Austerity, Capitalism and the Restructuring of Irish Higher Education


  • Marnie Holborow


There is a deep contradiction at the heart of the way governments are dealing with the crisis. By converting bank debt into sovereign debt, they are injecting huge amounts of state money into a system that they stridently claim runs best as a freewheeling market. This constitutes, as Alex Callinicos points out, 'a moment of discontinuity in the neoliberal era', one in which the crisis has forced Western governments into much greater reliance on the state. This paradox is being played out in different ways across Irish society at present, and higher education is no exception. Education is supposed to succumb to the ‘out there’ of global competition but meanwhile, the Irish government, under the guise of austerity policies, is intensifying its own intervention. The effects are leaden and oppressive: every aspect of Irish third level education has become quantifiable and form-fillable. The Irish university system, in the words of Tom Garvin, is being throttled by managers and bureaucrats, and is breeding an `indescribable grey philistinism' of Orwellian proportions