By Alex Court | Nov 18 2008THE MINISTER for Education, Batt O’Keeffe, has been criticised for not understanding the needs of Ireland’s universities. President of Dublin City University (DCU), Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski has recently argued that Mr O’Keeffe doesn’t properly understand the needs of universities and that the new roles that universities must play are not being recognised by politicians.Prof. von Pronyzynski said that some politicians see the primary role of universities to be teaching, whereas he feels that today, universities need to be involved in a country’s economic development by bringing investment from overseas, as well as being cultural centres.Prof. von Prondzynski mentioned that Minister O’Keeffe had announced that all higher education institutions would be reviewed to judge whether they were providing value for money and adequately conducting their core mission. This, he stated, provided some evidence that politicians treated universities as if they were more advanced secondary schools and expressed that this was an unsustainable position that would cost the State dearly.Commenting that universities are now also expected to achieve their goals while also helping to tackle structural poverty by assisting disadvantaged members of society, Prof. von Prondzynski explained that these new criteria were not included in universities when Ireland was poorer and this change needs to be recognised financially.Prof von Prondzynski went as far as to question whether the Ministry for Education and Science is the right place in government for higher education and suggested that he has lost all confidence in the current governing ministry. Highlighting funding for research as a major problem, Prof. von Prondzysnki believes that Ireland will lose out if they aren’t able to afford to conduct crucial research and compete on an international level.He said the knowledge-intensive industry will draw the most investment and Ireland needs to be in a position to secure some of those opportunities, relaying his opinion that it won’t if current trends continue.Minister O’Keeffe has defended himself, stating that he recognises the importance of the third-level sector and highlighted their investment of €2 billion, which represented an increase of 33 per cent since 2004. He revealed that over €865 million has been invested in improving research capabilities and boost Ireland’s international reputation. Minister O’Keeffe will also be presenting a national strategy for higher education funding covering the next 20 years.