Mar 24, 2011

Candidates clash with IUA

Tom Lowe, Editor & Rónán Burtenshaw, Deputy News Editor

Former Vice Provost/Chief Academic Officer and Provostial candidate Patrick Prendergast has sent mixed messages on whether he would advocate disaffiliating with the Irish Universities Association in light of information uncovered by The University Times which showed that Trinity contributes an annual subscription of €256,000 to the organisation. (Full report)


In an interview with The University Times about the IUA and its funding, Prof. Prendergast attacked the organisation, saying that it “needs to up its game” and that it “needs to take on board the importance of differentiation of mission.” He added that he would consider “advocating breaking with the IUA”, before correcting himself and adding that “advocate” was too strong a word, but that he was definitely “putting it out there”.

Following the interview, The University Times made contact with the Irish Universities Association to seek a comment on Prof. Prendergast’s remarks. Some 25 minutes later, IUA Chief Executive Ned Costello told the paper that he had “spoken to Paddy in relation to the matter and Paddy has said to me that what he said was that the universities collectively need to raise their game when it comes to communicating with the public”

In a later interview with Prof. Prendergast, he resiled from his previous comments, saying “I don’t believe I said that” and that he hadn’t meant his comment in a negative way, claiming that the third-level sector, including the IUA needed to pull together to overcome present difficulties.

He still maintained that he was not afraid to “throw down the gauntlet” with the IUA, and that he was happy that The University Times had “relayed that information” to Mr Costello.

Colm Kearney, meanwhile, was also critical of the IUA in an interview with The University Times.
He decried the “Stalinist idea that all universities can be treated as one sector” and added that the IUA was a “conduit through which the HEA pushes us around”, although he maintained that “there are benefits and I’m not saying we should leave it.” Prof. Kearney argued that Trinity has “cosied up too much to the IUA and Higher Education Authority” and decried “clientelism” as “a feature of the old Ireland”, saying that relations with the IUA and HEA should “not be based on individual relationships, it’s based on professional engagement with respect”

In response to these points as raised by The University Times, IUA Chief Executive Ned Costello said that all colleges are “different colleges with different needs – it’s only when it’s something major where they all agree that collective action is better that we act sectorally” and pointed out that the IUA was itself founded by the universities “because they saw a need for a body that could represent them – and it’s them representing themselves through us.”

Prof. Kearney argued that Trinity should be positioning itself on the world stage, rather than in Ireland, saying that Trinity’s “natural alliances are not in the IUA”. On this issue, IUA Communications Manager Lia O’Sullivan said that Kearney “sounds a little bit confused about what the IUA does.”


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