DCU group calls for university reform

A group of academics in Dublin City University (DCU) have initiated a campaign, Defence of Irish Universities (DIU), which endeavours to combat what it perceives as massive under-funding combined with commercialisation and managerialism within third-level education.

Its instigator, Professor Ronaldo Munck, has formulated a concise ten-point agenda that will be proposed to the Irish government, boosted by a public petition. The initiative will be publically launched on November 25th. It seeks to bridge the current gulf in the Irish university system, stressing the “importance of academic freedom over a fear-driven consensus, creativity over blind compliance and collegiality over managerialism.”

The DIU campaign is endorsed by SIPTU, which represents university academic staff nationwide. Another party involved is the Irish Federation of University Teachers, who denounced the “reckless endangerment” of Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn’s proposed financial measures for 2014. The government has, however, said that the cuts are vital to economic sustainability.

Students, meanwhile, have also established resistance movements condemning educational austerity. DIU is encouraging as many students as possible to sanction the movement and support its appeal for educational reform.

The campaign targets  every level of the university chain as “the arguments put forward here are of direct relevance to the lives of all of us engaged in academia and of relevance to the kind of society we wish to live in, in the future.”

This political movement condemns the Irish government’s shifting economic approach to university funding, which the campaign believes has altered Ireland’s fundamental principles of education.

DIU aspires to redefine the “aim of teaching as the dissemination of knowledge and the fostering of creativity” coinciding with their desire to safeguard university as a “dignified and collegial workplace free of surveillance and control and the arbitrary degradation of working conditions.”

According to the organisation’s manifesto, however, its primary focus is to reaffirm “students as the lifeblood of the university, and the next generation of enlightened and humane citizens.” Those in opposition of the campaign have defended the universities institutional structures, endorsing the managerial benefits rather than the hindrances of the education process.

UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) President Mícheál Gallagher stressed a need for universities to preserve a level of professionalism. “While I agree with the sentiment that Irish students are not just consumers in the university process, it is important that Irish university management teams retain their professionalism.”

He continued, “A respect for academic freedom, proper funding of universities and oversight and scrutiny of work and teaching carried out are not mutually exclusive. It is important for student, academics and society at large that we have both points of view considered and implemented thoughtfully and correctly in the Irish university system.”