Earlier I typed strategy – and a tiny typo in collaboration with the auto-correction made it to “static”. Recent blogs topic, right?
Anyway, the following is actually about dynamics – a very dynamic presentation at the School of Applied Social Studies of University College of Cork. A “Director of Planning & Institutional Research” giving an
Overview of UCC’s Strategic Plan
Now, aren’t we in politics always asked to begin by highlighting the positive aspects? That is what I learned while working in lobbying in Brussels. So, be it then: the outline of the so-called strategic plan (I try since a couple of days to access the website – but it seems to be a strategy that this site remains until the time of writing inaccessible, although I lodged the technical flaw at the mail address of the webmaster) is very simple and open – mind, I’m not writing using “a simplified approach to a complex issue”. And being aware of the fact that I cannot delve into all the valuable aspects and details issued in both, the plan and presentation, I want to continue with another positive moment.
The presentation had been highlighting the importance of strengthening
research, innovation and job creation.
There are frequent debates on the sequence of such features and here we can praise that the strategy is first about research – as it should obviously be the objective for an academic institution. Job creation, without doubt important, is not the ultimate and primary goal … .
But a little hesitation emerges if we think about another aspect of the presentation, the emphasis of financial sustainability. Not that I suggest neglecting the importance of this matter. Still, there are two points that are worthwhile to look at:
- Social science is currently discussing the question of sustainability in a more serious and generic way, highlighting that any debate on sustainability has to go beyond “single issue orientations”. There is no environmental and financial and economic and social … sustainability – there is only one complex, genuinely integrated and genuinely relational sustainability or there is no sustainability at all. Having said that there is a wide debate on this does not mean that there is an overall consensus on what this means – I elaborated on some of the issues In a recent article published in the International Journal of Social Quality under the title “Economic Performance, Social Progress and Social Quality”. At this stage it isd important to emphasise that there is some readiness to ask questions and work on elaborating answers.
- The point that is crucially implied is less about theorising this issue. Two points are hugely important when it comes to the “pragmatics” of policy making though.
- A sustainability strategy of a university has to be oriented on the requirements set by academia – and although this is surely nothing that should be trimmed and protected in an ivory tower, it is equally sure that this is not about any kind of fulfilling needs of a capitalist growth economy.
- This brings us actually to the second point: of course, any university strategy has to be part of a national plan – actually another point that has to be positively highlighted in the presentation. It clearly an unquestionably emphasises this need. But … – but this makes only sense if the national plan is worthwhile and can be seen as being positively concerned with sustainability – btw, we speak in our work of the social quality network increasingly about social sustainability, an issue which will obviously employ quite a lot of our strategic thinking in the Observatory on Social Quality, now being established at EURISPES in Rome.
In any case, the national plan – be it concerned with general questions of development or with the area of third level education and research is rather questionable. Only few points will suffice to issue the problematique – and they are all immediately also linked to the presentation.
We find the topic of internationalisation – in this section we hear about recruiting international students but we hear little to nothing about how we aim and put into practice the recruitment of students from financially weak backgrounds: people with working class background from “rich countries” and people from countries of so-called developing countries or “the global south” as it is called today [and actually should (if we take the equator as reference) include parts of the east and west, equally poor]. It is worth a side remark: I remember a student from the “global west”: coming from be USNA, arriving with a generous Lions or Rotary grant – and being a total failure. The only reason that he actually did not fail literally …: he had been “too rich to fail” – if anybody thinks about large banks now …, well this is your thought then. My thought at the time had been: it is strange that this student had been “taken out of my custody”, actually he had been “transferred” to another course, passed successfully and this is surely very different to another student who never made it into my course as he could not afford paying the approximately 16,000 euro fee at the time (the European rate had been approximately 3,000 euro in those years). Sure, this student from an African country nearly got the place: the charity which had been ready to pay his fees announced the decision too late. The “right of the rich” and the “charity for the poor” as national strategy then? A meaningful shift in thinking is required, pursuing the right of everybody to avail of valuable, emancipative education, different to skills training for the upper and middle classes only (and a true knowledge space for a small elite). Every first-year student I am bringing her to legal studies learns that law is not about straight application of legislation but it is still about the Kantian challenge, given with the definition he provided, namely saying that
[r]ight is therefore the sum of the conditions under which the choice of one can be united with the choice of another in accordance with universal law.
(Kant, Immanuel, 1797: The Metaphysics of Morals. Translated and edited by Mary Gregor. With an Introduction by Roger J. Sullivan; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996: 24 [In the German original slightly different in its emphasis ‘Recht ist der Inbegriff der Bedingungen, unter denen die Willkür des einen mit der Willkür des anderen nach einem allgemeinen Gesetz der Freiheit vereinigt werden kann’ (Kant, Immanuel, 1797: Die Metaphysik der Sitten in zwey Theilen; in: Kant, Immanuel. Werke in zwoelf Baenden. Hrsg. v. Wilhelm Weischedel; Bd. VIII; Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1982: 337)]
And we findin the presentation of the strategic plan under the heading of internationalisation the orientation on FDI, yes indeed: foreign direct investment. Every first-year student I teach economics learns that – in particular but not only today under conditions of globalisation – two things are not feasible, not sustainable: a strategy that is based on FDI and/or export as sole and main pillar; and a strategy that understands indigenous development inter light of a parochial mindset.
It is actually frightening that the presenter, holding an MBA from Henley Management College, celebrated on one of the university’s websites as somebody who
has over 20 years experience in consultancy, operations, engineering, supply chain management and higher education roles
apparently missed this point too: it had been the orientation on such a wrong strategy that brought (not only) the Irish economy into severe trouble. It is a strategy of statics, degrading a country and its people to supernumeraries on the global scale, actually making a large number of the population to global players by forcing them to emigrate. – sure, individual examples of successful FDI can be found. But to tell us that we should jump out of the window, because some individuals actually survived can only come from a presenter who gets paid for showing off with the lack competence.
– You don’t believe that you can make money from incompetence, even stupidity? I heard the other day for a guy who cut off a branch from a tree. He got 20 grand for it. The reason: he had been sitting on the branch, on that part he cut off. The case went to court and the judge granted compensation mentioned before.
So what is then the contribution of Irish universities to internationalisation. I saw recently a poster from UCC, a good example for expressing visually how such a contribution is u understood: missionaries under the academic and secular instead of the christian gown. – Sure, the hope remains: Christian missions brought us liberation theology, secular mission may then truly liberate liberal economics by establishing a new mode of production, based i collective and social liberties.
And indeed there seems to be a very limit understanding when it comes to “contributing to the community”. First it’s about commercialisation, the creation of jobs and all this … and then it is about actually “contributing to the community”. The balance act between the bourgeois: the free marketer, and the liberal citoyen. It is frightening to learn another time that people are allowed to ruin societies by simply not understanding and admitting that even after Alfred Marshall economy is still political economy. Any attempt to maintain the Marshallian separation of the economy for the political sphere is meant to fail like any strategy of sustainability is doomed to fail as long as it is understood as technical challenge. Sure, we “need jobs in the communities” and we need highly qualified people in the communities. But we won’t get them there by introducing new PhD courses; and we won’t get there even by simply opening the doors of academic institutions. All this is about understanding with an open mind academia as social force, responsible for emancipation of the majority of the people in their own personal and social growth – the economy and the development of the mode of production have to follow this power-requirement and nothing else. And it is definitely not a matter of the interest of the “corporate universitarian interest”.
To be a world-class university connecting our region to the globe.
As said earlier: moving on the stage of politics is supposedly about being fair, highlighting also the positive aspects of the position that one critically investigates. The positive point here is that such statement is so shallow, so empty that it cannot even fail. The strategic goal of Lisbon 2000 claimed to
make Europe, by 2010, the most competitive and the most dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world.
The Lisbon strategy, with this vision, failed – and for many the failure had been visible from the outset. UCC’s strategic plan is not really facing such danger: too many empty words, to much glossy paper to be really relevant – it can only leave us with shaking heads, though some will fall in the meantime and others will fall in the future. And some will remain – those of people who are able to maintain meaningful reputation over time, paradoxically engaged in the fundamental questions of their own era and exactly due to this engagement remaining highly relevant beyond their particular day. Many may remember him: Max Horkheimer; and surely few will oppose what he claimed and what he lived for, a university
that is characterised by the passionate orientation on the complex whole, less occupied than elsewhere by illusions, but especially by the fact that its members – professors and lecturers, students – are in spite of all the differences of their views engaged together in the common belief that against all the odds there is a future, that human beings are able to control the destructive external and internal/personal forces and establish a humane universe.
(Horkheimer, Max, 1952: Akademisches Studium. Immatrikulationen-Rede. Sommersemester 1952; in: Max Horkheimer, 1953: Akademisches Studium. Begriff der Bildung. Fragen des Hochschulunterrichts; Frankfurt/M.: Vittorio Klostermann: 5)
And instead of following the fashionable trend to professionalisation and “presentability” we should acknowledge the deep truth of his reflection:
disappointment and perplexity [are not simply emerging] because students are too weak to learn the technical aspects the instruments of the subject; it emerges because they do not see the bridge between the ‘professional’ and those matters that deserve thge name of truth and that had been the motivation that brought them to the university.
Indeed, not all bad; especially as I received the other day an e-mail … – yes, from Cork – signed by http://www.attackthetax.com/ and the Common Law Society, talking about FEAR.
it stands for “FALSE EDUCATION APPLIED REPEATEDLY”
Which means, that if you fill a Man or Woman full of rubbish for long enough, constantly REPEATING the same mundane shallow drivvvvvel,,, eventually although in their hearts they know that it is wrong … they will enivatebly start to beleve what they are being told, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
The Greatest threat to the State is not groups, crowds, organisations, political parties, movements or collectives … it is the Man or Woman that can think Critically.
That is the Man or Woman that cannot be enslaved … and they will teach others.
May be this is something to think about when it comes to strategic development of strategy development. But then, can we expect this from people who are victims of previous FEAR, now fearing more to loose their well paid jobs rather than loosing the little bit of sense they may have left?
Yes indeed, a lot done – much to be revised …