UCC President leaves students in great uncertainty

Cathal Brennan
Dr. Michael Murphy, President of University College Cork, took part in
an open Q&A session with students of the university in UCC Students’ Union
Council on Wednesday the 19th of January.
Dr. Murphy responded to questions posed to him by students from a broad
range of courses and disciplines. Matters raised throughout the session included
the management structure of the Computer Science Department, the massive
pay cuts facing student nurses in their final year work experience placement and
the inefficiency surrounding the administration of the student hardship grant.
In his opening address to Council, he argued that the current economic
situation presented an ideal opportunity for students to travel upon graduation.
Making reference to his time spent in London during the Troubles, he extolled
the advantages of travelling abroad, and the wealth of experience that can be
gained as a result.
He went on to illustrate the importance of the new national strategy of the
Higher Education Authority, known as the ‘Hunt Report’. He welcomed it as ‘a
guide to the future’, and said that everyone in higher education institutions
should be familiar with the content.
Elements within the report deal with the necessity of diversity amongst the
student demographic, the importance of the student experience as a whole and a
new student feedback mechanism that will allow students to make anonymous
complaints and recommendations regarding the management of their particular
department.
One of the questions answered by Dr. Murphy was from Gary Mulcahy,
the Mature Students Equality Officer. Asked on what he and the university
were doing to attract people away from the unemployment line and back into
educations, Dr. Murphy replied that one of the biggest problems in Irish society
today concerned the low percentage of the adult population that is involved in
education.
He pointed out that 30% of adults in Sweden and Finland are always looking
to increase their skill, and that Ireland needed to address this imbalance by
utilising the power of online education. He said that it was up to the staff to
make education more available.
Teresa Caton, a third year Nursing student, asked Dr. Murphy on whether
there was going to be a response from the university in light of the wage cuts to
student nurses. Dr. Murphy said that he was disappointed with the decision by
the Department of Health to cut student nurse wages down to 40% next year,
and then to have them scrapped entirely by 2015.
He expressed a concern that there will be less nursing undergraduates asa
result of this action, which will lead to less fees being paid to the College of
Medicine, thus affecting the institution of UCC as a whole.
Greg Higgins, UCC Students’ Union Education Officer, asked Dr. Murphy
to name five key projects that UCC would be undertaking in the next twelve
months. Dr. Murphy said that there would be the establishment of a joint
campus with a university in China; this action would increase the student
population of UCC by 4000 students in 5 years.
He also pledged to the establishment of a competitive online education
capability; the acquirement of institutions with which to properly evaluate the
worth of a UCC degree; the full implementation of a student feedback system,
and the development of staff performance.
Daithi O’Sé, a third year Chemistry student, attended the Council. “He (Dr.
Murphy) has a lot on his plate”, he said afterwards, “decreasing exchequer
funding while increasing student numbers and resources as required. He has
done well at the university’s budget deficit: reducing it from €19m to €2.2m. At
the same time however, he is a senior management figure and is wrapped up in
red tape and bureaucracy. In that sense, he comes across as a waffler at times. A
true politician.”
The next Students’ Union Council will take place on Wednesday the 23rd of
February. Venue to be confirmed.
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