A critical evaluation of higher education policy in Ireland: the Global Financial Crisis and beyond

Burke, Christina (2021) A critical evaluation of higher education policy in Ireland: the Global Financial Crisis and beyond. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Ireland is one of the most globalised countries in the world (World Economic Forum, 2015). The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 impacted the Irish economy and society in particularly challenging and adverse ways, culminating in an EU/IMF economic bailout in 2010 and a prolonged period of austerity for the Irish people. In the midst of this crisis, the Irish government published its national recovery plan Building Ireland’s Smart Economy: A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal in 2008. A key objective of this blueprint included a prioritisation on the restructuring of Ireland’s higher education system repositioning it as an instrument to facilitate Ireland’s economic recovery and future growth. This dissertation charts and interrogates the circumstances leading to the current policy position in Irish higher education. Through the instrument of critical policy analysis (CPA), which for the purposes of this study is grounded in the sociological theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Neo-Institutional theory, this research examines the transformation of Irish higher education in the decade following the Global Financial Crisis. I explore whether the specific policy direction now evidenced in Irish higher education was an inevitable response to the dire economic situation Ireland found itself in following the crash of the ‘Celtic Tiger’, or if the Global Financial Crisis simply acted as a catalyst for a new trajectory. Furthermore, this investigation explores the current tensions between government and Irish higher education providers as central control over the sector tightens, while the lack of sufficient funding continues to be a topic of intense debate amongst all stakeholders. Such pressures are bolstered by the hegemonic discourse on knowledge economy imperatives, investment in human capital, and the widely held belief that higher education is the conduit to drive it all. Underpinning this research are the concepts of habitus, field, capital and power which constitute the key tenets of Bourdieu’s ‘thinking tools’. These are supplemented by the conceptual instruments of isomorphism and legitimacy which, along with field, represent core assumptions within Neo-Institutional theory. I ask if it is time, faced with further periods of instability arising from Brexit and Covid-19, to redress some of the more contentious issues which arose following the publication of Ireland’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 in 2011. Crucially, the question of whether there are other viable approaches for a more balanced Irish higher education into the future will be posed.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Enslin, Professor Penny and Hedge, Professor Nicki
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82390
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2021 12:30
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2022 14:57
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82390
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82390

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