Third level education in Ireland a problem according to professor

Postgraduate degrees available in Ireland are of a weak standard compared to those offered elsewhere, a top Irish professor has said.

Delivering an address as part of the Seamus Heaney Lecture Series in St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra on Monday February 25th, Professor Kevin Whelan of Notre Dame University said Irish universities need to “massively up their game” when it comes to teaching standards.

The Wexford native’s lecture, entitled “Ireland in 2030: Emerging from the Rubble”, centred on the importance of education, as well as culture and the economy in shaping the country’s future.

Addressing pressing issues in education, Whelan said that while Ireland does primary and secondary education very well, we do not fare so well when it comes to third level education.

According to the Professor, “how we think about our education system needs a more mature debate”. He described the absence of educationalists in the current debate on the Irish education system as “disgraceful”, adding that Irish third-level institutions “need to be leading the debate, not allowing media people… to set the agenda”.

Ireland has the highest concentration of 15-24 year olds with a third-level qualification across all of Europe.  Although this situation is partly an outcome of the abolition of third-level tuition fees in 1995, Professor Whelan is not wholly convinced this move benefited the Irish education sector. He believes upper-middle class parents simply put the money that would have gone on college fees into sending their children to private fee-paying secondary schools.

“Secondary education in Ireland is as much about delivering social class as it is about delivering educational outcomes”, he said.

Professor Whelan is optimistic that Dublin and Ireland will thrive economically in the future. He said both have high populations of knowledge-based workers and are tolerant and open-minded communities.

Sarah Bermingham

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