Dumbing-down will ‘screw up’ economy, Morgan Kelly warns

Education system needs ‘to start failing people again’, says UCD economist

Economist Morgan Kelly has said the "dumbing down" of the Irish education system will "screw up" the Irish economy in the longer term.

He said the quality of the education at University College Dublin, where he is professor of economics, had decreased markedly in recent years. He was speaking to a meeting of the university's economics society on Friday.

Efforts by the educational system to make the Leaving Cert easier in order to facilitate students who found it difficult, had resulted in children coming to university without a belief they could learn.

Prof Kelly said the international evidence was that “dumbing down” and making fewer demands on students resulted in their learning less.


He said that while UCD had almost no administrators 15 years ago, it now had two for every academic.

The number of academics at UCD had fallen by 20 per cent between 2007 and 2011, resulting in many of the university’s best people being lost.

He said that in the department of economics, some who left had done so to take up higher-level positions elsewhere.

He said the education system needed to start making bigger demands of students and “to start failing people again”.

The university was not being run to provide education, in much the same way the Health Service Executive was not being run to provide health services, he said.

The “big breakthrough” for the administrators would be the introduction of student loans, because then they could raise the fees universities charged.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent