In from the margins: development and internationalisation within Irish universities
Gaynor, Niamh (2009) In from the margins: development and internationalisation within Irish universities. In: Sustainable Global Development: Irish Aid Development Education Conference 2009, 16-17 October, 2009, Limerick, Ireland.
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Universities in Ireland, as elsewhere, are under severe pressure – indeed in crisis according to some commentators. The nature of this crisis is two-fold. First, increasing enrolment figures coupled with dwindling state support leaves universities facing severe financial challenges. Second, and perhaps more critically, the very idea and fundamental role of the university is being challenged through the shifting nature of knowledge(s) and the changing needs of an increasingly complex global society.
University “internationalisation” policies and strategies, in remaining narrowly focused on raising revenue through fee-paying international students, are missing valuable opportunities for addressing these wider challenges. Despite the rapidly changed nature of society in Ireland, recent surveys indicate that graduates remain poorly equipped with the skills and knowledge to engage meaningfully with contemporary global issues both at home (e.g. migration, multiculturalism) and abroad (e.g. global trade policy, causes of civil unrest).
In the context of broader debates on the role of and function of universities within contemporary globalised societies, this paper argues for a broadening of the conception and resultant strategies of internationalisation to include a mainstreaming of development education so that Irish universities become more adept at fulfilling their mandates of equipping students with a set of knowledge, skills and values to allow them to contribute more fully and meaningfully to economic, political and social life, both at home and abroad. Drawing on the preliminary results of empirical research conducted by the Irish-African Partnership for Research Capacity Building within all nine universities on the island, the paper highlights both opportunities and constraints to such a mainstreaming. At a time when Irish universities face growing competition in the increasingly diverse field of knowledge production, and at a time when Ireland’s 0.7 per cent commitment is under threat, this paper offers some practical pointers for developing a greater global responsiveness and engagement within the Irish higher education sector.
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