Sunday 4 December 2016

In my opinion: There's no place for class bias in tech-universities

Thomas O'Toole

Published 26/01/2011 | 05:00

The Hunt Report provides scope for the development of Technological Universities in Ireland. These universities would provide Ireland with the opportunity to compete more effectively in a world characterised by innovation.

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The technological university beckons us back to the ideals of the university -- leading challenge and change through the creation of knowledge.

Newer universities could provide a major underpinning for Ireland to lead in developments in the indigenous sense rather than solely lead wealth creation for other countries. They will also be essential to embed foreign multinationals here.

We have a challenge with the low uptake of science and maths. Technological universities can address this by being at the heart of the creation of knowledge.

Then, rather than being seen as fodder for an industrial complex, young people will see the chance to be part of its creation.

Many technological-focused universities feature in global rankings. They are usually characterised by strong linkage between research programmes and society in general.

Technological universities are inclusive institutions. Involving partners doesn't need elaborate state funding as is the case in Ireland.

From the simplest work placement of a student to the solving of complex scientific problems and the co-creation of knowledge, all are part of the technological university's operation.

In post-crisis Ireland, it is time to move our education system away from notions of class and create equal opportunity for all. Snobbery has enabled an undesirable class bias in college choice. If we create institutions with equal ability to compete, we will remedy this.

Vibrant and forward thinking, work-ready graduates of technological universities can make equal citizens of many and perhaps contribute to the notion of 'better' being based on achievement rather than on class-based notions.

These class-based decisions contribute to the elitism that is ruinous to the short-term prospects of our country. Diversity of ideas and modalities is more important than ever in Ireland.

The Hunt Report provides a mainly limited vision for a technological university. However, when Ireland needs vision, perhaps education can realise something excellent and new.

Dr Thomas O'Toole is Dean of the School of Business at Waterford Institute of Technology.

Irish Independent

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