Education chief hits attitude of arts academics

Education chief hits attitude of arts academics


ACADEMICS who “hold their nose” at the idea of working with industry have come under fire from the new head of the Higher Education Authority.

John Hennessy who is also chairman of Ericsson (Ireland), the IT giant, was particularly critical of the attitudes of some academics teaching arts and humanities.

About 30pc of university undergraduates in Ireland are studying arts and humanities courses in areas such as ancient and modern languages, literature, law, history, philosophy, religion, visual and performing arts, etc.

But Mr Hennessy said the humanities have a problem in communicating their contribution to the wider society — a problem the sciences do not have.

Higher education also needs to demonstrate that the funding received is used well to produce returns for students, other stakeholders and nationally.

To counter prejudice and ill-informed commentary, it is important that institutions have in place a comprehensive system of work-load management for academic staff.

“It is time higher education took responsibility for itself — put in place the systems that demonstrate the work being done, and let them be open to scrutiny. Other countries have — it’s time we did so, too.”

Mr Hennessy was responding to a public lecture by Prof Martha Nussbaum of the University of Chicago who said the arts and humanities were being cut back in education systems worldwide.

– John Walshe Education Editor

Irish Independent – March 19 2011

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