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The Hunt Report Revisited

LSADBernie Goldbach in Limerick | Photo by my iTouch  

I SPENT THE MORNING listening to an ambitious plan for the Limerick Institute of Technology and later heard it summarised on RTE Six One News. Although the Hunt Report did not feature in either presentation, its effects run through the Master Plan that guides LIT towards 2030.

Although details on how the Master Plan affects our department's work in Clonmel are still coming into focus, a dynamic synergy between traditional artists in the Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) and new media creatives in LIT-Clonmel has appeared on the roadmap. This is the kind of dynamic the authors of the Hunt Report would've hoped.

I'm not an official scribe for LIT, nor am I censured (or censored) for my occasional meanderings about the institution. I save a lot of meanderings in my journal, personal thoughts that are not necessarily those of my employer. So please consider my disclaimer before quoting my blog out of context. I'm still mulling over several specific initiatives designed to move the needle for LIT during the next 18 years. I'll be retired before then but plan to take an active role in helping to predict where the ball will land for students who trust their CAO Level 8 option in our flavour of creative multimedia.

The biggest surprise for me was seeing how important a role the Trendence Graduate Barometer plays in the revision of management tactics. There are strong results in the categories you'd expect from a vibrant third level institution. However, LIT gets "bad" marks for its international orientation, apparently based on the number of non-Irish students on campus. It appears to be a relative assessment when comparing one institution to another. Although increasing the presence of foreign students on campus might improve that result, I think more could be done to push LIT modules into distance education across 12 time zones. We have the requisite skillsets--the project needs to be set up and monitored as a test case.

Where I work on the Clonmel campus, we lack the social space and connected community that creates the buzz expected by young students. Some very dynamic initiatives are being explored behind the scenes, all involving active consultation with stakeholders in the region. This could result in the movement of the physical campus of LIT-Clonmel into the empty Kickham Barracks in the town. In one fell swoop, LIT-Clonmel would get a soul, similar to the buzz you feel when walking around the environs of the National School of Art and Design around Thomas Street and Meath Street in Dublin.

The biggest surprise for me was learning that the LIT wiring diagram was being reconfigured to put the Head of Creative Multimedia for LIT-Clonmel closely aligned with potential collaborators in the Limerick School of Art and Design in Clare Street. This is a clever use of resources, potentially leading to cross-fertilisation of both the LSAD and LIT-Clonmel programms.

Behind the scenes, I'm exploring the continued use of Google Hangouts with fourth year students as well as in-house technologies being deployed by LIT technicians. At the very least, we could enhance our pool of guest lecturers, studio visits and project reviews by asking for collegial input across both campuses. Student work could benefit from another set of eyes reviewing digital designs, storyboards, wireframes and 3D renderings.

This organisational realignment is a major structural change in how LIT and the old Tipperary Institute were set up. It will result in greater productivity from lecturers and possibly involve myself teaching in three separate LIT campus locations before the end of 2013. This is the kind of result the authors of the Hunt Report would have suggested could flow from an amalgamation of two institutions.

There are other documented synergies in play at the moment, such as the fusion of the separate student unions under one LIT framework. This consolidation will put a premium on the ability of each of the student union representatives articulating their views as effectively as professional lobbyists.

I've an open mind about all the changes in the air. For those reading my blog and facing executive actions related to a Hunt Report Directive, what's happening in LIT this month could well become a model for every institution facing consolidation or closure.

Change does not come easy. Admittedly, I'm still unsure about the very real impact these changes will make in the short term but I sincerely believe the long term benefit--for lecturers, for students and for the creative industry of Ireland--is worth noting even on the first day of the public announcement of these institutional changes.

Bernie Goldbach saves things related to creative spaces, the creative industry and the act of making creating things.