March 24th, 2009: Revolutionising Education

The announcement that the country’s two largest universities, UCD and Trinity College are to merge to form an ‘innovation alliance’ has been met with wideranging criticism in the past week. Staff members feel that they have, yet again, been left in the dark about the direction of the university, with IFUT General Secretary, Mike Jennings, describing the manner in which the deal was completed as “quite disturbing”.As clear details of what exactly this merger will entail have not yet emerged, it appears that the university is maintaining the secretive manner in which it conducted its negociations with Trinity College. By sticking closely to a single statement issued by UCD President, Dr Brady last week, staff would be forgiven for believing that the university would rather make decisions now and consult later.The motives behind this alliance can be broken down to simply a battle for survival of the fittest. Of course an alliance will benefit both UCD and Trinity College far more if they choose to stand together as opposed to competiting for Government funding against one another.Ireland needs to produce a first-class knowledge economy if it is to compete on a global scale and this innovation alliance may be the most efficient way of pooling the resources of the two largest universities in order to produce the highest number of qualified graduates possible.However to conduct these negotiations without any consultation with their peers serves only to taint the possible success that may spring from the alliance. The universities have once again moved to alienate themselves from not only staff and students, who have called for a more open, accessible system of governance, but now also from the universities across the country.If Trinity and UCD can see the wide-ranging benefits of working together, it would appear that they can see advantages of forming partnerships with those universities that they appear to have ignored.Establishing a strong working relationship with the university’s former competitor is a brave move and, if manipulated correctly, stands to yield outstanding results. Both UCD and Trinity College should be praised for this, however the negative manner in which they conducted this affair overshadows their grand ambitions.

Protecting our students

A recent clerical mistake by the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems led to a group of students, who were on a work placement in hospitals, not being notified about their need to ensure that they are protected against mumps.The university has seen approximately 60 reported cases of the virus since the start of the second semester and has warned students to ensure that they are either vaccinated against the virus or to receive a booster vaccination at the Student Health Service.The fact that students, in particular those working with patients in hospitals, were not contacted and encouraged to ensure that they are protected is embarrassing for the university however a statement from a staff number that only “priority students” were contacted and that those on work placements are not considered to be ‘priority’ cases serves only to add to a mess which could have been easily cleared up.The Student Health Service is already working under enormous pressure and the additional clinics that they provided just to ensure the student body were protected against the outbreak of mumps should have been advertised further by both the university and the Students’ Union.For such a simple mistake that could have far-reaching consequences, a little more assistance could go a long way.