Call for fewer universities


Former European commissioner Peter Sutherland has called for the number of universities in the State to be reduced in a bid to ensure educational standards.

Mr Sutherland said it was not feasible to have seven universities at world-class research, education and training levels here and added that human resource policies for third level staff needed to be reformed to retain talented, but highly mobile staff.

“Our universities must have the flexibility to differentially reward their best performers, to incentivise those who are willing to take on academic leadership positions and the flexibility to recruit, reward and terminate contracts.” He said this was the norm in the UK and the US.

Addressing the Undergraduate Awards of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin today, Mr Sutherland said Ireland had “famously failed to grasp many nettles when the OECD was asked to perform a similar job almost five years ago.”

“To avoid the difficult issues and put off the hard decisions twice in five years would be both irresponsible and damaging to Ireland’s International credibility,” he said.

Mr Sutherland, who is chairman of the London School of Economics, said he had “some insight into the cost of running third level institutions and the ferocity of the competition” and on this basis could not see how the State could afford to run seven universities.

“It is essential we achieve a level of excellence in education to compete in the modern world. I have no doubt of the quality of the raw material: young Irish people [to] make a profound impression abroad.”