In Education Minister's 'Bolt Out of the Blue,' National U. of Ireland Faces Extinction

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The National University of Ireland, a century-old federal institution that comprises some of the country's leading universities and colleges, including University College Dublin, is facing dissolution. Ireland's education minister, Batt O'Keeffe, announced the move on Wednesday, saying that the umbrella institution had outlived its usefulness and that "the need to have a separate body undertaking what is now a limited set of functions" no longer exists.

His announcement, which the university's registrar said in an interview today "came as a bolt out of the blue," led to a hastily convened meeting of the university's senate this afternoon. In a statement released after that session, the group "expressed regret at the minister's decision and in particular at the lack of consultation with the chancellor or with the presidents of the constituent universities before yesterday's announcement of the decision."

The National University of Ireland was established in 1908 and now consists of four universities and six colleges. At the outset, the university held real authority to grant degrees and recognize courses, but its member institutions became largely autonomous and self-governing. In an increasingly competitive higher-education landscape, those institutions have also come to place greater emphasis on their individual identities and collegiate brands....

The education minister's move to abolish the university is based on a recommendation in a report prepared last year for the government by Colm McCarthy, an economics lecturer at University College Dublin. Reached by telephone today, Mr. McCarthy said that, over time, the university had become little more than a "ceremonial unit."....

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