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University and the State in Ireland: from a negotiated exchange relationship based on trust to prescriptive requirements in university governance

O'Malley, Michael F. (2012) University and the State in Ireland: from a negotiated exchange relationship based on trust to prescriptive requirements in university governance. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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Abstract

This study examines the governance of Irish universities over the past thirty years and in particular how the governance of the Irish university system has moved from a model based on a trust and exchange relationship between the universities and the State to one where the universities are themselves State agencies, directed by a paymaster State to deliver State policy objectives in a number of areas. These include economic development, re-skilling of workers and the exploitation of academic outcomes. Looking through a lens of trust, informed by an analysis of the relevant literature, changes in governance, accountability and autonomy in the Irish State/university relationship since 1980 have been examined and documented. The emergence of professional management in universities and the related decline in the power of the academic community together with the transfer of overall direction of the institution from Senate or Academic Council to corporatist style governing bodies is documented. This is done against a background of the emerging evaluative State which measures performance against objectives which it sets down and which creates a new bureaucracy to measure, manage and control all State enterprise and investment. The Maynooth Archive has been used as a primary source of evidence for this claim. Utilising the eight key areas identified by the OECD in 2003 as key to university autonomy, the archive is reviewed over the thirty years by an analysis of the actual decisions made and the different kinds of interactions between the State and the governing body at Maynooth. Set against a background of government investment in universities and the wide-ranging international discourse on university governance, a ‘Governance and Accountability Framework’ has been developed which traces the move from autonomous university institution to directed State agency. The experience of key personnel in the Irish universities is then explored, on the basis of a series of semi structured interviews, to gain a deeper understanding of how universities are experiencing the changes that are taking place in the governance of Irish universities. Each of the seven Presidents participated in a semi-structured interview on the emerging changes in university governance and their views are analysed around a number of common themes. Similarly four key senior State personnel playing significant roles in the governance of the universities in Ireland participated in a semi-structured interview and their views are analysed using the same themes as those used to analyse the Presidents interviews. This provided an insight into the State position on the related issues of trust, accountability and autonomy. This analysis, drawing on the insights gleaned from both the archive study and the interviews allowed for a triangulation of the theme findings leading to a conclusion that a new paradigm has emerged in the university/State relationship. This is one where the university has been co-opted by the State to deliver on key elements of the State agenda. This thesis suggests that as the State began to look at knowledge as a key factor of economic growth it turned to the universities as the main producers and disseminators of knowledge. Accordingly as the role of the university has changed so too has the regulatory and supervisory environment in which they must work. This thesis concludes that the key element, lacking from and necessary to this process, is that of trust and that the relationship between university and State needs to be reconfigured in a way that crucially attempts to re-empower the academy while recognising that sustainability is dependent on a less than benevolent State.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: University Governance; Negotiated exchange relationship;
Subjects: Social Sciences > Education
Item ID: 3900
Depositing User: IR eTheses
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2012 11:52
URI:

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