TIPPERARY INSTITUTE FACES widespread reform in order to avoid closure. I work in Tipperary Institute as a creative multimedia lecturer. I've never worked with such a high percentage of mature students before and it's for their future success that I hope the institution is able to flex with the demands of austerity. Ireland's leading austerity pundit, Sean McCarthy, has recommended Tipperary Institute be closed or merged with another third level institution. Unless something like this blog post derails the process, it appears the future viability of Tipperary Institute lies in its merger with the Limerick Institute of Technology. Nonetheless, a high degree of uncertainty bubbles over on Facebook and in the classroom concerning the weight of the ax to fall. The biggest motivation for me to write this post comes from late night cross-talk with my students. They want to read a public statement from me that indicates we're on track with the academic goals we set last August. I'm on track but I know there are issues when trying to fold things together. With mergers come cutbacks and if Tipperary Institute's future is driven by bean counters, the only way entire programmes will continue is by a lot of bums on seats. Said another way, there's every prospect of some programmes in LIT being throttled back to support manning requirements in County Tipperary. And there's a very strong prospect that several accredited third level programmes in Tipperary Instiute will be changed to boost their enrollment numbers or to divert Tipperary staff into Limerick to support programmes in need of qualified lecturers. I don't sit at a management table but I know what I'd recommend.
Semesterise LIT to enable easier scheduling. Although I'm qualified to teach more than 30% of the multimedia modules in LIT, the teaching schedules don't mesh. TippInst is semesterised--a better system. LIT still remains on teaching subjects for an entire academic year. For many reasons, the semesterised programme delivers more value for money. I'm surprised the McCarthy Report failed to notice that fact.
Deliver Day Release Modules. If selected modules were delivered in a Day Release manner, it would be easier for mature students--such as those made redundant by Dell's closure in Limerick--to attend and finish programmes. This means chunking hours. For example, I have to teach four consecutive hours of Media Writing every Wednesday. Because of that efficient delivery mode, mature students can take a day off work, one day a week, and know that within three months they will be finished with a specific course module. They can transfer academic credit under the ACCS programme or continue their day release mode and accumulate more credit. I believe an advocate should nominate modules to ensure we nurture lifelong learning in this way.
Structured virtual meetings. If the cultures of the two staffs in Limerick and Tipperary are to be respected, regular virtual meetings should be scheduled. I know fewer than five staff members at LIT. I imagine that's the same for LIT staff. I go to Limerick at least once a month during the work day and attend seminars with industry and academics. I have met fewer than five LIT staffers in the past four years of regular road trips to Limerick city. Some form of structured meet-up, possibly using Tipperary Institute's license for Online Meeting Rooms, needs to happen soon. Moreover, I believe those involved in nurturing the start-up mentality on both faculties should take an interest in Limerick OpenCoffee, one of the easiest ways to connect and chat with innovators in Munster.
Behind the scenes, extensive negotiations with the Minister for Education give people on the ground some comfort that reforms can save Tipperary Institute. I doubt any sort of ministerial proclamation will hit the airwaves because that would mean singling out County Tipperary as immune from cutbacks. However, I have faith that those sitting two tiers above my seat in the production studio have a plan that will help both County Limerick and County Tipperary enhance the quality of third level education for the greater good of Ireland. And along the way, it's possible that the combined entity will be the most powerful college hurling team on the planet. It's worth negotiating an institutional merger for that by-product alone.
Photo taken inside Tipperary Institute for Science Week.
Disclosure: This blog post is not the official stance of Tipperary Institute, Limerick Institute of Technology or the Minister for Education. But they're welcome to subscribe to my blog for updates.