Century of Endeavour

'In Search of Techne'

Ch 1.3 - The Educational System

(c) Roy Johnston 1999

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

March 10 1971

Recently I had to preside at an Operations Research Society meeting addressed by Norman Lawrie of Strathclyde University on the topic of the use of the computer in school timetabling.

Predictably, it emerged that in this field the human timetabler still has the edge, and is likely to keep it. The interesting thing however was the substantial audience that turned up: Department of Education, Vocational Education Committees, headmasters, tecahing professionals, mostly in Orders, flocked in to swell the usually sparse audience of OR professionals. There is little doubt that the educational revolution is upon us, that the school of the future will be large and will offer many options, and that many educationalists are concerned and forward-looking enough to want to use what computer science has to offer them as regards planning aids.

One fact worth commenting on however is that the Teaching Orders were represented uniquely from the distaff side.

I suggest that this correlates with the 80% girls entry for the Young Scientists Exhibition, and that the underlying reason is that the recruiting policy of the Sisters brings in people who have had the chance to learn that knowledge is not defined as 'that which occurs in books', while the average Brother does not have the opportunity to realise this in the course of his formative years....

February 23 1972

The Cork Scientific Council last Saturday held a symposium on science teaching; the principal speaker was Seamus O Buachalla of TCD......

...The question of 'quality' was tackled: how do you measure it? Contrary to the 'Black Paper' philosophers who are currently in England trying to put the clock back, and who hanker after some elitist 'golden age' in the past, Seamus O Buachalla believes that quality is not a mystique but can be measured, in terms of teacher qualifications, laboratory space, teacher/pupil ratio etc. He has measured it, by the expedient of getting out a questionnaire and asking the teachers to fill it in.

The rather frightening picture emerges that only 70% of science teachers in secondary schools have a degree in science, and only 22% with honours. The median age of the unqualified teachers is 43 years.

In the vocational schools the picture is better, in that 96% of the science teachers are qualified; 74% of all vocational school teachers have less than 10 years experience, testifying to recent rapid growth.

The distribution by size of schools with no science is revealing: 96% of them are under 300 pupils. This would seem to be the reason for the magic number '400' as the threshold size for a viable second-level community school(1).

There are problems with the 'theory/practice ratio': 73% of all teachers complained that the length of the course was the principal inhibitor of practical work. There are indications that 'knowledge' is the main goal rather than 'understanding' or 'experimental skill'. This corresponds with my own subjective impression.

Perhaps if more marks were allocated to a practical examination the emphasis could be shifted away from book-learning?

The above survey refers to the Cork area. It is rumoured that the work is to be repeated for the Galway area.....

There is material here to suggest enough reforms to keep the pot boiling for some years to come.

May 17 1972

The Dundalk Regional College had an Open Day last Saturday... The staff and students of the Science, Engineering, Liberal Studies and Business Studies faculties will be present to advise and enlighten visiting teachers and second-level students aspiring to go on to third level. The laboratories will be in operation and equipment will be demonstrated by the students.

The Engineering Department offers post-leaving-certificate courses in civil, mechanical and electrical engineering; there is a further course in Industrial Engineering in conjunction with the Business Studies and Science departments. Part-time courses are also available leading to the 'City and Guilds'.

In the case of the science technician certificate, the full-time course takes two years, while the part-time course takes four years on day-release...

The first stage gives a basic grounding in practical sciences, while in the second stage more time is given either to Applied Biology or Chemistry, along with Instrumentation, Practical Mathematics and special subjects such as Food Science.

The Diploma in Business Studies is a three-year full-time course....

Within a similar general framework, the Carlow college gives courses on nutrition, meat and crop sciences, computer programming as well as the more traditional specialist disciplines; this within the Science Department. The Engineering Department offers two and three year courses which include agricultural engineering, control and instrumentation, electronics, industrial engineering, power-plant engineering, surveying... leading to diplomas..

The social utility of these courses will be considerable, as they complement the traditional university specialist degrees, upstaging the latter in many situations. They should also have the positive effect of drawing student pressure away from Dublin.

The National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick is planned to be different from the RTCs; it is more like an experimental University of Technology.

Dr Edward Walsh, the Director, spoke to a meeting in Kevin St on Tuesday May 9, outlining the plans, which involve a sandwich system, with the average student spending a third of his or her time outside the walls, in practical work.

There is a modular approach to course construction, with integration of theory and practice within each year.....

To give an idea of the rounded nature of the courses: the modules taken by a first-year applied-science student are engineering science, electrical and mechanical engineering, computer system fundamentals, engineering drawing, materials engineering, mathematics with computation, a modern language, social science and a visiting lecturer series.

All courses include maths with computation at some level; all include a language.

There was criticism at the meeting of the lack of biology; this will probably have to get put in at some level. I gather that its exclusion is due to pressure from the Cork 'food science' lobby. Some compromise no doubt will emerge; there is no real conflict between having a centre of excellence in one place and a centre of competence 50 miles away.

The meeting was under the auspices of the Society of College Lecturers(2).

June 28 1972

I am indebted to Dr Sean Cawley, the head of the Carlow Science Department, for some useful material....

Carlow, along with other regional colleges, are providing courses in food science related to the regional needs, covering, with varying emphasis, the physics, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, engineering, processing and marketing of food in all its aspects. There is no monopoly of this in one place, though there may be centres of specialist excellence in one aspect or another.....

There is also in Carlow the makings of a node in the polymer R&D network, in the form of Dr Norman McMillan, who had previously been working with Dr Vincent McBrierty in TCD....

This polymer network is potentially of some national importance.. It is dependent for its development on NSC money, which however is administered on a 'stop-go' basis. Imagine a farmer raising chickens being told by the ESB 'you may have power this year, but next year we don't know, maybe, if etc.... He would rapidly go out of business. I have not yet officially seen the 1972-73 NSC awards. I gather, however, from the length of peoples' faces that uncertainty about this particular chicken is growing.

I have been advocating, and practising, a philosophy whereby the first step is not to look for State money, but to look for a problem and then sell potential solutions, at various levels, to the firm or agency which has the problem. Once this has been done, one can go the the State convincingly and look for supplementation.

Industrial credibility is the missing link. No amount of State grants to academic centres will buy it, no matter how high the international standing of the work. What would buy industrial credibility would often be regarded by the academics as trivial or menial. This is a subjective obstacle which must go.

Sean Cawley, in Carlow, has made a creditable first step towards building up a stock of this rare and precious commodity, by means of a tiny piece of work...... on behalf of Brandon Hatcheries, who deal in day-old chicks. He discovered that a crippling 16% mortality rate after delivery was due to CO poisoning from the exhaust of the truck. The truck was new, but the manifold bolts were loose.

There must be many similar problems in Irish industry and agriculture which would yield to similar elementary scientific detective work (even at the level of exploiting that highly sensitive and discriminatory instrument, the human nose, especially when the owner is a trained chemist).

Firms with summer peak problems requiring temporary but skilled staff have been making use of Regional College students. There is scope for expansion of this process, especially in the food industry. Students employed in this way (ie in quality control or process development) are doubly important; not only are the potentially skilled recruits to the firm when they graduate, but they are smellers-out of industrial problems, scouts for the regional colleges in their capacity as local consultancy services. At least, this is their potential..... a valid and credible way forward for science in industry on a local basis....

I have to hand some examples of the kind of courses they have in mind for applied physics technicianship. Thus for microscopy a student gets a run-down on the history and the working of the human eye..... optical theory: resolving power, contrast, working distance, depth of focus, aberrations, condensers, light sources..... Then on to general techniques: micro-manipulation, specimen preparation, the microtome, freezing and freeze-drying.... counting techniques, photomicrography....

Various special instruments are then studied: phase contrast, polarising, interference, dark-ground techniques. There is an introduction to to the principles of electron microscopy, birefringence and optical crystallography.

Course modules at similar depth exist for vacuum technology, low temperature technology....X-ray techniques ranging from traditional radiography to crystallographic analysis and stress determination in metals.

There is a polymer module, covering the physics, chemistry, mechanical properties, engineering design considerations and general technology of plastics. There is considerable scope for the use of science in this industry if its reputation among consumers for poor quality and unreliability of produces is to be overcome. I do not speak of the well-established pipe, sheet and film producers, but more of the producers of small moulded components which, if the physical properties are not right, do not perform the job that they are supposed to do. These are largely responsible for the 'cheap and nasty' image in the consumers' minds.... I am credibly informed that the average Irish plastics producer is basically dependent on 'cook-book' procedures...

Carlow also has a radiation physics module, directed at potential users of isotope techniques in industrial chemistry, mining, metallurgy etc, and a micro-wave module which should be of use in telecommunications.

There are a number of lay-orientated evening courses 'science for the layman', 'environmental science' and 'new maths for parents'....

There is a 3-year course in design; this on the face of it seems to be in need of further development. The relationship between the arts and technology in Ireland is singularly unhappy: witness the sad hsitory of the College of Art, and the relative isolation of the Kilkenny Design Centre, with its strong craft tradition, from contact with technology(3). There is bridge-building to be done here....

July 12 1972

My apologies to the Carlow Regional College is I conveyed that their advance modular courses were already in existence. I did mention that they were at the level of draft ideas which are currently being market-researched. My description of them should be taken as a kite-flying operation..... Support for the Carlow courses is being received from Philips Electrical (Ireland) ltd...

The Sligo College....offers specialist courses in polymers, food science, environmental studies, industrial fermentation... Degree standards are aimed at, though without the 'all or nothing' feature of the traditional university course. One can come out with a marketable qualification after two or three years. The Engineering Department has a specialist course in tool and die design, linked with an apprentice school for tool-makers, this being the main centre in the country. They have equipment for ultrasonic and electro-machining of intractable materials...

Biology staff members have connections with local producers of mushrooms and rabbits....

Last week a special summer course for post-primary teachers of Agricultural Science was initiated by the Principal Mr Con Power.... (While on this subject: what is the future role of the Colleges of Agriculture? These bodies are under the Department of Agriculture, carry out a post-primary educational function and are under religious denominational control. Their staff are becoming restive and jointing trade unions. There is a strong case for bringing these into the vocational/regional system and getting rid of the anachronistic principle of religious denominational management. I have one regular correspondent from a College of Agriculture who is a valuable source of feedback: he is obviously a regional-college type, full of constructive criticism and community involvement. Currently he is advocating a consumers' lobby to act as watchdog over safety standards in agricultural equipment....)


I have to hand a circular from the Mathematics Department of the Kevin St College of Technology in Dublin, in which the unsuspecting public is threatened with an evening course on quantum mechanics given by Theo Garavaglia.

With the greatest of respect.....I feel I must place on record my feeling that this represents a move away from the type of community involvement which the Regional Colleges are pioneering, and towards a philosophy of 'trying to keep up with the Universities'.

There is nothing to stop Theo Garavaglia from keeping up his distinguished record in theoretical physics through his contacts with the Universities and the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies. When in Kevin St, however, it ought to be possible, even for a hard-core theoretical physics man, to push the development of his skills over towards some problem related to technology in industry. It is seldom easy to recognise and structure problems in industrial applied mathematics. The people in industry rarely know how to do this. Theo Garavaglia could, if he put his mind to it. If Fermi could dirty his hands with the Bomb, it ought to be possible for Garavaglia to look into the less spectacular but more useful question of (say) the aerodynamics of air movements over Dublin, with particular reference to SO2 levels. Do I ask too much?

November 8 1972

I listened to the speeches at the inaugural meeting of the College Historical Society in TCD on October 24. The Auditor, Declan Kiberd, was legitimately worried about US Army research contracts being taken up in Ireland(4). While not being directly deadly in intent, these release US scientists for war-orientated work. There is therefore an ethical problem. He also referred to the UCD armoured car project(5). There is less of an ethical problem here, in that the independence of the Irish State would be enhanced if it were less at the mercy of outside sources for such modest defence resources as it requires.

In the ensuing discussion, in which Michael O'Leary TD, Michael D Higgins (the UCG sociologist) and Professor R Dudley Edwards participated, there emerged a subtle anti-technological flavour; a kind of implication that Arts graduates were 'all right' but that scientists and technologists were relatively speaking in the pay of the devil.

I do not recollect who said that. Let the cap fit. I submit however that the opposite is the case: someone who is technically competent and can do a job well is likely to be able to keep is or her political independence and so avoid dependence on patronage.

Far more significant than the 'Hist' debate, I feel was the second-level students' demonstration in favour of equalisation of grant opportunities.

Here we have the absurd situation that those who need most get least. You can get a grant to go to UCD to become a chemist for export, but you can't get a grant to go to Carlow to become a food technologist and work in Ireland. Still less can you get a grant to serve your time in the technology of art metal-work, bronze-casting etc under John Behan, or to learn to be a silversmith in Kilkenny.

There is considerable scope for equalisation of opportunity as between academic, technical and craft careers. Why not a uniform subsistence for anyone undergoing further education, no matter what they are doing?

I was disturbed by one of the slogans carried by the second-level students: 'we do not want technician-factories'. Does this imply a snobbish aspiration to join the clean-handed unemployed with unmarketable BA degrees?

If they keep up their present level of discipline and organisation the second-level students will have to be listened to, and they will teach us all a few lessons. There are sound democratic instincts at work; if however any element of disdain for work 'by hand and eye', or disparagement of technology, creeps in, the thing will go sour.

November 30 1972

There have been a series of meetings and seminars all over Ireland on the question of how third-level education should be developed. Typical of this process were the seminar of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) on November 18-19......and the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS) meeting in Wexford....addressed by Professor O h-Eocha and Dr Tom Walsh....

There is a huge melting-pot, into which both applied scientific research and higher education are being thrown....

Two separate reports have been produced by two separate bodies, the National Science Council and the Higher Education Authority. A third report by the HEA refers separately to the Dublin Colleges of Technology. It is my contention.....that these three systems (applied research, universities and colleges of technology) should be considered together and not each in isolation.

I can perhaps be criticised by the administrators for trying to complicate the issues, which must be cut down to manageable size in order to be discussed at all. I reply to this by accepting the need for manageable size but asserting that the boundaries of the area under examination should not necessarily be laid down by accepting the existing tripartite structure.

At the USI seminar there emerged a model of the problem, on a manageable scale: the Bolton St school of architecture. This has developed over the years in a form which permits architects to train alongside their technicians, both having an apprentice-like relationship with working professionals. The HEA proposal is to split this up, to transfer architects to a full-time professional course at UCD (Belfield), and to transfer technicians to Ballymun(6).

This would push the clock back towards the 'binary system', analogous to that which obtains in the university engineering schools. By a 'binary system' I mean one in which a choice has to be made at the start between a 'clean-handed' and a 'dirty-handed' stream, with an implied element of snobbery.

Criticism of the university engineering schools and the way in which they have developed under Irish conditions is already strong and increasing in volume. It is expressed in student engineering publications, between the lines in graduate engineering pubications, and verbally in meetings where engineers are not constrained by the 'academic paper followed by votes of thanks' atmosphere.

To illustrate this criticism, consider the case of the young engineer who takes his degree and has his head full of differential equations, stress tensors etc. He joins the ESB and spends his next four years issuing requisitions for poles and wire.

If the training of engineers were to be transformed, integrated and made practical according to the Bolton St pattern, our friend would have joined the ESB as an apprentice technician, picked up the practice of stock control etc, then in his college phase would have gone into inventory theory, networks etc as well as the basics of electrical engineering, initially from the point of view of repair and maintenance of systems, rather than from the angle of designing hardware elements from scratch. This could follow if and when he went on to degree level, which option should be open.

This is the type of course envisaged by NIHE (Limerick). It is the mainstay of the profession in Britain. The full-time theoretical course, with the plunge into the deep end after four years, is an anachronism. In other words, the existing Bolton St architects pattern needs to be extended to a unified third-level engineering school....

An extra dimension exists in Ballymun in that the IIRS is nearby, constituting a strong centre of applied-scientific knowhow closely linked to industry. It also constitutes a centre of building industry service technology, with which a school of architecture could usefully be associated.

Student criticism of the proposed changes reflect a healthy democratic distaste for the division of society into class-based ghettoes, physically and intellectually...... There are areas where these arguments might be listened to, but the higher education establishment in its present form is not one of them. This was illustrated by the brisk and prickly exchanges which took place between Professor O'Donnell of UCD and James Larragy of USI....

The demand for the abolition of the 'binary system' in third-level education, in a conservative and class-ridden situation, must be based primarily on arguments of technical competence. Once there is a technically competent graduate population, who know the work of their technician colleagues and respect their competence, welcoming the upgrading of their status and pay instead of fearing it, the basic environment for democratic rights would be strengthened, to the extent that job tenure would be based on competence rather than on patronage.

On the other hand, if the binary system is reinforced, and the tradition of churning out graduates without technical competence persists, the jobs where technically competent graduates are needed will go increasingly to foreigners. This recruiting pattern is already detectable in industry.

The binary system in its present form is geared to producing graduates who depend for their jobs on a patronage system, and who fear technical competence, forming close-knit sets to keep it out. A system that has to do this to survive is doomed. The people who work the system have to decide if they want to go down with it, or if they want to survive.

In other words, the HEA has to decide whether it is prepared to to move in the direction of an integrated third-level system with a technically competent graduate output, and risk opening the flood-gates of democracy, or to persist in the binary system with the objective of keeping alive a political-type of patronage system over a declining sphere of influence.

The HEA report suffers from the fact that it was written with blinkers such a to confine it to horse-trading between the two Dublin universities. The issues raised by the development of the Regional Colleges, all of which are related to the growing critique of the 'binary system', have not been given any serious consideration.

It took the increasing social commitment of the priesthood in Latin America and Africa to shake the Vatican from its traditionally socially conservative posture with regard to Europe. Maybe, by analogy, winds blowing from the provinces will make the HEA look again at the integration problem in Dublin.

Perhaps models can be worked out in Cork and Galway for the interaction between a College of Technology and a University College, on some basis other than elitism?

Also available at the USI conference was a paper by Paul McGill which had been presented at Magee College on November 18, at a seminar on the Copcutt memorandum 'Approach to a Strategy for Derry and the North-West'.

Geoffrey Copcutt has an honourable record in regional planning; his resignation from the employment of Stormont(7) over the Craigavon(8) plans was one of the first indications of stress in the North in recent times. This took place in or about 1965, at about the same time as the decision was taken to site the New University of Ulster in Coleraine rather than to develop Magee College in Derry.

The present plight of Derry, and its focal role in 1968, may be traced to the cumulative effects of deprivation of hinterland, regional neglect and political patronage of certain other areas on the basis of the loyalist ascendancy principle. The extent of this neglect is measured in figures given by McGill: out of a total of 8000 second-level students, there are only 500 technical.

The overall Irish figure for secondary/vocational ratio is about 2/1. Britain and the continent are just the reverse: about 1/2. Derry at 16/1 is at an extreme of academicism which is symptomatic of an African or a Latin-American situation rather than a European.

Paul McGill calls for a community-orientated third-level body along the lines of Limerick or (less hypothetically) Bradford, with strong industrial links and a broadly cultured curriculum. He notes the existence of Regional Colleges in Sligo and Letterkenny and calls for their upgrading, lest they distort the northwestern picture by reintroducing the 'binary' principle, playing the part of poor relations to the upgraded Derry higher education centre.

Clearly the Copcutt concept for north-western development constitutes a further opportunity for the development of an integrated second and third level education system, with as goal the technically competent and enterprising graduate who contributes to the economic life of the region.

December 13 1972

I have repeatedly adverted to the fact that there is a drift away from specialisation, and a realisation among students that the frontiers of knowledge in the traditional disciplines have become somewhat remote. Whence the stress of the importance of interdisciplinary work, and the special role of the provincial colleges in fostering it, in situations where staff numbers in a specialist field are below the 'critical mass' for maintaining a viable research system.

Confirmation of this view comes from Bangor, North Wales, in the form of an article in the Times Higher Education Supplement (November 10). The departments of Physics and Chemistry are to merge into a unified School of Physical and Molecular Science, offering modular course units in physics, materials science, chemical physics and chemistry. It is hoped to develop Materials Science into a core-course for the Science Faculty.

Professor Wilcock, the Chairman of the School, would like to break down the barriers which have arisen out of the traditional approach to mathematics. This involves developing a basic numeracy, with the use of the computer, and an ability to use mathematics to describe mental models of physical processes, rather than the traditional abstract approach with emphasis on logical and numerical precision.

Most real-world situations can only be given mathematical descriptions by the use of 'dirty' approximations. Biologists, if they were encouraged to think in these terms, would be more inclined to use mathematics, as well as to take an interest in the basic science of biological materials....

The other power blocs on the Bangor campus are electronic engineering science, mathematics and computing, and plant biology.. The combined physical and molecular science group can now swing its weight in university politics, where previously the small departments of physics and chemistry occupied Cinderella positions.

There is food for reflection here, in the present atmosphere of structural change in third-level education in Ireland.

December 20 1972

I attended on December 6 in Belfield a symposium organised by the Institute of Chemistry of Ireland on 'The Education of the Chemist for Industry'. Dr Nichol, President of the Institute, presided.

Dr Hughes, Managing Director of Guinness's, gave a bluff and pragmatic talk based on historical experience. The blind areas in undergraduate training, for him, were (a) the time-money relationship (b) industrial psychology (c) marketing (d) the use of technicians.

He reminded us that the basis of quality control was the repeated standard experiment, and that the science of industrial statistics had been enriched by his predecessor F W Gossett, of 'Student t-test' fame, who was Head Brewer in the twenties.

He warned against 'fashion': ideas of continuous production, developed in the oil industry, had little or no relevance in brewing, where the key problem was to keep out alien organisms(9).

Dr Hughes conceded that the degree system was useful in that it weeded out the people who could not stand up to stress, and that the existing training did produce people having problem-solving potential.

Dr Kavanagh, of Nitrigin Eireann Teo (NET) after doing a PhD in UCD in organic chemistry went on to spend some time with the Mond division of ICI as a research chemist on process improvement. In effect, he had to re-train as a chemical engineer. On the whole he had found his training ill-adapted to his subsequent needs. Instead of doing many syntheses he would have preferred tp do a few in depth, learning to scale up and to optimise. He would have liked to know more about 'dirty statistics' for use when trouble-shooting in multi-variable plants. In other words, he was wishing he had had the sense to train as a chemical engineer rather than as a pure chemist. By implication he criticises not the training of the chemist but the ratio of the intakes between the disciplines; ie the career guidance function for university entrants.

Dr D C Pepper of TCD made a plea for the preservation of a sense of aesthetics in science, like that in poetry and music: the art of fitting facts into a structure with an imaginative leap. He rejected the use of the word 'training' in the undergraduate context; training was for the purpose of dispensing with the need for thought; it was appropriate more in a post-graduate situation where one sometimes had to react instinctively in emergencies.....

Professor Philbin, of UCD, suggested that Dr Kavanagh's basic training had enabled him to pick up his techno-economics quickly. Professor Cocker, of TCD, would not have exchanged his basic undergraduate education for anything, even though he had been pitchforked into industrial dyestuffs.

Dr Nichol suggested that industrial work tended to be team, while university work was individual. Dr O'Neill, of NIHE (Limerick) said that the average Irish PhD was too specialised for a job in Ireland. Dr Philbin countered with some statistics from her own department: 55% of UCD higher degrees in chemistry had jobs in Ireland. (I suspect that she thinks this a good record, while Dr O'Neill thinks it proves his point! It all depends on one's attitude to emigration.) Dr Philbin also said that the Lancaster graduate employment record was poor, despite a conscious attempt to adapt to industrial needs. This, by implications, was a critique of the Limerick philosophy.....

Derry Kelleher, of the Institute of Chemical Engineers, in a written contribution read by Dr Nichol, put in the suggestion that a chemist might consider taking the examinations of the Institute of Chemical Engineers as a step on the generalisation of his or her experience..... He also made the point that the USSR and China constituted two testing-grounds which can be compared. The USSR had adopted the system of symbiosis between chemists and mechanical engineers in the tradition of Britain and Germany, while the Chinese has adopted the US-type of chemical engineering, as also did Japan. Chinese and Japanese industry had had rapid growth, while the USSR had lagged.

Let me attempt to draw some conclusions from this discussion. Firstly, no-one is 'right' and no-one is 'wrong'; it is a very dialectical, chicken-and-egg situation.

Undoubtedly you need to study the basics in some depth before you have enough of the art to enable you to attack problems. If you train too early in industrial specifics you run the risk of becoming a technician with obsolescent skills. If this is the cause of the alleged poor employment record in Lancaster, then Limerick should note the implied warning, and look into it further.

There appeared in the discussion throughout an unspoken assumption that a higher degree was necessarily in the academic direction, leading to over-specialisation in a direction remote from industry. This, while being true of the average Irish higher degree, is not necessarily always true. For example, in the TCD Statistics Department there is a conscious policy of basing higher degree practical work on problems posed by industry....by specific industrial or institutional sponsors. There is currently some work on an industrial feedback control system, involving concepts from chemical engineering, data-processing, analysis of variance etc, and related to a specific large-scale plant performance, which is registered for a PhD. It is possible to find in industry plenty of basic problems for which work on the solutions would be academically reputable.

I suggest....that a possible follow-up to the December 6 symposium might be for the eight or ten key people who were there to meet together, without the 'public meeting' ambience, and to get down to brass tacks.

By this I mean to make a short-list of (say) 10 interesting projects which have arisen out of industrial problems, and to sponsor as many groups of MSc students to tackle them, with members of the academic staff paid retainers to hold their attention as consultants, while also working as academic supervisors..... I know that this is possible, because I personally am now in my third year of practicing it. There are pitfalls and obstacles, but they are surmountable. If the university-industry interface is to become real, rather than verbal, this is what we need.

I am not suggesting that the IIRS be 'undercut by cheap academic consultancy', as some fear. The sponsoring body could, indeed, in many cases be the IIRS itself. Industrial sponsors would usually only be fit to spin off MSc projects if they were already substantial users of 'in-house R&D', (if I may borrow the NSC jargon).

Thus the first round of 10 sponsored MScs could perhaps be split up as follows: 5 from the IIRS distilled from the problems of the smaller firms and one each from the top 5 R and D-using companies in Ireland.

I am aware that Guinness is already doing something, at the level of releasing their staff for higher-degree work. This, however, is not the same as I have in mind, which is to convince the young aspirant higher-degree candidate that work on a problem posed by industry (or indeed agriculture) in Ireland is academically reputable and interesting, and to convince the academic staff that it is not beneath their dignity to combine the supervision of a higher degree with some consultancy.

January 31 1973

The Carlow Regional College is running two one-week courses.... on 'microscope technology in industry and medecine' and..... 'vacuum and low temperature technology and its industrial applications'.. These courses are a new departure in further education, at least as far as the provincial centres are concerned.

The microscopy course covers the principles and practice of the basic microscope as well as the stereoscopic, polarising, interference, metallurgical and other varieties. Application fields include engineering, plastics, geology, biology, food science and medecine.

Guest speakers include Dr Eberhart (Zeiss Jena), Alex Mason (the Dublin optical firm), Dr Stillman (TCD Geology), Professor J W Harman (UCD Pathology) as well as Dr Norman McMillan and others of the Carlow college staff.

The vacuum technology course includes basic and special techniques, leak detection, the mass spectrometer, vacuum guages, vacuum furnaces etc, as well as application areas such as vacuum drying (food, paper, chemicals) and vacuum cooking. The low temperature topics cover the various industrial techniques and theor application in the food industry and elsewhere.

Speakers include industrial experts from Carlow, Dublin and abroad.... This is a creditable start to what is likely to become the standard practice in the regional colleges, in the process of their development as local centres of technological expertise.

However if the industrial contacts generated by courses like this are to be followed up effectively, the conditions of work laid down by the Vocational Education Committees for Regional College staff will need revision..

The VECs do not seem to realise that they are dealing with a third-level system, with staff having distinguished records in industrial technology, in many cases abroad. To impose 21 contact hours per week on such people is to cut off all possibility of serious industrial consultancy contacts in working hours. The fact that Carlow has put these courses on is little short of miraculous; the seed corn planted however will have no chance to grow, unless the contact hours are drastically cut, to 14 hours or less.

This could be done by providing more library time, and providing adequate libraries. Unless this is done quickly, the first crop of regional college students will hit the market without the necessary spade-work having been done to prepare industry to absorb them. This can only be done by giving the staff plenty of industrial contact time and consultancy opportunities. The same, of course, holds in Dublin and Cork; a bad tradition has been allowed to develop....(in the metropolitan centres, which the provincial VECs have copied.)

February 28 1973

I have received a copy of the critique by the Union of Students in Ireland of the two Higher Education Authority Reports on the Ballymun Project and on University Re-organisation.

This is a balanced, mature and responsible document, which shows that the USI is far ahead of any of the political parties in their attitude to educational reform, while in no sense being 'adventurist' or 'ultra', as sometimes seems to be fashionable in student circles.

The USI document is a scathing indictment of the 'binary system' which we have inherited from the period of British rule: the system which produces illiterate and obsolescent technicians, technologists with minimal technical competence, scientists divorced from technology as well as innumerate Arts graduates; a population of half-men and quarter-women (as in the case of women, many of the already inadequate options are closed).

The HEA Reports are rather slender and specious defences of this binary system, produced on a shoe-string (the HEA had only 9475 pounds to spend, compared to 57,000 spent on the Devlin Report which recommended more pay for higher civil servants).

This document could usefully be produced and circulated as a pamphlet in the schools and colleges. There is a tabulation of the attributes of the Universities and the Dublin Colleges of Technology, set side by side, which clearly exposes an elitist, discriminatory structure.

They make the point that a surplus of graduates is better than a deficiency, as the essence of a graduates training is adaptability.

They call for a national Conference of Higher Education Colleges, as distinct from a specifically 'university' conglomeration excluding the colleges of technology, to be convened under the HEA, initially as a simple pooling of experience, but ultimately with a view, presumably, to a restructuring of the HEA on a more democratic basis..... hey oppose the (girls only) 'high-level secretarial courses'..

They come out in favour of a system with a multi-level output (as at Limerick), so than engineers and engineering technicians can be educated together in the same system. This was the case with the Boltin St Architects, and hopefully will remain so, as it has the full support of the profession. The couple of unreasoned paragraphs in which the HEA Report attempts to split the architects from the technicians, sending the former to Ballymun and the latter to Belfield, is likely to be treated with the contempt it deserves. The profession will support Ballymun, as they supported Bolton St, and a degree-level will emerge; if the UCD architects develop a sound basis in technicianship as a result of competition, then the pressure will be on for UCD to revise its procedures and allow technician-grade qualifications, and we will then have two similar centres. This sort of 'redundancy' is no harm; it increases the probability that we will have at least one good one!

Dublin is now big enough to support three higher education centres. The centre-city Colleges could usefully strengthen the link with Trinity College.

The USI document has a small paragraph showing awareness of the needs of apprintices. It points out that the HEA proposals in effect isolate them further from the educational system, leaving them at the mercy of short-term industrial needs. This section needs expansion; the relationship of the existing AnCo training schools with the second and third levels, particularly with the Regional Colleges, needs to be examined.

...In respect of theology....to claim that this is an absolute academic subject, without outside connections, is somewhat inconsistent..... There are the bones here of an argument for equal status of all relevant theologies, in line with the Amendment to Article 44 of the Consitution..... iving recognition to the new wave of scientific and philosophical approaches to theology which are emerging within the churches themselves. In the printed version, when it appears, I would like to see this section rewritten.

There is a critique of the failure of the third-level language schools actually to teach how to speak a language, leaving this field open to all sorts of commercial charlatanry.

Principal omissions are any reference to the Regional Colleges as elements in the system (though there is a passing reference to NIHE Limerick), and the failure to pinpoint the anomaly of the existence of primary teacher training colleges on separate sites and under clerical management. This is the last relic of clericalism in the third level and it is high time it was swept away. There is no reason why primary teachers should not have their experience broadened by rubbing against other third-level people. The existing teacher-training colleges would make pleasant residential centres for students in TCD, Belfield and Ballymun, each of the latter having expanded Schools of Education.

July 18 1973

I hesitate to enter into the controversy surrounding the National College of Art and Design, but two factors compel me to do so.

One is the John Burke exhibition which is currently on display in the TCD Library. The other is that the College of Art is at the time of writing being picketed...with the official blessing of the ATGWU.

The latter, I think, may be historic, in that for the first time industrial action has been taken in relation to academic conditions of work in a third-level institution. The underlying alienation, revolt and victimisation has been drawn to the attention of the public in a manner which is many times more effective than the traditional student protest.

The John Burke sculptures suggest, to me at any rate, some pointers towards the resolution of the NCAD impasse. Here we have a display of elegantly curved metal structures, superbly finished, of which the sole purpose is to to please the eye.

Is it too much to ask that the ordinary things which serve our everyday needs should please the eye similarly? This, of course, is what industrial design is all about. There was a symposium in Killarney last November on this topic, organised by Coras Tractala, to which I was invited, but was unable to attend. Coras Tractala kindly sent me some of the material, including Professor Black's contribution(*).

On the whole I think that these large symposia constitute a means of making it look like something is happening, while afterwards life goes on as before. There is a lack of continuous organised pressure in the aftermath. In this case, however, the Killarney symposium has enabled me to support the view of Alice Hanratty, who in a short piece in the 'Education Times' of July 5 questions the validity of the idea of teaching 'design' in isolation.

I quote Professor Black: '.....generalisation can best develop from specialisation...only those who have experienced the rigour of applying knowledge and experience creatively to the resolving of a precise task can appreciate the reality of problem solution....those who most vigorously support generalisation before specialisation are always students or academic theoreticians who have never been faced with the need to focus their creativity and inventiveness to the actual solution of a problem in art or design.' Then, later: 'Design without technique is dilletantism'.

Let me put forward the following proposition as a recipe for the future progress of the NCAD: instead of isolating it from technology, bring it together with technology and give it a place on the Ballymun campus (ie in the projected new Dublin National Institute of Higher Education).

A creative interaction of art teachers and students with the engineers and architects would do wonders for both worlds. A close cross-link into industry via IIRS would complete the structure. Bring together creative people in one place and interesting things happen. By the 1980s Ballymun could be a name in the world folklore, like Bauhaus.

On the other hand, if we persist in administrative isolation of our specialists from each other, by 1980 our ill-packed, ill-designed, ill-displayed, low-quality goods will be swept off the market and we will be lucky to get jobs as caretakers of holiday-camps.

This is the real nature of the so-called EEC challenge. We won't rise to it by waffling at Killarney. We need some quick administrative decisions such as to remove the obstacles to creative interaction between science, technology, craft and art, and to embody this dynamic into a flow of creative and competent young people into industry. A powerful lever to get these administrative decisions is the trade union movement, once it becomes conscious of the issues. That is why I welcome particularly the ATGWU intervention....


(*) Professor Black holds the Chair of Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art, London. The ideas quoted are from an article in 'Export', the Coral Tractala journal, Vol 6 no 3 (1972).

July 25 1973

Justin Wallace, in the 'Irish Journal of Education' (vol IV, no 1, 1972) has summarised the history of science teaching in Ireland from 1860 to 1970.

By 1890, two thirds of the Intermediate Board examination candidates were taking either physics or chemistry. Examiners' reports criticised the book-learning system and the lack of real acquaintance with experiment. Reforms introduced in 1900 (under the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction) emphasised laboratory work and increased both its quality and popularity.

Under pressure from the school managers(10) in 1916, the written examination was upgraded relative to practical work. By 1920 the decline in practical standards was noticeable; this persisted, with unaltered syllabuses, for decades, until the demand for change, triggered by the impact of the Sputnik on Western European education, began to assert itself in the 60s.

We are now beginning to innovate with science curricula.... to the extent that in a few schools here and there we are returning to the emphasis on practicality characteristic of the 'belle epoque' of 1900-1916. The latter flowering may be attributed to the British feeling the competition of the German Technische Hochschule, in the period leading up to World War I.

For strategic reasons, no doubt, they placed the emphasis on the link with the Department of Agriculture, Ireland's role as a food-producer being in mind.

Dr B L Powell, of the TCD Education Department, has an article in the Spring 1973 issue of the 'Secondary Teacher' in which he outlines new curriculum trends: away from 'subjects' and towards experimental projects directed towards goals...... This idea is developed also in 'Compass', a new journal produced by the Irish Association for Curriculum Development....

The October 1972 issue contains an article on the role of manual training by Seamus Rossiter. For a scientist, the importance of knowing how to make equipment for an experiment cannot be over-emphasised, even if the final version is made by someone else.

August 1 1973

In Connemara recently I gave a lift to a young building worker, who offered some perceptive comments on the safety factor associated with some pre-stressed reinforced concrete structures, in the welding of which he was currently taking part. Some school buildings, it seems, had collapsed, and the design was now in question. I am not suggesting that there was substance in his remarks, but I was impressed by the degree of educated concern. It turned out that he was an Arts student on vacation work. He seemed however to see no further than his degree; this was just a vacation job to help him get it. The idea that his true career might be as a construction engineering technician, and ultimately perhaps as an architect, did not seem to occur to him.

How many misfit Arts students, I wonder, result from the stunting of people's practical sense by the academic bias of the private sector of post-primary education? My guess is about 50%.

Mr Barry Desmond TD is quoted at length on this theme in the Education Times of July 19, from his intervention in the AnCO(11) debate. He touches, pertinently, on some related issues. He wants broad education for all, no discrimination against Leaving Certificate holders as regards apprenticeships, and correspondingly he wants opportunities for skilled technicians without Leaving Certificate to go on for technical qualifications of degree level. He stresses the need for a broad-based education leading to a versatile work-force.

I coundn't agree more. We must avoid like the plague the type of over-specialised, narrow approach of the English system, turning out specialists, whether craftsmen or academics, at a tender age.

The positive feature of the Irish scene at present is the close connection which appears to be developing between the Regional Colleges, the Vocational Education second-level system and AnCO. The negative feature is the continued existence of a large private sector in education (on average of lower quality as regards teachers' qualifications) which holds aloof from these positive developments, and which persists in turning out an undue share of academic cripples. In some cases where the State has made a modest effort to bring the private sector into the scheme of things, via the community school principle, the private sector has resisted by whipping up campaigns based on ignorance and prejudice.

If people must learn the hard way.... it could take a generation for parents to learn that the all-rounder with practical skills will get on, while the academic Leaving Certificate is a passport to a London building site. On the other hand, the message could break through quickly. The obstacle to this breakthrough is an obsessive sense of property on the part of the private sector. Insofar as this sector reflects the religious denominations, then all denominations are equally guilty.

October 31 1973

Professor Paul Cannon, of the UCD Department of Pharmacology, has produced a closely-reasoned article on the question of how the medical schools would be likely to develop under various conditions of specialisation between institutions in the basic sciences.

This article was published in the June issue of the journal of the Irish Medical Association. I cannot attempt to summarise the arguments; they are in the form 'on the one hand this, on the other hand that'. They do, however, serve a purpose in displaying what looks like a situation of some complexity. No wonder the 'merger' issue has faded into the background, since the early University of Lancaster graduate student research project was sponsored by the Department of Finance(12).

Nowhere in the discussions on the TCD/UCD merger has the issue of the role and status of the Colleges of Technology been faced, or indeed of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies.

I do not believe any system with rigid boundaries will work. The system is, and will remain, multi-centred. To force specialisation by central 'diktat' would be counter-productive.

Specialisation can be encouraged by allowing the good people to congregate where they want, with the minimum of barriers. In other words, what is needed is easy mobility of staff and postgraduate students around a four, five or six-centred system, with each centre maintaining all the essential undergraduate teaching services, the smaller ones being in a position to draw on a mobile pool of specialist expertise, who would individually spend most of their time in their chosen centre of specialist interest.

I agree with Professor Cannon's basic opposition to the 'debiologising' of UCD. The debate continues.

December 5 1973

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the National Council for Educational Awards (NCEA) are jointly sponsoring a three-day conference on business studies at third level next January.

This conference is to be of the OECD 'confrontation' type, and is by invitation only. Nearly 100 orgnaisations have been invited, including the universities, colleges of technology and regional colleges, research institutes and various voluntary professional bodies.

The organisers hope by this means to....find out what they want, enabling 'overlapping contributions to be identified' with a view to planning the allocation of finance and academic resources.

Presumably those groups which can between now and January establish lines of communication among themselves, presenting thereby a unified set of identified needs, will be able to use this 'confrontation' event to get the Establishment to accept their way of thinking. This is the State's way of establishing a consensus on an issue, in a situation where there are no established democratic lines of communication. The conference chairman is Eoin McCarthy, who is a member of the HEA.

The participants are invited to submit memoranda before next Monday.....(two or three pages). It is particularly important that organisations rooted in technology should make their impact....

What we need nationally is a competent middle and upper management which understands quantitative methods of analysis, is familiar with information-technology (ie is not afraid of the computer and understands its positive potential as a planning tool as well as a routine data-processor), and is familiar with the technology of what it is managing. The way towards this ideal is to take quantitatively competent people with a primary training in some branch of science and technology, and steer them towards management by further education.

There is a surplus of such people coming out of our education system at the moment, and a high proportion of them are going abroad without returning. This is a regrettable position, which university appointments officers are now beginning to verify by keeping quantitative records.

At this point it becomes of interest to scan the list of invitees to discern whether there is the makings of a 'science in management' lobby, if this is the term. I suggest that if the Dublin and Regional Colleges of Technology were to form a core, and were to gather round them a group of such other invitees as share this common ground, such as the Institution of Engineers of Ireland, the Quality Control Association and other such bodies... they might come up with some sort of unified set of needs identified by competent people at the working level.

The missing element in the list of invitees is...organised scientists as such. Clearly the organisers have not identified these as possible contributors to their consensus system, although they are apparently prepared to reckon with the views of the Catechetical Association.....

The only bodies verging on the specialist scientific disciplines are the Agricultural Science Association and the Psychological Society.... Where are the Chemists, Chemical Engineers etc? Are they supposed to come in under the wing of the IEI?

I am not optimistic that a meeting organised in this ad-hoc manner can lead to any great clarification. If there were continuous procedures functioning, it might make sense, as for example if the Senate were to assume the function for which it was originally intended....

May 22 1974

I referred on May 1 to the Galway postgraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and suggested that a study of the progress of the firms which had allowed their staff time off to do this work would be of interest.

There is, of course, more experience of this in the Dublin area, since UCD pioneered the MIE degree in 1967. There have been an average of 17 per annum through the UCD system since then; applicants exceed places by a factor of 2-3.

Initially applicants from the public sector were twice as numerous as those from the private sector; the numbers are now approximately equal. The total to date is 166 from 84 firms.

According to the Irish Management Institute there are about 100 industrial engineers needed per annum; the Institution of Engineers more conservatively estimates about half of this number. Clearly there is scope for increased production to fulfil a real need.

Perhaps the way forward is to provide conversion courses, somewhat like the Chemical Engineering Diploma, but adapted in such a way as to steer specialist science graduates in the direction of industrial engineering and management. The bottleneck with the present courses is that they seek to take the graduate who has already found a place in industry, and to adapt him or her towards management from a specialist role.

Why not begin at the beginning, with the Honours specialist science graduate, who is at present being grossly over-produced and pushed off abroad, where he or she becomes a super-specialist and virtually unemployable, should the speciality become the victim of a change of fashion.

This type of graduate would respond with alacrity to an offer of a conversion course orienting him of her towards a relevant technology (ie one having some relationship with the scientific speciality), possibly with the sponsorship of a firm, with a practical project of genuine scientific and technological interest, related to the needs of the sponsor.

September 25 1974

The June issue of the periodical 'Engineering' has an article evaluating a new syllabus which has been examined since 1969 for GCE in Britain. It covers mechanics, materials science, transport processes, field phenomena and applications, periodic and wave phenomena, analysis of systems, electronics and thermodynamics. It counts as physics for university entrance purposes.

The examination includes a project, the basis of which is building a system and getting it to work. One project was described which involved controlling soil moisture in a greenhouse by the use of a detector which depended on electrical conductivity; this actuated a moisturiser, the key element of which was a fish-tank aerating pump.

Another project was implemented by a Blackpool Grammar School girl, who studied the problem of sweeping the road by mechanical means, and designed an appropriate system which differentiated between large and small objects, making some of the components herself.

There are at least two lessons for us in this:

(a) if a practical subject is offered at school, girls will take it, despite a hitherto male tradition. The bias towards male engineers at third level is primarily a result of lack of second-level opportunity for girls;

(b) a practical project like this would be a 'natural' for the Young Scientists Exhibition.

Let me continue on the Young Scientists Exhibition: firstly, and relatively easily remediable, is the lack of an 'Engineering Science' section. Many of the projects are in fact engineering orientated, but get in masquerading as physics, or in some 'pure' discipline. Secondly, and only remediable by Department of Education action(13), is the need to allow project work, such as that displayed in the Exhibition, to count towards examinations. If this were the case, we would not have the disastrous fall-off of senior participation which takes place due to the Leaving Certificate.

October 10 1974

At the Engineers' 'Crossroads' conference on September 19..... the main problem.... appeared to be how to ingest the flow of technicians who are beginning to emerge from the Regional Colleges. The suggestion arose that the IEI might host a technicians' conference, with a view to taking them under the IEI wing, and might establish a system of accrediting the NCEA awards, and generally avoiding an 'us and them' situation developing across the grading-barrier.

There was a call for the development of team-work in the engineers' training.There was concern that the RTC courses were 'too academic' and a call for more 'sandwich' procedures. This depends on employers agreeing to block-release of trainees. Senior engineers here are in a position to apply pressure. An RTC spokesman complained that in 32 class-hours per week there was no time for practicals....

December 6 1974

There are several indications of a welcome trend away from the amateur dilletante tradition which has in the past been a feature of industrial management in Ireland, in the wake of the British tradition, and in contrast to that on the Continent and in the US. These are (a) the MAI course in TCD (b) the Galway industrial engineering course (c) the Sligo RTC conferring event which took place on November 22.

(At this point I must make the statutory bow in the direction of the UCD masters-degree course in industrial engineering, which is the 'daddy of them all', and to recognise the natural evolution of engineering through chemical and systems engineering towards systems having human elements (ie management) which has occurred in UCD under the influence of Professor O'Donnell and Professor Leahy. On this occasion I mention the others, as they happen to be the ones which have supplied me with material.)

On November 11 there was a reunion dinner of the TCD engineering postgraduate students. Dr WG Scaife referred in his speech to the phenomenal success of the postgraduate diploma in management for engineers. He attributed this to the large-scale use of extern lecturers whose experience was immediately relevant, and to the fact that the students were mature engineers who were able to bring in their own experience.

As well as the MAI course there are now available courses in computer applications, production engineering, applied electronics, engineering structures and information studies.

The MAI masters degree programme integrates the diploma lectures with the MSc modules in a flexible manner. Currently there is a group of 12 engineers completing a course on 'aspects of metal manufacture' which has been tailored to meet the needs of a large international corporation(14) which employs them. To service this course, the TCD Graduate School of Engineering Studies has drawn upon Bolton St, Limerick, Manchester and Salford for specialist part-time lecturers.

The Galway industrial engineering course began at undergraduate level in 1972 and the first primary BE (industrial) degrees were awarded this summer. The first year of the course is the same as the traditional mechanical and electrical engineerig course. The industrial option should prove increasingly popular as more people realise that the main problem is not to design new hardware, but to assemble existing hardware into systems that work effectively, reliably and economically.

The masters-degree course takes two years and depends on employers releasing students on Fridays and Saturdays for work in UCG; a project is also completed in spare time.

The undergraduate industrial engineering course involves, in the third and fourth years, laboratory work in electronics, electrical machines, light mechanical engineering, ergonomics and quality control.

In Sligo the Regional Colleges Engineering School is offering a course in Transportation leading to the examination of the Institution of Municipal Engineers.....

Mr CP Power, the Principal, defended the present form of the association of the Regional Colleges with the Vocational Education Committees, and suggested that any other administrative arrangement mght be less favourable.... I have heard criticisms of the present structure, mainly from the younger members of staff. I am inclined to go along with Con Power, however, on the grounds that an autonomous College board would, under present educational policies be unlikely to be democratically structured. The present VECs, although in many cases dominated by political co-options, are subject to democratic pressure and are therefore capable of reform. The tradition of political co-option has been allowed to develop by default. Now that the Regional Colleges are there, with their graduates becoming a force to be reckoned with, the potential exists for organising democratic pressure against political co-options and to replace them by co-options of nominees of relevant specialist organisations, or competent people in their own right.

Alderman McSharry TD, Chairman of the Board of Management, reminded the public that all coures offered in the College having the Leaving Certificate as entry requirement are now within the scope of the Higher Education Grants Scheme. This is an important break-through, as it means that the bright holder of four or more honours os not funnelled, often against his or her will, into the ivory towers, as was the case until recently. All of which will help to upgrade the Regional Colleges in the eyes of parents who are still (quite wrongly) worried about their academic status.

January 17 1975

I do not normally refer in this column to work with which I personally have been associated, but I feel that in self-defence I should amplify slightly the news reports...relating to a paper produced by Mrs Genevieve Franklin and myself and read at the Statistical abd Social Enquiry Society on January 9.

In the radio report the emphasis was on 'too many scientists'. In the press reports, the suggestion was that the National Science Council was in some way to blame for this over-production. Taken at their face value, these reports look as if they are blows aimed at the scientific community. Nothing was further from my mind. Let me try to summarise a complex argument, if I can do so without ambiguity, and without starting more hares.

According to the 1971 Census, which contained a question on qualifications in science and technology for the first time in history, enabling a head-count to be done, there were 568 people at work in the Republic in the age-group 24-27, with degrees in the natural sciences. The annual supply of graduates in this category in the period 1966-69 was on average 395. Express the age-cohort as 'jobs per annum' and you get 142, suggesting that in those years 253 per annum were lost by emigration. In the case of engineers, the jobs per annum comes out at 168 and the supply at 249, suggesting loss of 79.

Now we do not know the response-rate for 'question 18' on the 1971 census, as Mr TP Linehan (Director of the Central Office of Statistics), who chaired the session on January 9, pointed out. So the head-count may be low, perhaps by as much as 30%. All right, let us 'up' the head-count, thereby bringing the engineers more closely into equilibrium. We are still left with a substantial surplus of holders of science degrees, who are produced for a world market which, by all accounts, is contracting. One way or another we are left with a strong indication that we are producing, at high cost, specialists for export.

The conclusion of the paper, however, is not that we should cut back the honours specialist schools, but that we should explicitly recognise that only a relatively small fraction of their output will end up as academic specialists, and provide opportunities for the greater part of the honours specialist output to divert towards relevant scientific technologies, without loss of face. Thus, for example, a physicist could easily convert towards the status of systems engineer, and be productive as such.

This is at present starting to happen in any case, but not enough; in any case the loss to the economy of so many expensively-trained people is too high. Think of it in terms of the discounted future earnings of 200 scintists lost annually: possibly 20M or more.

The trouble is that the average Irish employer does not see aOon~~wence graduate as a cost-reducer or a revenue-generator. He or she does not 'look' productive. The objective of the proposed sponsored, problem-orientated masters-degree programmes is to change this image, and generate job-opportunities. It is up to potential employers to provide the sponsorships and the problems, and it is up to the academic staff who are concerend about the mismatch situation to interact with potential employers (possibly on a consultancy basis), to help them to define their problems and to pull in the sponsorships. This is what 'industrial liaison' is all about.

Finally, a word on the role of the National Science Council. I admit that in the paper as read the surplus situation was attributed to 'pressure from the NSC', and that this emphasis was wrong. Dr Diarmuid Murphy brought this out in the discussion, and in the final version it will be amended appropriately.

I should like to re-define the emphasis as follows: in the 1966-69 atmosphere, most of the emphasis was on 'science', while technology and the industrial links were under-valued. This reflected itself into the naming of the NSC, despite pressure from engineers and others to give explicit recognition to technology. It also reflected itself into the composition of the Council itself, and expressed itself in a policy of dealing mainly with university science departments.

Thus the NSC was not a prime mover, but a reflection of the subjective realities of a situation in which science was beginning to be recognised by the administrators as important, but without understanding the mechanism of the linkages with technology and industry.

March 4 1975

When the Regional Colleges of Technology were set up in the late sixties, there was very little idea how many technicians should be produced, and of what type. Some survey-work was done among the professional bodies and the third-level education system, and figures were produced which estimated the needs as imagined or conjectured by working scientists and technologists.

This market-research was known to be very preliminary, and as a result the emphasis in technician training was on knowledge of the basics, with a view to producing people with understanding and adaptability, avoiding over-specialisation. There was no provision, however, for producing a continuous market-research procedure, with an informed influence on career guidance.

Nor is there much opportunity for feedback-loops to develop between the Colleges and local industry, with staff having 21-25 hours of contact-time. The effect of this is illustrated by a press-release from the Sligo College, which treated a one-day visit of the chemistry students to the Mayco plant at Ballina (which produces PVC blow-mouldings) as a newsworthy event. All the indications are that the development of close industrial links with the Regional Colleges is proceeding slowly and encountering obstacles.

There is no centralised machinery for measuring supply and demand, even over broad categories..... this has been left to the initiative to the RTC Principals and departmental heads.

Following on a preliminary survey by Dr Sean Cawley of Carlow (May 1973) a paper has been produced by Dr B D Place, who is the head of the Galway RTC Science Department, which analyses the production of diplomas and certificates in chemistry and biology and relates it to the advertisements for jobs in the national newspapers appearing in the period October 1973 to September 1974. The trend in jobs is as follows:

     Year:    1971   1972   1973   1974
     Jobs:     478    471    902    383

The three earlier years are estimated by a sampling procedure, so the 1973 peak should be taken 'cum grano salis', but there is a suggestion of an upward trend, followed by 1974 (a disastrous year on all fronts) appearing as a setback.

Breaking down 1974 in detail, we get the following picture:

     Chemistry: 137        35.8 
     Medical:   178        46.5
     Biology:    39        10.1
     Physics:    10         2.6
     General:    19         5.0
                ----       ----
     total:     383       100.0

One wonders where in this are the engineers, but of course this is the output of the science department; no-one is working to co-ordinate this data-gathering.

The discipline analysis by sector follows:

     Employers:  A     B     C     D     E     F     G     Total
     chemistry   52    23    47     7    18    10    15     172
     medical      4    20    16               146     2     188
     biology           17    25           2     1     1      46
     physics      1     5     1     3    13                  23
     general      2           4           1           9      16
     totals      59    65    93    10    35   157    27     445
       %        13.2  14.6  20.8   2.3   7.7  35.3   6.1    100

     A: fine chemical/pharmaceutical
     B: universities/colleges
     C: State/semi-State
     D: IIRS
     E: food 
     F: hospital/veterinary
     G: other

Clearly the main market is the food and pharmaceutical industries, apart from the medical field.... But the total demand in industry, including the 'other' category, is small, a mere 27%, only slightly greater than the demand from the State bodies.

Now follows the most disturbing part of Dr Place's report. Taking the biology/chemistry ratio as a measure of the goodness of fit of supply to demand, he points out that on the supply side biology contributed 63% of the total biology plus chemistry, having increased from 54% in 1972. On the demand side, only 22% of all advertised posts were for biologists. Thus the mismatch is bad and worsening.

As regards absolute number....he predicts a total demand in the region of 600-1200 for 1975. There are suggestions that the 1974 slump has 'bottomed out'. The predicted output, excluding Limerick and the Dublin colleges, is only 183.

This picture complements a study completed by Genevieve Franklin and myself for the IDA....... Basing ourselves on the 1971 Census, we exposed the fact that, while graduate engineers were roughly in balance, there has been chronic over-production (for emigration) of graduates in the natural sciences, to the extent of a factor of two or three.

The resolution of these complementary anomalies, I suggest, is possible in a system with free lateral mobility. Most university entrants and undergraduates, if they had the choice, would welcome the chance of taking a job at an intermediate practical leve, where the demand is, rather than over-shooting the market and ending up with a poor degree in an over-supply situation. But they would only go to an RTC in the first place if they felt that they had the option of going on to degree level, whether in the RTC (eg polymer technology) or the university (chemistry or physics).

July 29 1975

I had occasion to visit Derry city recently and I took the opportunity to look in at the College of Technology, by courtesy of the Principal, Mr Ambrose Thompson (who incidentally is a TCD graduate). I also met some of the staff members of the NUU outstation known as the Institute of Continuing Education which now occupies the Magee campus.

I found an educational system fairly bristling with problems, rather poorly adapted to cope with the underlying economic problems of the area....

Firstly the recruitment situation is dominated by the crippling effect of the so-called '11-plus', which splits the educational stream at an early age into 'grammar' and 'secondary' categories. This split takes place earlier under UK conditions than in the Republic, so that a higher proportion of 'late maturers' are condemned to a stream which by all accounts appears to be appreciably more 'B' than the corresponding stream (ie the vocational ) in the Republic.

Such is the general disorder in the Derry second-level B-stream that few are able to get the four O-levels in appropriate subjects needed for entry to the College of Technology. Consequently the latter has to recruit from the grammar-schools, where however it has to compete with A-level courses offered by the schools themselves, and promoted by their Principals, as the direct road to the more-coveted university places.

It has not yet dawned on the Derry parents, or Principals, that the type of qualifications offered by the College of Technology.....are in fact surer passports to jobs than a university degree, and that in many universities they are acceptable as entry qualifications for masters-degree postgraduate programmes.

As a result of the depressed intake, the College of Technology in Derry has not had the chance to develop any significant research or local enterprise generating potential. The philosophy is simply to train people for such jobs as there are, or for further education elsewhere (eg at the Ulster Polytechnic at Jordanstown, near Belfast).

There is no apparent realisation of the need to train people for enterprise (ie to invent their own jobs), as is clearly necessary if the extreme economic depression of the Derry area is to be reversed.

The standard and numbers at entry could be improved and increased if students could come from Northern Donegal. There is already a trickle; ie those who can conveniently live with cross-Border relatives. If the Department of Education in the Republic were to open up the option for grant-holders in Donegal to register in Derry, this trickle would be likely to become a steady stream. Reciprocal arraangements for Derry students to go to Letterkenny RTC would help to compensate the latter for the loss of some of its market. Complementary specialisations could be worked out, and new specialist subjects introduced with shared staff, where in either College separately there would be insufficient demand to merit an appointment.

Both Colleges are feeding trained personnel to factories on both sides of the Border which share common managements. It seems reasonable to call for the development of some co-operative complementarity.

Turning now to the NUU out-station on the Magee campus: a group of well-intentioned staff, having academic status in NUU, have been left hanging in mid-air, with instructions to develop 'continuing education'.

The objectives of the Institute are admirable: the fact that education is not a 'one-off job' is being faced systematically, and resources have been devoted to studying how best to provide an 'updating service' to the levels of education which the members of the public have undergone at various times in the past.

There are four divisions: Community Studies (D T Carter), Education (Rex Cathcart), Liberal and Contemporary Studies (Reggie Smith) and Public Services (F S Bradley).

Community Studies is a novel concept and fills a gap; as well as training professional social workers it attempts to educate the community at large in the functions of the various social institutions. To attempt to do this 'from above' in war-torn Derry is courageous, and it will be interesting to see its degree of social acceptance.

It is within the scope of this division to face up to the problem of the College of Technology. How, for example, do you train a group of unemployed youth, who have developed some craft or technical skills, to pool their resources and go into business as a producers co-operative, without capital, depending entirely on credit and goodwill?

The Education division approximates in function to the division of the Department of Education in the Republic which organises summer schools for teachers. The Liberal and Contemporary Studies division carries out some Arts Council-type functions. The Public Services division approximates to the Institute of Public Administration; it also service the demand for courses for managers and trade unionists.

It makes good sense to bring all these educational services with entrepreneurial potential together on one campus. However I feel it makes bad sense to isolate them from the College of Technology, as well as from their parent university campus. If the two Derry bodies were to amalgamate, it would give the College the unquestioned third-level status it needs, killing for ever the old 'Strand Street Tech' image. (This is already in decline with the move to an excellent new building, just completed, despite the bombs). It would also give the Institute stronger roots and a technological dimension.

One project being studied within the Community Studies division of the Institute is an idea for a Design Centre. The Kilkenny model may be in mind: a link between the technological and craft skills available, and a market for aesthetically pleasing and useful objects. There is an input here from the UCD Psychology Department and Dr Ivor Browne, who perhaps deserves more recognition as the pioneer ofcommunity studies at university level in the Republic.

I have not had the chance to study this project in detail.... I take this opportunity of again pointing out the essential role of technology in design (and, indeed, design in technology), and stressing the potential for a design centre as an essential element in any proposed College/Institute link-up; indeed, it could be the keystone of the bridge.

If ever there was an example of the crippling effect of the 1921 Partition settlement on Irish enterprise and economic life, it is Derry City. Perhaps now that it is fashionable to seek to promote, with EEC support, economic developments in natural hinterlands which cross political boundaries, it will be possible for the appropriate agencies in the Republic and the UK to sit down and look objectively at North-West Ireland..

September 2 1975

The first degree course in industrial design engineering to be offered in Ireland is being developed jointly between the National College of Art and Design and NIHE (Limerick). The unprecedented relationship established between the two colleges is intended to make optimal use of the combined staff and facilities.

An advisory committee under the joint chairmanship of Professor David Sherlock (Deputy Director of NCAD) and Dr Evan Petty (Chairman, materials and industrial engineering division at NIHE), with members of CTT, Kilkenny Design Workshops, the Society of Designers in Ireland, the IDA and the Department of Education is assisting in developing the programme.

Hitherto students could not qualify in industrial design in Ireland, and were obliged to go abroad to do so. A number of government reports, including the Scandinavian Report of 1961, have stressed the importance of the link between a strong tradition of industrial design education and the general health of the economy.

The new degree programme is a four-year course incorporating periods of practical experience in industry; it is planned to commence in 1976. Annual admissions to the programme will be limited to 15 students....

January 6 1976

Dr Edward Walsh, Director of the National Institute of Higher Education in Limerick, some weeks ago launched publicly a new (for Ireland) concept in continuing education, the 'link-in'. This consists of a procedure whereby someone working locally in industry can register for a specialist module in some skill or technology for which he or she has a need. The module is taken alongside the current undergraduate population, which is also taking that module in its option-set. On completion the participant obtains a credit. If at a later date further modules are taken which add up to a diploma course, then a diploma is issued. In other words, anyone in the Limerick area who is prepared to arrange to get off work at the times required by the particular module of interest can over the years accumulate third-level qualifications while working.

Hitherto in Dublin this has worked on a twilight or evening basis, for a relatively small number of options. In Galway you take Friday off and work Friday and Saturday over two years for your masters degree in industrial engineering. This Limerick system, if it gets the co-operation of employers, adds a new dimension to third-level opportunities.

The indications are also that it is an advantage for student morale and cultural development to have undergraduates mixing with a proportion of mature and highly-motivated colleagues.

A 'module' extends for one term and involves attendance at two lectures and one or two laboratory sessions/tutorials per week. At present, some 25 modules are being attended by 'link-in' students, in subjects ranging from psychology to electronics.

February 17 1976

I have tended to avoid the Byzantine intricacies of university merger politics in recent years, although I can claim to have been one of the earliest in the field with my 1967 articles in this paper(15); these were my first serious incursions into scientific journalism.

I proposed.....a multi-college university in Dublin, on the London University model, taking in the colleges of technology, education etc as well as both university colleges, as constituent units, with mobility of students and staff throughout the system. This I still think is the best solution, in that it would get rid of the so-called 'binary' system, equalise staff working conditions and strengthen the interaction between science, technology and industry. It would also permit the constituent colleges to retain such of their traditions (Renaissance, Enlightenment, Victorian, Jansenist or whatever) as they felt contributed significantly to their micro-climates. The students and staff would vote with their feet, instead of being trapped, as they are now.

I am provoked into looking at the issues again by the student demonstrations of last week, the principal objectives of which were (a) to retain the status of the NCEA as a degree-awarding body (b) to impose the principle of democratic consultation as an alternative to government ukase in the planning of the future of the third-level education system.

In addition, documents have come to hand, namely a report of the TCD Faculty of Engineering and Mathematics, and a report from NIHE (Limerick). The latter discusses the rationalisation of the higher education in Limerick in the context of a comprehensive national structure. It is appropriate to consider these against the background of the student demonstration, and they developing relationship between TCD and the Dublin Colleges of Technology.

The main TCD problem is the threat of a future 'without capital investment' for engineering. In the event of a rundown of engineering in TCD, not only would the mathematics, computer science and statistics departments suffer, but the embryonic industrial liaison function, with which I am personally associated, would be strangled at birth. The engineering school forms an essential bridge between industry and the basic specialist disciplines in the physical sciences, just as the medical school is the bridge between public health and the biological sciences. Weaken engineering, and you leave dangling in the air the basic physical sciences, with their future firmly confined to the ivory tower.

The TCD engineering school has opted for an alternative approach in undergraduate training, in which the basic degree is 'engineering science' rather than with a specialised mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, agricultural label as is the case in UCD. This is not necessarily better or worse; it is an alternative which allows a more flexible approach to specialisation at a later career-point.. In a situation of rapid technological change, it is eminently desirable that a proportion of the flow of raw engineering manpower should be uncommitted to a specialist profession at their entry into the labour market.

It is also useful to industry to have available a system which is propared to provide custom-designed postgraduate programmes, reflecting the changing needs of industry. By association with such programmes an engineering science graduate can in effect develop an area of specialisation, which may or may not merit a label. (Many interesting developments in mechanical engineering, for example, are taking place as a result of interaction with electronics.)

In this context the link between the TCD engineering school and the Dublin colleges of technology may be understood as part of the survival strategy. I suggest to its critics in the USI that it is rather unfair to label it 'academic imperialism', and to suggest that it is a recent panic measure. The linkages in fact go back for a long time, and reflect a genuine community of interest between the centre-city colleges at the working level. Also, the ending of the old London extern degree validation procedure precipitated a situation to which the TCD school was willing to rise, at least as an interim measure.

There is however some substance in the USI argument; there is a sort of 'noblesse oblige', a touch of condescension, in the principle whereby a degree obtained by work in a college of technology is awarded by a university. It suggests that there is some magic in the mediaeval ritual. Whence the demand by the students for the restoration of the NCEA to its prior degree-awarding status.

There is a parallel situation which has developed between NIHE (Limerick) and that shadowy body, the National University of Ireland. I quote from the NIHE document of December 1975:

'The Governing Body, in accordance with government direction, has applied to NUI seeking 'Recognised College' status... Having examined the relevant statutes.....it is satisfied that these could lead to no feasible solution and that Recognised College Status would be inappropriate to the pursuit of the NIHE objectives....'

(Recognised College status is decidedly a poor relation of Constituent College status, and could lead to initiatives taken by NIHE being blocked by the NUI or taken up and developed elsewhere.)

The NIHE governing body has called for the termination of the negotiations with NUI (initiated under government direction) and for the awarding of degrees by NIHE itself.

This position is in fact endorsed by UCC and UCG; in the UCC case they envisage a joint Dublin/Limerick Technological/Vocational University, with provision for Recognised Colleges and extern examinations. The UCG submission stresses that '...to emphasise the university as the sole source of degrees is to mistake the symbol for the reality.'

It seems that the present Minister for Education(16) has managed to get himself a fully-fledged crisis. Between now and degree-time for the final-year NIHE students, someone is going to have to climb down. I doubt if it will be the NIHE, whose students, staff and governing body are united in their determination to have nothing to do with the NUI.

The political ramifications of this battle extend down to the secondary and primary levels, where the present Minister's record is blatantly feudal, with religious denominational control nailed to the mast as a principle (unique in Europe), and a policy of submerging the lay-managed democratic vocational sector under local majorities representing private denominational interests in cases where vocational/secondary mergers produce 'community schools'. The consequences of this policy, in terms of the narrowing of the cultural horizons, and undermining of technical competence of the working population, can only be disastrous.

In the case of the NIHE, however, the Minister is not dealing with a recalcitrant primary-school parents' committee. The industrialisation of the mid-west is at stake; the cost to the nation of a decline in credibility of the NIHE is measurable on the scale of the accumulated investment into high-technology industry in Limerick and Shannon, much of which has taken place with IDA support.

April 13 1976

On February 17 I took up the question of the degree-awarding procedures in the NIHE (Limerick), suggesting that to make these dependent on the NUI procedures would be against the spirit in which the NIHE was founded......

The way in which a report produced by a UCC team on the NIHE courses was leaked to the press on February 18 before the NIHE had seen it savoured of an assassination job. I am credibly informed that at least one of the UCC investigating groups, while being familiar with the basic science, was not at all familiar with the technology and applications of the material that they were supposed to be evaluating. I know of a number of UCC staff who were shocked an embarassed by this particular piece of academic mayhem.

On March 23 a meeting of the development consultants took place at NIHE; these are a panel of leading academics and industrial practitioners. At this event, Niall Meghen, Director of the CII Engineering Division, urged that the NIHE should not dilute its basic ideas, nor change direction. This was supported by John Beishon, Professor of Systems at the Open University in Britain.

The February issue of the IDA News came out strongly in favour of the original NIHE concept: that of theoretical understanding reflected in practical competence in relevant industrial technologies.

Words like 'practical', 'flexible' and 'enthusiastic' keep appearing in the reports of employers who are involved in the co-operative scheme.. This is in contrast to the attitude of employers of the traditional university output (four years of theory-cramming, after which they only become useful after a lag-time of years, their apprenticeship period being related to their theoretical formation by accident, if at all).

Yet apparently it is possible for a Minister of Education.....tp meddle destructively with the third-level system in its key technological areas, about which he visibly understands nothing, nor is he apparently teachable. This in the face of the advice of the CII and the IDA, whose main concern is the industrialisation of the country with a technologically competent workforce.

Consider now the NCEA, which has been deprived of its degree-awarding function. It happens that the assistant registrar (science) of the NCEA, Dr JV O'Gorman, has just recently won an award from the Society of Chemistry in Industry for the best paper (in a two-year period) on 'water-pollution control or water treatment'. Dr O'Gorman took his chemistry degree in UCC, worked for Biotox and for the IIRS, after which he went to Pennsylvania State University where he did his PhD in 1971. He joined Imperial College staff and worked on pollution control at Stevenage. He joined the NCEA in 1974 after a period with the Dublin County Council.

It was a real break-through with the old NCEA/NIHE system to have people with career-profiles like this associated with the degree-awarding process. This the Minister has reversed.

Far be it from me to claim that every course in Limerick is perfection. Where they do score, however, is in the theory-practice mix. This is just not comprehended by the university traditionalists, who for example judged linguistic proficiency on the basis of written material alone, without regard for oral fluency, in which area the Limerick teaching had concentrated. Thus the 'written exam' tradition (which incidentally has virtually killed the Irish language) is being used to strangle at birth the Limerick attempt to raise our export-business practice above the level of the Anglo-Saxon monoglots.

The USI, in opposing the downgrading of the NCEA, was expressing a correct instinctive understanding.

The present antics of the Minister for Education are quite inconsistent with the attempts the Government is making through the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to upgrade the level of skill available to industry in Ireland. With the critical forces ranged against him as they are, it is feasible to force the restoration of the status of the NCEA, the vindication of the stand of the NIHE on its original principles, and the resignation of Mr Burke. If this does not happen, the embryonic technological revolution we are beginning to discern will abort, and the present Government will be to blame.

May 11 1976

....I must defend the concept of an elite technological centre independent of the traditional universities, such as was promised by the original NIHE/NCEA concept(17). This system would have provided the required good people to fill the gap between academic theory and industrial practice. A touch of elitism is needed to pull good people into this wilderness, which is at present populated by unqualified people, qualified expatriates or dropouts who have rejected traditional academicism...

It is relevant in this column to touch on second-level education problems, because the existing elitism of the traditional academic system tends to pull the brightest pupils into the privarely-owned secondary and away from the vocational sector. The fact that the private sector is owned and managed by various religious bodies compounds the problem.

An elite third-level technological university could have the effect of upgrading the prestige of the public sector at second level, thereby reducing the barriers to integrating it along with the private sector into a unified State comprehensive system......

The present Minister's conservative approach to second-level education is helping to prevent young people from becoming enthused with science and technology, and from developing their critical faculties in a problem-solving educational environment.. The tradition of verbal skills from book-learning isolated from practicality is being reinforced, while we have to import people to fill key gaps in technology and technicianship.

If the NIHE were to be allowed to develop independently of the NUI, and the university engineers were to cultivate the cross-links with it at the working level (as indeed TCD has been doing with the Dublin colleges of technology for many years), the prestige of the whole technological system would rise, university engineers included.

If on the other hand the NIHE is to be kept visibly 'second-best' then technology as a whole will suffer; prestige would remain unproductively with the university academic system as a whole, rather than with its engineering schools(18).


1. Education policy in Ireland has tended to avoid oversize schools, so that the national experience of integrated community/comprehensive schools where these exist is good.

2. The SCL is basically a pressure-group seeking to get genuine third-level status for college of technology staff. The 'Vocational Education Committees' of the local authorities tend to think in second-level terms, where most of the activity takes place.

3. See Chapter 3.3 (Innovation) on 9/7/70.

4. There has been a resurgence of this influence under the Reagan administration. The writer attended in 1981 a seminar in TCD addressed by serving US airforce officers, who outlined the physics research areas they were prepared to finance, and invited proposals. An NBST observer was present.

5. Profesor Seamus Timoney (UCD Mechanical Engineering) has taken this to the manufacturing stage. His firm, Adtec ltd, has manufactured some units for use by the Irish army. It is also licenced for production by a firm in Belgium.

6. At this time the Ballymun site in north Dublin (where the old Albert Agricultural College was located) was allocated for re-locating the old centre-city municipal colleges of technology. Such has been the rate of expansion that it is now (1983) the site of the new NIHE (Dublin) (on the Limerick pattern). The old VEC colleges remain on their centre-city sites, and have integrated themselves into the Dublin Institute of Technology.

7. The name of the Northern Ireland seat of devolved government under the British administration: 'a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People'.

8. New town joining linearly Portadown and Lurgan, named after the founding-father of the Stormont regime who was responsible for the above quoted slogan.

9. The same holds for food-processing in general; see Chapter 3.2 (Chemistry and process engineering) on 29/7/70 and 19/4/72.

10. These would mostly have been clergy, who occupied important positions of local influence when the education system was set up in the 19th century. This situation remains unchallenged by the democratic process.

11. An Comhairle Oiliuna: the Industrial Training Authority.

12. This was carried out by John Cantwell who subsequently became the head of the Operations Research unit in the Civil Service. The failure of this project to bear fruit may perhaps reflect the limitations of the linear optimising philosophy which has tended to dominate OR. See also the last entry of Chapter 3.6 (Systems analysis/Operations Research).

13. In the 1983 Young Scientists Exhibition this problem was again mentioned as being on the political agenda. I wonder how long it will take? It has been the norm in the UK for years, if not decades, and Northern Ireland entrants to the Exhibition benefit by it.

14. Standard Pressed Steel Inc. See also Cahpter 1.2 and 3.1 on 22/11/72.

15. See Chapter 2.1 (Irish Background).

16. Mr Richard Burke, who subsequently became the Irish member of the EEC Commission.

17. This entry was in response to a letter from Professor Seamus Timoney, of the UCD Mechanical Engineering Department, who defended the traditional UCD Engineering School as a centre of excellence on the continental pattern, and criticised the writer on the grounds that he seemed to wish to disperse and proliferate our 3rd-level engineering schools, thus wasting resources, producing too many graduates and not enough technicians. Professor Timoney himself is an exceptional example of academic ability combined with industrial entrepreneurship. The problem is that there are too few like him. It remains to be seen whether the NIHE approach will prove to be a more favourable environment for the 'Timoney process' than the traditional engineering schools. I was then inclined to predict that it would, and I see no reason to change my mind. As regards the technician ratio: the RTC/NIHE system enables people to drop out at various level of attainment, so that it ensures a supply of technicians, some of whom are of graduate potential, with the option of taking their education further when it suits them. The market should influence the drop-out, and drop-in, rate. Perhaps 'elitism' is an inappropriate word; I prefer it however to the negative formulation 'non-dustbin'.

18. Lest the writer be thought inconsistent: he does not like the 'binary' system and would prefer total 3rd-level integration with diverse specialist nodes. Given that we are stuck with the inheritance of the binary system, let us make sure that the technological sector attracts the best people.

[To Irish Times Column Index] [Techne Associates]

Some navigational notes:

A highlighted number brings up a footnote or a reference. A highlighted word hotlinks to another document (chapter, appendix, table of contents, whatever). In general, if you click on the 'Back' button it will bring to to the point of departure in the document from which you came.

Copyright Dr Roy Johnston 1999