The higher education system has become a pivotal institution in contemporary Irish society. Increasing expectations of its contribution to personal growth and career enhancement and to the economic development of society have led to greatly increased participation rates. Two-thirds of the current cohort of young people can expect to enter higher education.
This book provides an authoritative account of Irish higher education from a comparative perspective. It reviews the expansion and diversification of the system in the light of global developments, and provides a rigorous comparison of relative participation rates and levels of equity. It examines features of the student experience, the role of the academic profession, the research mission, and the linkages between higher education and the labour market. It reviews the funding crisis brought about by declining exchequer support, explores the changing patterns of governance and the rise of the evaluative state, and reviews critically the current focus on mergers and other forms of consolidation designed to achieve a structural reconfiguration of the system. This policy analysis is informed by an overview of developments in other countries and an assessment of the impact of supra-national agencies such as the OECD and other external 'experts' in setting the change agenda.