Having taken on a new role of Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in our faculty I was going to keep my gob shut for a while but what the hell, this isn’t very controversial!
Anyway, I’ve always been interested in the idea of merging institutions or organisations; when it works, when it doesn’t; when it makes sense, when it doesn’t. At the moment my own institution is going through a merger process, mainly with St Pat’s in Drumcondra but also with a number of other smaller institutions. The merger makes sense because we complement each other. For us, it gives us a strong foothold in the whole area of education theory and practice – in effect it gives us a fifth faculty.
At the moment, the whole move towards Technological Universities is completely dependent on the idea that geographically ‘close’ IoTs should first merge and then make a submission for university status. The basic assumption is, I presume, that the ‘whole’ will be greater than the sum of the parts.
Recently, the withdrawal of WIT from the Waterford-Carlow merger process was in the news and it has been made quite clear that university status will be granted to Waterford if and only if they merge with Carlow. Bearing that in mind, it is interesting to look more closely at the two institutions.
First let’s look at the student intake (2014 data). We see that the WIT get marginally ‘better’ students but the general student profiles are not too dissimilar (click on the image to zoom).
Now let’s look at what these institutions actually teach:
This is messy (quite a bit of overlap) and it’s a case of ‘what next?’. One would presume that when policy makers propose a merger they have some vision as to what the merged institution will look like. But do they? There are two directions one can go here. First one can accept the regional remit of the IoTs and leave things largely as they are – duplication and all, in which case why merge at all? Or, one could ‘slash and burn’, close departments and lay off staff regardless of the impact on the regions and the cost implications for students who may now have to travel long distances to study.
It would be interesting to hear the rationale for all of this.