The talk of education
Only one issueis dominating discussion in the UCD canteen: Who will succeed Hugh Brady as president?
In a significant development one of the supposed front-runners, Prof Peter Clinch, has signalled he will not be a candidate. Clinch, the vice president for innovation, was a key mover in the UCC/TCD Innovation Alliance and is highly regarded by senior Government figures.
At this stage , the deputy president Mark Rogers and the head of business at UCD, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh are seen as front runners. But Brigid Laffan, the head of human sciences, and Joe Carthy, the dean of science, may also be contenders.
There is always the possibility , of course, that some very strong external candidate may emerge during the exhaustive selection process.
The situation should be clearer after the shortlisted candidates make a presentation to the UCD governing body in April or May .
The selection committee will be chaired by Don Thornhill, the former head of the HEA. Dr Brady’s successor should be known before the summer.
There is growinganger among student teachers about new charges for Irish courses in the Gaeltacht. Students are required to attend a three-week language course in first and second year. In the past, the courses were subsidised but this has been withdrawn, leaving students to pick up the cost, estimated at about €1,500.
A wider question is whether student teachers should be obliged to have a C3 or better in higher-level Irish in the Leaving Cert.
Aodhán Ó Riordáin of the Labour Party says the the requirement for “honours Irish” effectively acts as a barrier to poorer students who aspire to become primary school teachers.
DEIS secondary schools, he says, are rarely in the position to offer higher-level Irish for their students. And poorer families do not have the resources to pay for grinds or to send their children to the Gaeltacht on summer courses. His comments merit discussion.
But who is brave enough to run with them and risk the wrath of the immensely powerful Irish-language lobby?
These are troublingdays for the institutes of technology. Many are unsure how they might emerge from the current reform process at third level.
For some the news is good as they will form part of a new technological university. But what of the others? Will they be left to languish in some kind of second tier?
Three of the institutes are also at the centre of damaging allegations.
Galway-Mayo IT is investigating whether alleged exam cheating was covered up by staff.
Tralee IT is investigating complaints, from 26 academic staff, that the college chairman, Flan Garvey, plagiarised sections of a master’s thesis.
And, in the most serious case, a Department of Education-appointed inspector is investigating alleged financial malpractice at Waterford IT.
When the dust settles, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will have to consider far-reaching reforms in governance at the ITs.
* Twitter @SeanFlynnEd