A loss of nerve at third-level institutions?

Sir, – Mary Minihan's interview with Prof Louise Richardson continues on the indisputable theme of under-funding for the third-level sector ("Oxford academic blames poor funding for Irish universities' rankings slide", May 8th). However, what may be of equal importance and under-reported is the "loss of nerve" by academics teaching at third level. Increasingly, academic staff are facing students who are disinterested, unsuited and perhaps not mature enough for a third level education. Evidence shows that nine out of ten students are spending up to 20 hours a week working to earn money, compared with just over half working more than 11 hours a week in 2012. Due to the pressure to retain students (funding is now related to retention) the idea of failing a student who is not meeting a standard is regarded as "not worth the hassle". Indeed even the word "fail" has been replaced with a more sanitised term, "referred".

Any academic working in the sector today will support the view that “standards”, “quality” and “excellence” are rarely on the agenda. Many see quality assurance procedures as nothing but a bureaucratic “check-box ticking” exercise there to satisfy a government or management requirement.

Education is now clearly regarded as an activity there to service the economy and a vehicle for the monetary enrichment of the consumer. The (romantic) idea that education is about giving students a facility to critically engage with, and reflect on knowledge or ideas and to think creatively, is regrettably, a distant dream to many working in the sector today. – Yours, etc,



Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Dublin 2.