05 October 2010

The time for waiting is long past

One of the most enduring folk and rock anthems of the last century was Peter Seeger’s adaptation of the Book of Ecclesiastes, recast as ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ Interpreted by the Byrds, it proved a commercial and critical hit. Its lyrics have come to mind these past few days, as it strikes this writer that the time for publishing the strategy for higher education is surely nigh.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down…

Minister Coughlan has had the report of the Hunt Group on her desk for some months now, but in a wearying pattern of government long-fingering has yet to take action in any form on same.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is the countless other initiatives which are happening in the higher education space, without the benefit of the strategic vision for the tertiary sector which surely should be a guiding force in these developments. Thus, we have had the various smart economy announcements, the internationalisation strategy for Irish education, several collaborations announced between higher education institutions, and so on.

Meanwhile, our lecture theatres are creaking at the seams with higher than ever numbers attending third level, but with fewer resources available to meet the disparate needs of a hugely diverse student population.

As noted by Ferdinand von Prondzynski in The Irish Times this morning, we have had no shortage of leaks and speculation, but nothing more substantial or illuminating than early morning fog.

It’s high time that the Government published the heralded strategy; let the stakeholders, students, academics, industry, the country read and discuss it. And when that fateful day does arrive, let its implementation not be a mirror image of the famous OECD review; forgotten, but not gone.

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