Thursday, 13 January 2011

"Embrace the Arts": Irish Higher Educational Strategy

Book of Kells, Folio 33r eight-circle cross carpet page - in the public domain

DEFEND the ARTS and HUMANITIES heard, via the email list of the Campaign for the Public University, of the very positive stance towards Arts and Humanities education in the Irish Government’s newly published National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, also known as the Hunt Report. Some excerpts are given below.

However, the Republic of Ireland is not likely to continue to be an "abundant land" for public university education more generally. Sadly, the Hunt Report also recommends the introduction (or increase) of upfront student fees and a reduction in the number of higher education institutions.

National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 - Report of the Strategy Group

[PDF of main report from which the below excerpts have been drawn]

One of the most fundamental questions in planning for the future is: what are the right skills for the graduates of 2015 and of 2030 and what mix of skills should we pursue as learning outcomes of higher education? To address the societal needs over the coming years, increased attention must be paid to core skills such as quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, communication skills, team-working skills and the effective use of information technology. The emphasis has switched from over-specialisation towards deeper and broader disciplinary foundations, with learning objectives that explicitly seek to nurture in students the creativity, enthusiasm and skills required for continual engagement with learning. In this context, the arts, humanities and social sciences have a key role to play. The Innovation Taskforce emphasised the importance of independent thinking and ‘the development of creative, high-skilled graduates as well as lifelong learning, mentoring and continuous professional development’. [p. 35]
While most discussion of research focuses on the hard sciences, it is the arts, humanities and social sciences that have consistently attracted the largest numbers of students, and these are the domains in which Ireland has made a real global impact.This can be seen in the achievements of Irish people in literature, music, and the arts, and in the extent to which Ireland benefits from its reputation in these areas.There are also very compelling social and economic reasons to develop our capabilities in these areas, including advancement of our understanding of the very rapid changes taking place in the Irish economy and society, better-informed public policy-making, and development of the creative and analytical skills that will be valuable in a global economy that is increasingly dominated by knowledge-based services. [p. 38]
In the advancement of human knowledge and understanding, Ireland has its own distinctive contribution to make. As an island of scholarship, scientific discovery, creative arts and innovation, Ireland attracts independent thinkers and entrepreneurs from around the globe.The Irish language, culture and the creative arts are primary sources of our distinctiveness and we should deepen our understanding of these and capitalise on their inherent cultural value and on the cultural and literary qualities that make us distinctive and interesting internationally.  [p. 51]
Embrace the arts, humanities and social sciences as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Research in the arts, humanities and social sciences  (AHSS) addresses areas of fundamental importance to society – areas that impact on enterprise, job creation and  public policy. In the Irish context, these disciplines study values and practices that are central to our national identity, our sense of self, and to how we progress as a society. They are important drivers  of economic and social innovation, promote ways in which the economy is managed and developed, and suggest how  individuals can engage and participate in civil society. Concrete examples of the social and economic impact of research in AHSS include the performing arts,  creative industries, financial services, and  tourism. [p. 67]

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