EMBARGO: 00.00 13/AUG/2013
Higher Education Performance Targets nothing to be afraid of
Union of Students in Ireland (USI) welcomes increased accountability in measuring the performance of Higher Education Institutes, but warn against impact of funding cuts
USI is calling on Higher Education Institutes to set themselves challenging targets during the initial phase of the new Higher Education Performance Framework, reported in yesterday’s Irish Independent, with a view to increasing the quality of the education and student experience being offered to Irish third-level students.
Many of the areas which the performance targets will measure, such as student retention, participation in research, employability, a focus on disadvantaged groups and teaching and learning excellence, are fundamentally in line with USI policy in delivering the highest possible quality Higher Education system which can act as a vehicle for economic recovery.
However, USI also cautions against HEI’s drifting from their core strengths and student needs in their pursuit of targets and criteria, and on the potential impact of funding cuts linked to the failure to deliver on these targets.
Joe O’Connor, President of the Union of Students in Ireland said:
In delivering a qualified welcome to this Framework, it is hugely important to note that in terms of delivering on these targets, Higher Education Institutes play to their own individual strengths and the ethos of each Institute is fully respected. Not only that, the needs of students must be the core tenet of any performance targets which are laid down.
This also applies to HEI’s in meeting the criteria to apply for Technological University status, so that the central mission of delivering a quality student experience does not play a supporting role to the naked achievement of statistical criteria.
Higher Education in Ireland must not fall into the trap of becoming short-term oriented, responding overtly to the demands of Government, business and the market, but must continue to be Teaching & Learning driven.
We would also call on HEI’s to fully engage Students’ Unions across the country in the consultative process in the development of their own individual performance targets, to ensure that the student voice plays an absolutely central role.
While Higher Education Institutes should be in no ways afraid of their own performance targets, any funding cuts which may be imposed in this manner cannot be done in such a way that would lead to the performance of these Institutes continuing to worsen. We have been reassured by the Higher Education Authority that this will not be the case.
It is also crucial that student services, which have borne the brunt of considerable cuts over the past number of years, are protected at a reasonable level and do not continue to be subjected to further austerity.