Universities and the idea of a university are taking a bit of a beating recently. Not just here on the island – where there’s a not-unreasonable case to be made that both have long fallen into the area of the conveniently unexamined – but more broadly. Miliband is leading a well-strategized and far-reaching disassembling over the water. Germany has seen recently a series of upheavals in its universities that go to the root of how that country sees and practices higher education, and indeed the idea of education itself. And France is in the throes of repositioning the university and grande ecoles in relation with the state.
Like others, I’ve been trying to make some sense of it all. It’s difficult however to do so when things keep moving around you in the day job. So in that most academic of traditions, I’ve signed up for a symposium. Call it focussing what’s left of the mind. My hope is that they’ll give me some space to talk to what I’m seeing around me in the Irish university; growing nervousness, badly conceived repurposing, rampant corporatism, and a level of political interference that gives real pause for thought. In short, encroachment on the university on a scale we haven’t seen in Europe since the 1930s. Additionally, it will be good to sit-in on a conversation around higher education and what it can do for us. In Galway. In the early summer.