Sir, – The RTÉ Investigates: Universities Unchallenged programme broadcast on May 25th has raised serious questions about universities’ financial governance and oversight procedures.
Where there have been conflicts of interests, abuses of power and incomplete disclosures the relevant institutions and people must of course be held responsible.
Looking at the broader picture, there certainly is a systemic risk if governing bodies have to reach decisions mainly based on information and interpretation provided by senior management (a risk that – as supervisory boards of banks and car manufacturers have demonstrated – is not restricted to public institutions); that is why a healthy complement of staff representatives that can provide alternative bottom-up views is very important.
But as a lecturer I am particularly concerned about two things: first the potential further corporatisation of universities via the creation of additional managerial tiers and high-level positions (which is what I suspect will now happen in Limerick). This will cost a lot of money yet won’t necessarily be effective as it creates as many new potential risks as it tackles.
I also worry about the programme’s implicit drive towards more political control of what happens at universities in general.
The use of public funding has to be documented and justified, of course, and misuses have to be uncovered and punished. But the other side of the coin is that universities all over the world are currently struggling for their autonomy against attempts to determine what they teach and research, and to turn them into providers of a streamlined, narrowly educated, uncritical workforce.
We need the freedom to investigate things like the causes and consequences of economic crashes or climate change, and in doing so criticise those in power, at all levels. – Yours, etc,
DR WOLFGANG MARX,
on UCD’s Governing
UCD School of Music,