Third level students are being ‘commercialised’

Growing concern among academics over the market-driven direction of the education system

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Speaking at a gathering of student and academics last week Mary Gallagher, an associate professor of French at UCD was quoted as saying that University education is, “a confidence trick and a scam”, in an Irish Times article last week.

Speaking to The Edition, Gallagher said that she believed the article, which quoted several academics from different colleges was “not going to do justice to their thought”, but she was pleased that her words were quoted at all.

“It’s better for the message to get out in a soundbite than not to get out at all,” she said.

Gallagher’s words stem from her belief that “higher education has been turned into a lucrative trade in proxies: first in the US and the UK”, saying that “higher education is a public good”, and that students should not be commercialised as they are within the current system.

Gallagher has also said that her position and beliefs have been under-represented, or even misquoted, in other publications.

Other academics present at the talks such as Dr Brendan Walsh, lecturer of education at DCU, spoke to The Edition, saying “it’s a vital area for students to be informed about”.

He echoed Gallagher’s concern for the lack of engagement of students with the issue.

Dr Walsh’s book ‘Degrees of Nonsense’ was written in criticism of the current system, as was professor Gallagher’s ‘Academic Armageddon: An Irish Requiem for Higher Education’.

Gallagher spoke about the dangers involved in attempting to simplify this problem, saying the idea that students have been ‘commercialised’ cannot be summed up one newspaper article, especially “if it takes somebody an entire sole-authored book to explain the complex problem”.

‘Ninth Level Ireland’, a blog run by academic lawyer Steve Hedley, has been posting articles in connection to this growing concern among university academics.

An increase in media coverage condemning the current system would suggest that academics are pre-empting an overhaul of the system which would take away from the values which professor Gallagher outlined.

This growing concern could be in connection to the proposed amalgamations of Institutes of Technology into larger Technological Universities. Given that such a decision has been seen by many as driven by a ‘market focus’, it would be no surprise that academics are speaking out in concern for the future of their universities.