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Changing Universities In Europe; A Case Study From Ireland

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Case Studies and Engineering Education Around the Globe

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.317.1 - 14.317.16



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Paper Authors

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Kevin Kelly Dublin Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Implementing Change in Universities in Europe; A Case Study from Ireland


This paper sets out to examine aspects of research recently undertaken in a higher education institute (HEI) in Ireland. The research examined how stakeholders at all levels in an engineering college in this HEI thought it should change in a rapidly and dramatically changing external environment. It was an exploratory case study undertaken over three years between 2006 – 2008. It used collaborative qualitative research methods in order to shed light on what was happening by interviewing representatives of all stakeholders involved, letting each stakeholder group know what the views of other stakeholders were, challenging interviewees on their views by offering alternative positions and attempting to collaborate with all groups so as to achieve a consensus on the outcomes.

Two aspects of this research may be of interest to ASEE members and are examined in this paper:

1. The qualitative methodology used; because such methods are often viewed with suspicion by engineers as being unscientific and unreliable; 2. The outcomes of the research for this HEI and from that the possible relevance for some other similar universities might be extrapolated but this should be within the limitations acknowledged at the end of this paper.

The Setting

The research was set in the engineering college of a 120 year old institute of technology in Ireland with 20,000 students. The engineering college has 5000 students. The Institute, as it shall be referred to in this paper, is the biggest HEI in Ireland and is set to move to a new campus (at a cost of €1billion to the taxpayer) and achieve university status. This has led to strong demands from government and industry for a university that is responsive to the external environment and can meet the needs of a modern front edge economy in an efficient way.

Ireland has undergone unprecedented change over the last two decades. Phenomenal levels of growth, the highest in the world in the 1990s according to the OECD (2006), has meant that Ireland is now at the upper end of the value chain in a global economy over which it has little control. Ireland was applauded by the economist magazine in 1997 as Europe’s shining light having just a decade previous been depicted as the poor relation of Europe (see fig.1). But a sustained two decades of record growth is now being followed by a period of dramatic change. The international credit crunch and turbulence in the globalised economy leaves a small country like Ireland, that is so dependent on foreign investment and international trade, very exposed in this new volatile environment. All of this has led to consequential demands on universities in Ireland to change fundamentally. Mass participation rates (in excess of 55% of

Kelly, K. (2009, June), Changing Universities In Europe; A Case Study From Ireland Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4617

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015