words, they can be offered a fixed-term joint assignment of marginal cost when it exceeds the appropriate international benchmark. They retain their appointments, duties and privileges in their home institutions.
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A proposed innovation of the International University of Ireland is the alignment of selected joint activities with the metrics of international rating agencies. This requires a new collegial structure covering all nine universities and institutes of technology.
It has to control a huge budget or it won't work. History from the National University of Ireland provides guidance on what not to do.
Government funding has decreased. There has been a significant increase in the number of students. Lecture halls, laboratories and libraries are overcrowded. Staff numbers remain stable due to recruitment restrictions.
So it's no surprise that our flagship universities - Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin - have slipped down the international rankings, prompting much soul-searching.
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Many international experts say that Irish universities must face reality and consolidate or merge faculties altogether if they want to return to the top.
Ames McGuinness, a policy adviser at the Institute of Higher Education in America, said Ireland needed a limited number of universities and "needed to be realistic about what the Irish people and economy could do".
Professor Fahey, a former university vice-chancellor who heads Ernst & Young's education department in Australia, said Australia had to address a number of "sacred cows" as part of its reforms.
It assesses how many world-class universities a country the size of Australia "could realistically continue to support". Over the past 10 years there has been a major consolidation of higher education in Australia.
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Although UCD and Trinity College Dublin have entered into new research collaborations, the two universities have strongly opposed the merger, which was proposed in 2012 by an expert group chaired by Dutch academic Frans van Woot.
The report said the UCD-TCD merger would provide the combined college with the critical mass and expertise needed to secure its place among the world's best universities.
Its conclusions were more radical than the National Strategy for Higher Education (Hunt Report) published a year earlier.
It supports the maintenance of existing universities and the establishment of new technical universities formed by the merger of various IT.
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