Science ‘woefully underrepresented’, economic forum told

Country has too many universities, Glen Dimplex chairman says

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller criticised the notion that in Ireland, everything but a university education is seen as inferior. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller criticised the notion that in Ireland, everything but a university education is seen as inferior. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 11:22


Ireland needs a more disruptive approach to education with science “woefully underrepresented” in the country, the Global Irish Economic Forum has heard.

Bringing the recommendations of a number of working groups at the forum, Glen Dimplex chairman and chief executive Seán O’Driscoll said Ireland needed to redefine the role Institutes of Technology play in education, adding the country had too many universities.

“We have too many universities and we need to pick the winners and the losers.”

“We need to redefine the role of ITs. They should not be quasi-universities. ITs should be about apprenticeships and internships.”

Transition Year programme
Mr O’Driscoll said the Transition Year programme needed to be redefined at second-level. “What is it – a holiday or a life-changing experience in one’s life? There needs to be disruptive reform in the education sector.”

Comedian Dara Ó Briain won the support of Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at the final plenary session of the forum, giving the recommendations of a technology working group, which he chaired.

Mr Ó Briain said science was “woefully underrepresented in Ireland” and called for tuition to be made more available in schools.

He proposed initiatives such as national inventor of the year award for younger age groups, adding there was a need to free up intellectual property licences held by Irish universities.

Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller criticised the notion that in Ireland, everything but a university education is seen as inferior.

Non-academic education
“We have to promote non-academic education as something equal to academic training, if not better.”

He said colleges such as the Institutes of Technology are often seen as places for people who didn’t get into university, a view that needs to be moved away from.

“We need to incentivise employers to offer apprenticeships and internships. Irish graduates are not necessarily fit for their jobs. There should be on-the-job training as part of academic education.”

Natus managing director and co-founder of the Farmleigh Fellowship, Fred Combe, said almost 20,000 international students came to Ireland to study every year, but said nearly all of them left straight after.

He said visa extensions should be given to entrepreneurial students from abroad to encourage them to set up businesses here.

President of the Irish Technology Leadership Group John Hartnett said Ireland was very good at creating start-ups, but added there needed to be a bigger focus on scaling companies, so the country can have its own tech companies as big as Facebook and Twitter.