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The Latin root of the word “education” suggests something being guided out of a student by a skilled teacher. Inculcation, on the other hand, suggests something been beaten in. At the University of Ireland, we are emphatically for education, not inculcation. Ireland has a tradition of schooled thought dating back at least 5,000 years, where sophisticated buildings with complex astronomical alignments were built at sites like Newgrange.

Worldwide, and particularly in Ireland, there is a drive toward inculcation, with the rationale given being that the world is getting ever more competitive. Students facing third level education are indeed encouraged to study subjects that they are not interested in, in order to improve their career prospects. What is left out of this is that the result is that students are trained for jobs that won’t exist by the time they graduate. In the meantime, they miss out on the development of critical thinking skills, including the ability to reflect on themselves and their direction in life. Believe it, these skills are what is really going to make the difference in your life, and will give you a competitive edge. It is also a silly mistake not to do what gives you delight, because that is what you are going to get really good at. By the way, every student who graduated from our previous courses is employed. At the University of Ireland , we will have undergraduate courses in three subject areas,Computer Science, Cognitive Science and Irish studies. We are the first college in Ireland to offer a bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science, which is the scientific study of mind. Our instructors have taught and continue to teach at many of the best universities in the world, including Stanford and Berkeley in the US, and the education you will receive will be on at least a par with any in the world. We also allow students to do some or all of their courses over the Internet, as they wish. Education is for you, not us or some big corporations, so reflect for a moment on these questions;

  • How does my mind work?
  • How is it that I can understand language, and even very clever computer programs cannot?
  • How is it that I can see and describe a scene, and even very clever computer programs cannot?
  • Why is it that I seem to remain the same person, no matter how my circumstances change?

If you find these questions of interest, it is highly likely that Cognitive Science is for you.

Irish Studies, on the other hand, looks at the worlds of culture, politics, and economics through the prism supplied by Ireland. Again, the courses in question have been accredited at the highest possible level. See if these questions compel your interest:

  • Is Ireland really fundamentally any different from anywhere else in the world at the start of the 21st century?
  • Why did Ireland develop so well in literature, but not in architecture and painting?
  • What really happened economically in the so-called Celtic Tiger period?
    See Irish Music and Culture Summary and Sample

Finally, our computer science course, which is intended as a remedy to the “dumbing down” of such courses in Ireland, returns to the rigorous foundations of the discipline, as defined by great minds like Von Neumann, Knuth, and MacCarthy.

We also include a course on “General science studies” which is intended for science graduates who feel that the burning questions that led them to study science have remain unanswered by the courses they took. Alternatively, they may wish to experience the essence of some science areas other than the one they majored in.

We started courses in cognitive science on January 3, 2011, and will start in Irish studies in Autumn/Fall 2011, and in General Science studies in Autumn/Fall 2012

Please contact us via this form.

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The web has changed higher education in ways that have yet to be reflected institutionally. The word “lecture” derives from the idea that the desired situation is a professor reading from a book to students who lack books. After Gutenberg, such was no longer the case; yet taxpayers spend massive amounts annually in preserving this ethos. To make matters worse, this scenario discourages students’ asking questions of the “lecturer” and often downright forbids them interacting among themselves. Such group interaction is now established as a powerful cognitive tool, useful both for individual learning and arriving at the goal of education: truth.

While there is indeed a place for IRL lectures, one in which the students have Wi-Fi enabled computers and are empowered to check every assertion the lecturer/discussion leader makes, most “teaching” situations involve colossal waste of resources. The “lecturer” may be specifying the content of the syllabus, a task best left to publicly-available documents; (s)he may hint at the contents of an imminent exam, often unconsciously and picked up by the students in a cat-and-mouse fashion that has nothing to do with education; alternatively, the secretive nature of academia, with anonymously refereed papers and irrevocable assessments of exam papers, leads to systematic abuse.

Finally on this point, the evolution of the “research university” has led to a de-emphasis of education itself in favour of research. That dichotomy is of course an egregious one; yet “research” incarnates itself too often in state-funded projects with massive pressure to conform to received paradigms, and interaction by its protagonists with students only on the terms of this socially-constructed notion of “research”; the consequence is that even undergraduates will have inflicted on them less a set of courses with a common underlying theme and ethos than a set of disparate, incoherent and indeed competing partial visions of a subject whose essence dare not speak its name.

All these trends have reached something of a nadir in Ireland as we approach the teens of the third millennium of the common era. There are also negative trends unique to Ireland, like the government’s obsession, attested to in parliamentary proceedings, of removing any constitutional protections from university students and staff alike. Coupled with this have been the inability to initiate multidisciplinary degrees like cognitive science, which Ireland, uniquely among OECD countries lacks; similarly, the dumbing down of computer science degrees and revisionist ethos in Irish studies beg for redress.

One alternative is currently being worked out in the USA. Having put their institutional credibility at risk, public universities are now competing with the likes of the University of Phoenix (UP), with often disastrous results for students. In particular, the level of students debt in the USA, at $750 billion, now approximates that of total credit card debt. Nor do these private colleges guarantee jobs for their students; Congress is considering a bill to force these colleges to get jobs (“gainful employment”) for their graduates, who are often poorly trained. UP finished a lawsuit from the government with a $67.5 million payment; 17 students have joined a lawsuit against Argosy; the list is for all practical purposes endless. In terms of the quality of their accreditation, there is nothing distinguishing the Irish unis from these colleges; no honest accreditation has been done at the Irish unis for over a century (if ever).

There is room for private colleges to do cutting-edge programmes in areas that the unis cannot cater for. Instead, the former tend to put their money into sales ; UP’s marketing budget in 2009 at $130 million exceeded Revlon. Grand Canyon;s was $25 million, about twice what it spent on its teaching staff. Yet this is the game that the Irish education authorities have decided to enter.

A group of us, in our time faculty at Stanford, Berkeley, and other excellent universities, have cohered to try and find redress for the situation. We offer these new courses we taught in Stanford and Berkeley as the University of Ireland, given that this body is regrettably about to be abolished in its historical form in Ireland. For the moment, many of the other courses offered are the freely available, creative commons versions of classic MIT, Yale, and Harvard courses; you will be expertly guided through them using internet resources (including e-mail and Skype) by our highly qualified tutors.

Much of the discussion here has been rendered even more timely by the Coursera.org and edX* announcements. We are IMO about to enter an era in which students can take credits on-line from top universities, create their own majors from a mixture of these courses and those in their home institutions, and so on. It is clear that by 2014, the landscape will have completely changed, and accreditation may be revolutionized by the capacity of the “megaversities” to attract the best students and recognize each others’ credits.

*We do not claim to own content linked at Coursera and edX. We simply suggest courses you can take online that satisfy our requirements. There are zero fees for full-time students. Others who wish to take one our own modules, like consciousness studies, may pay a suggested donation. Nobody turned away for lack of funds!
 

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UoI believes that examinations are a necessary evil, to be administered sparingly, and the process is intended to help the student decide if the programme chosen is right for him or her. Consequently, there are no written examinations after the second year of each programme; from third year onwards, students present projects, in person, and are interviewed.

Students take exams when they feel ready to do so. It is acceptable for students to register for some years before taking exams; they may wish to benefit from the expert tuition available before taking the exam. Alternatively, they might decide that the lecture course has clarified the material sufficiently that tutoring is not necessary.

Exams are administered both centrally and remotely. Should the student travel to one of our exam centres to take an exam, and passes, no further questions are asked, and the students will be will be marked as able to progress to the next year

Students who take exams remotely and pass will be marked as able to progress to the next year. However, to make everyone comfortable, UoI reserves its right to check, during oral exams, whether students have indeed mastered the outline principles of these exams, taken remotely.

There are no exams in Masters’ degrees, where students are admitted only if already is possession of a relevant diploma, and assessment is by project only. Again, students can take advantage of expert tuition.

Fee structure

Much of the material at UoI is covered by a creative commons or other “open source” license and there is no fee for accessing it, nor for the subjects from sites like edx that we accept as equivalents to our own. . Likewise, there are NO fees for full-time students, defined as those who declare themselves available to attend and participate in “live” seminars throughout the entire multiyear programme. Students may change such status from year to year if their circumstances change. The seminars occur mainly in the two final years and are archived, including the students’ contributions as we believe that listening to these contributions, along with conveying our understanding and enthusiasm about the subjects, is critical to what we do.

Otherwise, we regard fees as another necessary evil, required to maintain the integrity of diplomas awarded, as it is important that the college remain viable. We are also open to a model in which graduates are issued shares in the college.

Part-time students (defined as those who cannot commit to attending and participating in over 90% of live seminars)pay three types of fee, which together add up to a small fraction of either private for-profit college, state or private university fees;

1. A per-subject registration fee, applicable to all students who wish to be certified for single subjects

2. An annual capitation fee, applicable only to those who wish to be considered for certification for an entire programme

3. Individual tuition, which is entirely at the students’ own discretion. A list of approved tutors and their hourly rates is sent to all students, who then book the tutors for as many hours as they want until they are ready to take the examination. They may decide that they do not want any tuition, and that is perfectly ok; tutors do NOT report to us how many hours have been billed

There is, in summary, a per year registration fee and a per-subject charge for subjects, with different fees for those which require password access and those which do not. There will be, on average, 4 courses which require password access per year . Students wishing to take individual subjects without paying registration will be charged differently for password-enabled and for open access courses on which they want to be examined; the fee is for the exam, and subsequent certification, not the course itself for the latter type of subject

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A university is ultimately a community of scholars, including both teachers and students. Both have decided to spend part of their lives in the pursuit of knowledge; in the case of the teachers, it will be an appreciable portion of their lives, perhaps all of their lives. In the case of students, it has become acceptable that, on the brink of adulthood, up to five years be spent in a learning institution even if that student does not intend to progress to the “higher studies” that our culture characterizes with “masters” and “doctorates”, nor indeed pursue a focused programming like engineering.

So far, so good. Problems arise when outside entities like the state begin to mediate the student-teacher relationship in some way. For example, the state may set up its own universities and indeed establish administrative structures that ultimately gain power over the community of scholars. That has happened even in bastions of liberal education like the University of California, where the politically-appointed board of regents, most of whom are not academics, have the power to set the content of syllabi, as well as the financial functions most associated with administration – and which have most impact on the process of learning. In one notorious incident, the regents rescinded academic credit for one course of lectures. Finally on this point, there are very few real “private” universities even in the USA – MIT and Stanford, to cite but two, are massively subsidized by the government, directly through research monies and indirectly through student loans and grants.

So, too, the “private” for -profit colleges are creatures of the state; they could not survive a year without state-issued student loans. Typically, these colleges have an advertising budget greater than their teaching budget; in fact, a multiple thereof. Once they get students on the hook, with loans that have to be repaid even after a declaration of personal bankruptcy, the education is notoriously slipshod. Finally, public universities have attacked the concept of academic freedom through various ruses, the final step in the domestication and elimination of independent scholars in society.

Elsewhere I have written about the elision of truth, and over-specialization of scholarship with its negative consequences for students and increasingly micro-knowing faculty in research universities. There is also a huge bill for the taxpayer, and it is likely that he does not get value for money. The management of research projects implicit in the modern notion of the research university has been critiqued by the Nobel laureate Ahmed Hassan Zewail in late 2010, who argues it stymies research. The for-profit private model is similarly unacceptable.

The model proposed here uses the web to get rid of all the state-created administration and re-introduces direct contact between student and teacher. It acknowledges the massive role played by students, who are often at their intellectual peak, in the perpetuation of learning by repeatedly asking for their counsel and feedback, as well as encouraging their interaction with each other. It eschews both the hard sell of the for-profit privates and the state subsidy of the public universities.

The lack of funding is not a fatal blow. 99.99% of knowledge is but a click away; that salted away in expensive inaccessible journals often tends to be specious. In fact, the first course proposed here, is precisely a multi-disciplinary guide to cutting-edge science. Likewise, courses which have had their political neutrality eroded by the state, like Irish studies, are ideal for this model. Finally, courses which fall prey to turf wars with a consequent stasis in the discipline and its teaching, like Cognitive Science, are likely to be the revenue generator and attract funding by tech companies who want better-trained graduates. I have taught on the Cognitive Science program (called symbolic systems) at Stanford and invited to teach on the equally conceptually disorganized one at UC Berkeley. The course here is an attempt to rectify this

This model, incarnate in the University of Ireland, sees itself in competition neither with the for-profits nor the state universities; it carves out its own niche. It also is a salutary return to the community of scholars model from which corporate pressure is diverting the state universities. It is clear that the Irish state is hell-bent on abolishing the national University of Ireland, and only a change of government in 2010 would have stopped it; therefore, it is with mixed feelings that I now irrevocably announce this project, which at least is Irish-owned and run.

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The old public university system shows signs of fracture; in countries like Ireland, it is perhaps irreparable. The increasing emphasis on a unitary executive in universities is destroying the teacher/student relationship; a relationship as close to sacred as anything in our secular age. It is vital that the student should not feel that there is someone at a higher level in the university bureaucracy who can second-guess the teacher; conversely, the teacher should understand that (s)he is dealing with adults, and that the rationale for any requests made on the students should be explicable to them.

Daniel Greenberg, once the News editor of “Science”, has exposed an associated fetid area; that of science research itself at so-called “research universities”. Most recently (2010) his novel “Tech transfer” deals with the mediocrity and indeed fraudulent nature of much well-referenced science. It makes sense; if the scientist’s applied work is so good, why is the scientist still writing about it in his 195th article, rather than making money, as it is not basic research that we’re talking about? What use are 100 patents if they are not producing revenue, apart from the legal work involved in filing them? And why should a country keep gifted students well into their 30′s doing post docs as it is in everyone’s interest that they start businesses?

This writer is not an ideologue of any stripe. The state is ideally suited to do some critical things in society, like running public universities and a health service. The Irish state recently has withdrawn from the former, arguing that they are outside the law of the land (apart from channeling taxpayers’ money to corporations through them); I leave it to others to write about the latter. The state’s role in universities should be precisely the opposite of what it is in contemporary Ireland; it should insist that proper care is taken of students, and that the taxpayer gets a return in academic excellence. Instead, the Minister for Education, speaking in parliament, has repeatedly said that gross violation of criminal and civil codes can occur with impunity at Irish universities

This entry is about setting up an open-source system to simulate what public universities should be doing. It will hopefully not be necessary; it would appeal only to students who can see through the BS of private colleges as through the frightening latitude afforded management by the negligence of Ireland’s psychotic government (1997-2010).

Tenure was a manifestation of the sacredness of teacher/student; the fact it no longer exists in many countries is a disaster. As a stopgap then, and using the web, a substitute can be set up. Instead of the CEO/employee/product metaphor employed in many early 21st century universities , different metaphors should be used. The individual academic can conceive himself as an artist with a vision seeking an audience who, incidentally , become business customers. He can use open source and proprietary material to implement his vision.

For graduate students, the teacher/student relationship becomes akin to master and apprentice. Moreover, at all stages, the students is to be protected from the university bureaucracy by a carrier/content distinction. Essentially, the teacher is seen as providing content as part of a system in which the university bureaucracy is a carrier. The distinction between internet carrier and content pertains, and there is a large body of thought and legislation to support it.

What is being conceived of is quite different from University of Phoenix (UP) etc. These are in danger of looking like scams with student loans as money-pot. The idea is to put together innovative courses in cutting-edge disciplines as the hook; these then can be done by serious students remotely, and eventually also on campus. Yet the artist/audience and master/apprentice model,rather than the CEO/employee is the metaphor.

Structure

1. University
-Supplies Creative Commons Courseware
-Supplies proprietary courseware on demand from purchaser
-Has a revenue stream for server use

AR : Download all available quality educational videos, store, prepare for back-up streaming.

2. Separate Courses
– Relationship is between Dean and students with no others intervening.
– Dean selects the open source as well as proprietary courseware for the student’s formation to Bachelors , Masters, or PHD level.

-The reputation of the course hinges on the Dean , who also develops the necessary relationships with employers.

The Dean hires staff to implement specific modules. However, it is clear that the students relate directly to the Dean.

Revenue stream: Student fees, Grants.

None of the above will be necessary if the Irish state comes to its senses and shows a willingness to run real universities again. Remarkably, the state has become an obstacle in the way of real education; in Ireland, by the attempt to have colleges act outside the law; and in the USA, by the provision of students loans to the “accredited” colleges like UP.

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There is a clear, if paradoxical, trend in higher Irish education that takes power from the community of scholars that constitutes the university – giving it to administrators – while simultaneously removing the university from standard democratic accountability. The latter process invokes the bizarre notion that the state has no role in the “day to day” running of its colleges, which essentially includes everything that occurs in a 24-hour cycle. In the Dail debates on the subject, the Minister did not flinch at the notion that students could be offered bribes of extra marks in an exam, or that procedures in violation of the law of the land could be inflicted on staff.

There was an associated initiative – allowing university administrators summarily to dismiss staff, including tenured staff. As Supreme court justice Susan Denham exclaimed (IMO correctly) in one of her very few interventions at the Cahill case, that would be the end of academic freedom. It is clear at this point that the present Irish government do not want anything resembling what we traditionally call a “university”. It wants the ultimate control to be in the hands of precisely the neoliberal forces that just took down even the economy they had been allowed to create.

It is also clear that, in the big picture, it does not really matter what the present Irish government wants. It is now a global byword for incompetence and corruption in any case; more importantly, the web is about to visit upon tertiary education what has already happened in journalism, the music business and – through sites like Wikileaks – the process of government itself. Given that Wikileaks thus far has generally released data that should in any case have been in the public domain – with the odd exceptions where it has inappropriately named names – this is no bad thing. Why should a prospective employer trust a non-transparent process like accreditation, if the colleges have put their syllabi, sample lectures, exam papers, and sample student projects and exam answers on the web?

As in the case of open government, where an engaged citizen can now find instantaneously hundreds of documents in her search for answers, the prospective employer can make a decision on the basis of documents placed on the web in hours (or less) on what the college is teaching. This makes the vast expense companies like Google undertake to vet employees largely surplus to requirements. Talented students, likewise, will find brilliant lectures available for free on the web and may decide that going to class is a waste of time – particularly as the instructors at Irish colleges are untrained and not assessed.

The Irish state has in any case never run an accountable accreditation process on its universities – despite the fact accreditation, if it is to be done at all, is surely a job for a statutory body, as we will see below. Notoriously, the chair of the accreditation commission for DCU and UL, Michael Gleeson, had accepted a job at the nascent DCU years before the Oireachtas had considered the accreditation report; the NUI and TCD, like Queen’s, can point only to the 1880′s British process. However, the Irish state insists on keeping control of accreditation “outside the university sector” through Hetac (Hetac.ie).

Accreditation has been in any case deeply attenuated. The situation in the USA is a reductio ad absurdum of accreditation; Stanford and Berkeley, two of the top 5 in the world, are accredited by the same PRIVATE body as diablo Canyon, which was found selling degrees;

http://www.accjc.org/pdf/august_2008_newsletter.pdf

So while this body is private, taxpayers” money is used to provide student grants. One result is that arbitrageurs like Steve Elias, who met a fortune betting against the subprime market, is now betting against the $750 billion owing on student loans. These loans – taxpayers’ money – can be given only to accredited colleges, which are then free to drop their standards precipitously.

The absurdities multiply. While accreditation is done by a private body, it is technically answerable to a statutory body;

http://www.chea.org/pdf/2010%20Proposed%20Revisions.pdf

One result is that the US government is now requesting that these for-profit colleges show that, educational standards aside, they can prove their graduates can get jobs. This has led to a fierce backlash, from right and the PC left;

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lanny-davis/does-gainful-employment-p_b_736269.html

The provision of accountable open-source journals looks like another enterprise that the state should undertake. Universities already work on reputation, not accreditation; and if a better system, with a metric involving open-source journals with non-anonymous published reviews were in place, even the university league tables would be useful.

Wouldn’t it be easier to incorporate the accreditation process into the state, give that the US has some accountability procedures? Or perhaps just abandon it and thus put pressure on colleges to make sufficient of their teaching material public that both prospective employer and student can assess it?

Currently, therefore, this university is not “accredited.” We do not rule out seeking accreditation in the future if the process becomes relevant for education.