Jun 07 2012

Irish University Staff Overpayments

Category: Third LevelTeknovis @ 20:58

The Irish Government’s spending watchdog (the Comptroller and Auditor General) has reported on the staff overspending in Irish Universities, and some of the findings are reported in University staff paid €8.1m in excess of approved rates – Comptroller & Auditor General.

The breakdown is as follows:

However, it is not all good news regarding DCU – it bailed out two of its subsidiary companies. I do not understand why these companies were created as commercial ventures in the first place.

WIT (not a university) also receives criticism:

It cites breaches of spending policy on subsistence and hospitality – including €18,452 spent on flowers and €3,067 on gifts.

Unfortunately, I am not surprised by this :o It is not the first time that WIT has been found misappropriating funds (see How WIT Spends the Taxpayers’ Money). WIT seems to have the worst reputation in Ireland based upon the people whom I have met!

I would like to think that the institutions involved have repaid the money, and that the relevant people have been demoted or fired.

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May 05 2012

Commercialisation of Irish Universities

Category: Fourth Level,Third LevelTeknovis @ 10:46

I read an interesting article during the week by a UCD professor lamenting the drive by Irish Universities towards greater industrial linkage. The article is The bleak future of the Irish university.

I disagree with most of his opinions, and I think it is very important that Irish universities become more relevant to Irish industry!

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Oct 06 2011

Irish Universities Fall Further

Category: Third LevelTeknovis @ 18:51

Exactly a month after I last wrote about Irish Universities falling in global rankings (see Irish University Rankings)  there is another rankings list published that indicates an even greater fall. TCD is now the highest placed university in position 117. See The World University Rankings 2011-2012 for the complete list.

According to some articles, such as Government faces fees pressure as universities slide, the universities believe that the solution lies in reintroducing university fees:

UCD president Dr Hugh Brady said: “We are working harder and longer with far less but it will be difficult for us and for all of the Irish universities to compete in the years ahead unless the nettle of higher education funding is grasped.”

This is interesting coming from the seventh highest earner in education in Ireland (see The top 100 best-paid in education).

Personally, I believe that the Irish universities mismanage a lot of the money which they receive. I think that academics are paid too much in Ireland, and increasingly their performance is failing. Perhaps this is part of the general falling standards in Irish universities.

I personally know some academics working in EU universities that are ranked higher than the Irish universities, yet they earn significantly less than their Irish counterparts.

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Sep 06 2011

Irish University Rankings

Category: Third LevelTeknovis @ 14:11

There are new university rankings published this week, and it is bad news for all of the Irish universities. See Most Irish universities fall further in world ranking for details of the Irish situation, and QS World University Rankings 2011/2012, now with fees information for the complete rankings. As an aside, I think the DCU satisfaction at improving four places is seriously over optimistic!

Additionally, as one UCD researcher whom I know said:

I wonder will Des Fitzgerald’s salary be reduced in line with UCDs falling performance.

Personally, I think it is unlikely :| (The background to this comment is in The top 100 best-paid in education.)

Maybe the solution from an Irish point-of-view is to create a good university and a bad university, in the style of the banking solution. Actually, maybe not when it is considered how well the Government have managed that!

So in summary, Irish universities are delivering poor service at exceptionally high costs. Welcome to the knowledge economy – Irish style!

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Aug 25 2011

SFI Funding

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 18:52

Science Foundation Ireland has announced its latest round of funding, in which 15 million Euro will be distributed to fund 79 different university projects. All of the usual universities are in there. See Robust and competitive research will drive Ireland’s economic development – Sherlock for the details.

To be honest, I find it a bit depressing to see some of the names I first came across over 10 years ago in that list, and these people are still doing basically the same projects. It makes me feel that the world moves on, but academics never change :|

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Apr 25 2011

IRCSET Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme 2011

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 08:18

IRCSET recently announced the results of the 2011 Postdoctoral Scheme (see IRCSET Postdoctoral Fellowship Schemes 2010/2011). The value of each fellowship is roughly 80,000€ over two years (see Empower).

According to my count there were 37 fellowships awarded this year. These can be broken down by institution as follows:

  • 4 DCU
  • 1 DIAS (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies – I know very little about this institution!)
  • 1 DIT
  • 6 UCG
  • 10 TCD
  • 1 UL
  • 3 UCC
  • 11 UCD

Clearly TCD and UCD are doing something right because they account for more than half of the successful applicants!

The fellowships can also be broken down by category, although these results are more evenly distributed:

  • 4 Biological Sciences A
  • 6 Biological Sciences B
  • 7 Chemistry
  • 2 Computer Science
  • 4 Earth and Environmental Science
  • 6 Engineering
  • 2 Mathematics
  • 6 Physics

It is also interesting to note how many of the names do not sound Irish!

Overall, I do not think that these fellowships represent good value for the tax payer! I say this, because I know some of the people who have successfully applied for this fellowship. In all cases, it is seen as a way to continue a career as an academic. Furthermore, the people I have known had or have no intention of remaining in Ireland or working in industry. In other words, these people want to become academics for the sake of becoming academics, and their contribution to the country will be minimal.

If it were up to me, I would fund more PhD students who then go on to work in industry!

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Jun 05 2009

RTE Player in UCD

Category: NetworksTeknovis @ 17:12

A friend of mine who works in UCD was trying to use the RTE Player on her laptop this week. (Yes, it was work related :o ) She had mixed results!

She could view the RTE Player web page, and any of the video content, using her wired connection in one building. However, she could only view the RTE Player web page, but not any of the video content, using her wireless connection in another building. The video panel would time out after playing the advertisement. That was annoying!

I did a quick search on the Internet, and the only related information that I could find was New RTE player also blocked?. However, this thread seems to be full of inaccuracies, as I normally find on Boards.ie :( In particular, the following statement appears to be incorrect:

The new RTE Player opens a direct connection to the RTE Server on tcp port 1935


I can view the RTE Player video content perfectly from my current location, and I know that I am not allowed to access TCP Port 1935. I also am behind a proxy server, so that cannot be the cause either. My friend was able to access fmsv1.rte.ie, so obviously the site is not blocked.

However, I still do not know what is causing the problem :|

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Apr 08 2009

Science Foundation Ireland Strategic Research Clusters

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 22:04

Earlier this year Science Foundation Ireland announced the creation of five new Strategic Research Clusters with an investment of 23.9€ million. (I should have written about these at the time, but better late than never :)

Two of these projects are of interest to me (because they are ICT related):

  • Clique is analysing data graphs and networks. This project is based in UCD.
  • FAME is investigating end-to-end communications over heterogeneous networks. This project is based in TSSG.

For more details about this announcement see Tánaiste announces establishment of 5 New Science Foundation Ireland Strategic Research Clusters, and for the complete set of Strategic Research Clusters projects see Strategic Research Clusters.

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Apr 01 2009

Unfilled Computing Research Positions in UCD

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 18:20

There was a story in one of the Irish national newspapers earlier this week claiming that UCD was having difficulty filling up to 33 computing research positions. The full story is Wanted: 33 smart people for top posts, and the positions are described in Vacancies.

I thought that this was very surprising when I read it initially, but after further investigation I think that it is understandable.

Firstly, 23 of these 33 positions are for PhD studentships. The successful candidates will receive a tax-free salary of 18,500€. I do not think that this level of remuneration will attract anybody of the right calibre who is already working in industry. Most likely, it will only appeal to graduates.

The other issue that I see with these positions is that they are based on formal methods. I know that this area is significant within the computer science world, but I do not think that industry has much interest in this area. Therefore, it is less likely that the successful candidates will learn significant transferable skills.


Mar 13 2009

TCD and UCD to Merge Research

Category: Fourth LevelTeknovis @ 20:08

I read earlier in the week that TCD and UCD are going to merge their research capabilities. These are the two largest universities in Ireland. You can read more about this proposed merger in UCD, Trinity announce Innovation Academy and Universities hope merger will create 30,000 jobs.

I think that this is a great move, because the Irish Universities have seen each other as their main competition for too long. In a globalised economy, they need to work together to outperform other international universities. In other words, I think that there needs to be some rationalisation and concentration within the Irish fourth level education system. Ireland can either have several mediocre universities, or one or two world class universities.

However, I am slightly sceptical that significantly increasing the numbers of PhD students is going to be beneficial to the economy. Creating PhD students to improve some national statistic will not be of any benefit unless there is a real need and demand for people with PhDs.

Perhaps it would be equally beneficial, or even more beneficial, to focus on reducing the cost base in Ireland!

I also think that there will need to be some radical changes within the universities. For example, I think that the distinction between an academic career and an industry career needs to be removed. Perhaps it would be a good idea to stipulate that all new academic recruits must have several years of industrial experience. In reality, I do not think that this idea would be popular!

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