Archive for the ‘Knowledge economy’ Category

Economics, new and improved

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Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Many readers of Irish Economy are likely to be aware of a project to rethink the teaching of Economics, linked to the Institute for New Economic Thinking, and organised by a committee chaired by Professor Wendy Carlin of UCL. Some people associated with this blog, including Kevin O’Rourke, are also involved in this work.

A beta digital textbook (‘The Economy’) has very recently been put online and there is a useful explanatory video and a blog.

On my preliminary and (so far) partial reading of ‘The Economy’, it achieves its goal of being strikingly different to the standard first-year textbook. It places at the centre of the story familiar ideas that students and the public expect to feature in Economics and understand better through Economics, including capitalism, technology, living standards, the environment, institutions, and property rights before turning to the more abstract aspects of microeconomics. All the bells and whistles of digital publication are there too including hyperlinks to many of the readings. And of course it’s all freely available. The organisers are seeking user (student and faculty) feedback via a Facebook page and it seems there is supplementary material to follow in due course.

Outward-oriented economic development and the Irish education system

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Saturday, August 16th, 2014

 

Irish Educational Studies recently published a special issue to commemorate the landmark report Investment in Education (which was commissioned in 1962 and released in 1965).  The report’s finding that half of all children were leaving school by the age of 13 generated newspaper headlines and created the environment for Donogh O’Malley’s ‘free education’ initiative of 1966.  An appendix to the report provided information on the educational attainment of the population in 14 European countries (including seven in Eastern Europe) as well as in the US, Japan and Israel.  No equivalent statistics could be produced for Ireland.  Questions relating to educational attainment were included in the Irish Population Census from the following year.   This issue of Irish Educational Studies includes two witness accounts by key players, Áine Hyland, an RA to the report team, and Seán O’Connor, first head of the Development Branch of the Department of Education.  The issue, entitled Investment in Education and the Intractability of Inequality, also contains four academic papers.  Mine is available here.  The abstract reads as follows:

Most studies of the relationship between education and economic development focus on the line of causation running from the former to the latter.  The present paper studies how the pattern of Irish development has influenced the structure of the Irish education system.  The first section sets out the economic context of late industrialisation within which Investment in Education was commissioned and which determined the reception that the report received.  The report’s release would be followed shortly thereafter by a series of policy measures that would expand secondary-school enrolment and graduation rates and massively increase the demand for third-level places.  Later sections analyse the subsequent evolution of Ireland’s binary system of tertiary education and the recent attention devoted to science, technology and innovation policy and the ‘fourth level’ (postgraduate) sector.  Concluding comments focus on the continuing relevance of the perspective embodied in Investment in Education for the surprisingly high numbers who continue to leave the Irish education system without a Leaving Certificate qualification.

 

University rankings, 2014

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Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Always a controversial topic, the latest university rankings by QS have been published. More details here. The aim is to identify the top 200, meaning something of an abrupt stop once they get to 200. (I feel the need to put a disclaimer here that I post this not because I stand over the ranking’s exact methodology, but rather rankings such as these are used by both prospective students and policymakers, hence they are important.)

Of interest to this readership, the ranking of Economics Departments in Europe is here. Trinity features in the 51-100 cohort and UCD in the 100-150. (Digression: nice to see a popular ranking recognise the bounds of uncertainty, although this may not be the best way to do it.) Six of the top seven Economics departments in Europe are British, with one each from Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and France also in the top dozen.

9th-level Ireland has a handy table of Ireland’s top ranking departments across all disciplines from 2011 to 2014. Four departments (all in TCD) are in the top 50 in their discipline. A further 18 are in the 51-100 group (including three law departments).

Reaping the Benefits of Globalisation: What are the Opportunities and Challenges for Europe and Ireland?

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Monday, February 25th, 2013

This Conference, jointly organised with the European Commission, is an associated event of the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU. It will present and discuss the main findings of the 2012 edition of the European Competitiveness Report as well as recent related empirical evidence and their implications for industrial and innovation policies in Europe and Ireland. The Conference Programme and more information are available here.

Globalisation and Industrial Competitiveness

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Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The European Competitiveness Report 2012 provides empirical evidence about industrial competitiveness in the post-crisis recession in Ireland and the other EU countries as well as EU’s neighbouring countries. A presentation of the report can be found here.

Research Prioritisation Report

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Friday, March 2nd, 2012

According to an Irish Times story by Dick Ahlstrom and Fiona Reddan the government has approved the report of the Research Prioritisation Steering Group in identifying 14 priority areas for state-funded research. The report itself is here.

One might hope (though probably in vain) that this would prompt some wider debate. For example, might at least some policy makers be even slightly concerned to question:


  • the merits or otherwise of an increasingly centralised model of state planning for innovation,
  • the continued privileging of scientific and technological knowledge which current policy advances,
  • the extent to which the relentless shift towards commercialisable state-funded research is in conflict with a core original rationale for this policy: namely the provision of public goods—those which are by definition not commercialisable (current policy can look a lot like socialising the costs, while privatising the benefits), and:
  • the further opportunities for rent-seeking, by both industry and academics, this sort of exercise creates and embeds, and relatedly, the high political value thereby assigned to demonstrating (by innovators, no less!) compliance with hierarchy, obedience to instructions and the uncritical acceptance of a consensus policy, aka ‘groupthink’?

Tax Breaks for Job Creators

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Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Stephen Collins reports that ‘project champions’ and their teams will be given large tax breaks to incentivize them to come to Ireland to set up projects that entail ‘new product development’.

Is this a good idea? Anyone know of any empirical evidence on the effectiveness of these types of tax breaks (assuming that they exist elsewhere)?

Towards transparent government

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Friday, November 4th, 2011

DubLinked is a small step, but one in the right direction.

Only two county councils so far and a distinct lack of apps, but let’s say it’s early days.

The impact of the PRTLI

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Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

The HEA has published its impact analysis of the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (h/t Colm Harmon). It is good that government agencies are increasingly open to such evaluation.

From the executive summary, we learn that PRTLI centres and initiatives had a budget of 1.7 bln euro, with 1.2 bln from the Exchequer. 1,700 people were employed, at an exchequer cost of 700,000 euro per job. In 1998, 2,400 full-time academics were employed at the universities and ITs. In 2008, there were 6,200 FTEs.

The commercial impact (a mix of turnover, investment, and cost savings) was 750 million euro, with 1,300 jobs created (or 600,000 euro per job). For the next five years, a further impact of 1.1 bln euro is projected.

In the foreword, John Hennessy (the HEA chairperson) puts on a brave face and lists all the benefits that were not quantified.

Intrigued by the numbers (and their precision; above numbers are rounded) in the executive summary, I read on expecting to find tables and tables with detailed data that would tell me who publishes and who gets cited, which disciplines create economic value, and what universities are motors of development. Unfortunately, such data is not available. The data, by the way, were gathered by questionnaire — that is, companies were asked how many people they additionally employed because of the PRTLI.

Some evaluation is better than no evaluation, but I think that a 1.2 bln euro investment warrants more analysis than what is offered by the HEA.

Higher education and research

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Friday, September 9th, 2011

Higher education and research was again in the news today.

The latest batch of bad news on the labour market in Waterford seems to have triggered a decision to establish Waterford University. I am not convinced that universities are necessarily good for regional development. Some universities sure have a positive impact, but I don’t think this holds for any university. With the newly build highways, Waterford is closer to Cork and Dublin, taking away some of the would-be benefits of a local centre of learning and research.

Furthermore, Ireland has plenty of universities already. The largest university has 18,000 students (UCD, 2009) — which puts it below average in the Netherlands,  60th in the UK,  38th in Germany, 35th and just above average in France. Ireland has the 8th highest number of universities per capita in the world already. (A new university would not change the latter rank, just push us closer to Norway.) This matters for two reasons. There is a fixed cost in running a university. International rankings are not normalized for size; small universities cannot do well.

The 2010 annual report of Science Foundation Ireland also made the news today. The press release emphasizes collaboration, which has increased with both researchers abroad and companies in Ireland. This is not a measure of success. It may just reflect the changing nature of SFI funding and its increase in size. The annual report itself has more indicators, but is annoyingly glossy for an academic organization. We learn that SFI-funded researchers have published 22% more papers in 2010 than in 2009, but we are not told the number of researchers. We learn that Ireland has gone up 16 places in the citations-per-paper ranking (36th in 2003, 20th in 2010), but for all we know that may be because of the social sciences and humanities (who are not supported by SFI).

The SFI 2010 Census has more numbers. Two things stand out: Few patents, few spin-outs. Emigration numbers are high: 47% for all, 66% for non-Irish (post-doc and below). SFI’s mission is to bolster innovation in Irish manufacturing.

Ireland’s economists in the world (part 2)

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Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’m getting better at scraping the web and I’ve now been able to calculate some things that IDEAS/RePEc does not.

This graph has the number of economists in Ireland registered at IDEAS/RePEc. It is not a natural number to account for joint appointments. The number has been rising steadily over time. I expect that trend to reverse in the coming months.

This graph shows Ireland’s position in the total population of economists. We’re a small country. I highlight Massachusetts because it is ranked highest by IDEAS/RePEc.

This graph shows the number of unique publications per person. In recent times, Ireland has done reasonably well in terms of productivity.

However, visibility cq interest is less impressive, as shown in this graph. It should be noted, though, that “abstract views” is the metric that can be most easily manipulated. That said, Ireland does not do so well either on the number of citations per publication, as shown in this graph, or on the number of citing authors per person, as shown in this graph.

As always, these results can be interpreted in a number of ways. In order to improve Ireland’s standing at IDEAS/RePEc, we’ll need to convince more people that our papers are worth citing.

The great thing about the Public Data Explorer is that you can make your own graphs. You need to go back two positions to return to this blog.

I used these Matlab scripts to scrape the web.

The best university in all the land

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Monday, September 5th, 2011

The new QS rankings are out: TCD tops the Irish poll at 65, followed by UCD at 134, UCC at 181, and NUIG at 298. Ireland’s other universities are not ranked in the top 300.

The Examiner (and RTE radio) made much of the fact that UCC got 5 stars. QS now has two rankings. The new one requires more data from the universities. To date, only U Limerick (4 stars) and UCC have provided that information. UCC is thus best of two.

There are disciplinary rankings too. In economics, TCD and UCD are both 51-100. Other universities do not make it into the top 200.

The Independent and Times note that Ireland’s universities have been sliding down the QS rankings. If I’m not mistaken, QS ranks can be compared over time whereas THE ranks cannot. The reasons offered by the various people interviewed are, of course, just speculation. The QS data do not allow for an in-depth analysis of the reasons behind the success, and Ireland’s universities are not particularly good in keeping records.

20% of the QS ranking is citations per faculty. QS does not define this, but the practicable way is to allocate papers to the university at which the research was done (rather than where the researcher is now). Faculty numbers have fallen, so Ireland’s position should have improved on this score, partly offsetting the decline in the faculty-student ratio (another 20%). 50% of the QS ranking is based on “reputation”, and that’s a stock variable that should survive a downturn if properly measured. However, I would think that the drop in ranking is at least partly explained by the brand Ireland turning sour in general.

UPDATE: Brian Lucey offers further thoughts and data.

UPDATE2: Kevin Denny is not impressed.

Results of the smart meter trial

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Friday, August 19th, 2011

There’s a peculiar piece in today’s Independent. The reports of the CER’s 18 month smart meter trial were published in May.

The trial found statistically and economically significant changes in consumer behaviour due to the introduction of time-of-day pricing, with cost savings for both producers and consumers that together more than offset the costs of metering (unless the wrong communication network is chosen).

The trial also found that in-house displays further modify electricity use, but insufficiently so to justify the additional cost.

Real-time pricing was not trialed, nor were smart devices, micro-generation, electric vehicles, and micro-storage.

Smart Economy Jobs in Irish Regions

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Friday, August 12th, 2011

Guest Post by Dr Chris van Egeraat of the Geography Department at NUI Maynooth and Chariman of the Regional Studies Association Irish Branch.

Enterprise Ireland announced that 445 jobs will be created in 24 new high potential start-up companies which have been supported by government through Enterprise Ireland in the second quarter of 2011. The announcement follows on the 310 new jobs announced earlier this year as part of the first quarter results of Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start Ups programme.

Many of the companies involved operate in the sectors that the Government has identified as part of the Smart Economy strategy, including biotechnology, life sciences, ICT and financial services. This is good news for Ireland but from a regional development perspective it is important to consider the extent to which different regions benefit from these developments.

Interestingly the press release includes a breakdown of number of projects and related jobs by location. Unfortunately, the information pertains to 16 of the 24 investments only, and the press office was not in a position to provide details of the other eight investments because of the commercially sensitive nature. The data allows us to between the Greater Dublin Area (including Kildare and Wicklow), the rest of the South and East (S&E) Region and the Border-Midlands-West (BMW) Region.

The results are striking. Three quarters of the new projects are located in the Greater Dublin Area and a further 12 per cent in the rest of the S&E region. Only 12% of the projects are located in the traditionally lagging BMW region. The results in terms of jobs are similar with merely 12% of the jobs located in the BMW region.

The data for the first quarter of 2011, suggests that this is not a once-off result. In the first quarter the GDA accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the new projects, while the rest of the S&E region accounted for a further 16%. With 15% of the new projects, the BMW region again performed poorly. The press release for the first quarter did not provide complete data for jobs.

To put these figures into perspective one can compare these with the geography of employment in all Irish-owned agency-assisted companies by regions in 2010 using figures from the Forfas annual employment survey. Currently the Dublin region only accounts for 31 per cent of jobs in indigenous assisted companies with the rest of the SE accounting for 41 per cent. The BMW region still accounted for 28% of the jobs in 2010.

Clearly, there are some limitations to the new data on the geography of recent project and job announcements, not at least the fact that we don’t have access to the complete dataset. However, if the results do represent a real trend, this will have important implications for the economic development potential of Irish regions and raises questions about the role that different regions can play in the Smart Economy as promoted by the Irish Government.

The regional trends outlined above highlight the timeliness and relevance of the upcoming Irish Regions in the Smart Economy Conference, organised by the Regional Studies Association at NUI Maynooth. For further details: http://www.regional-studies-assoc.ac.uk/events/2011/sept-ireland/programme.pdf

 

Leaving cert maths

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Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

The news this morning isn’t great.

Universities should take to the ‘lifeboats’

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Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Common wisdom suggests the state will not be ready to co-fund the IMF-EU deal by mid 2012. Another deal will accompany a slash in payments to the social sectors including Education. Is the third level sector ready for such a crisis?

The Irish State pays a core grant to our third-level institutions for each undergraduate student, and, in an equal amount, funds the majority of research and postgraduate fees (scholarships). The latter is managed by a proliferation of various third level education bodies which we label Quangos. The sector has developed an unnaturally high dependency on the public finances. This dependence is currently anywhere between 65 to 88 per cent in most Higher Education Institutes

The funding of third-level Quangos now represent an unsustainable overhead on the sector, as this form of finance flowing from the State is on the decline. The indirect costs or the administrative structures that have mushroomed during the boom (which distributed State money) are now vestigial and are turning into a major financial headache and constraint on the sector. The HEI’s must replace these funds with international research grants and postgraduate students. The Quangos are largely ill equipped to induce and manage this change.

The Universities, while undertaking many good reforms, made the mistake of allowing indirect costs inside universities to grow to over 50 per cent. Frontline lecturers’ salaries now only account for 25 per cent of the overall cost of the sector, when we include the overheads of Quangos. Academic salaries have collapsed by 25 per cent (net) since 2008. Most academic units have also lost up to 15 per cent of their staff via retirements or voluntary quits. These savings are returned and retained by the State and not by the Universities.  The oversized non-academic and undersized academic units are finding it a challenge to refocus efforts into securing funds from outside of Ireland. Academics need to be empowered to make such change happen.

What is the solution proposed by State and its agencies to cope with the current crisis?

An imposed agreement, under the false premises of Croke Park, to increase productivity levels of declining numbers of frontline lecturing staff is their answer. Not surprisingly, these productivity increases can never pay for what are now largely indirect costs in the sector.  New income streams are needed: higher levels of international students who pay fees, more EU and Global research funding successes, and private sources.

Yet, all hiring and promotions (whether funded by the State or not), that have come under the State’s employment control, are now banned. The most recent instalment of employment control wants to redeploy academics within and across institutions. There are even conditions on the nature of research that is allowed. The focus of such is on the disciplines that will drive the smart economy (see http://des-fitzgerald.com/ecf/).

This is a ludicrous attempt to turn academics into public servants. The agents of the State seem to have no idea how knowledge is created and dispersed. Academics in a global market face competition from serious creators of knowledge and find every international student and grant is a hard battle won.  Publishing in the leading journals and university presses is like winning Olympic medals in terms of a lifetime dedication to the cause. Academic credentials need to be first class, a Ph.D. from a top University and ground breaking publications. Academics need the time and space to perform at these levels.  Imposing constraints on academic freedom and tenure will only give our competitors an advantage over us, deter international students and grants from coming here and could rupture our growing reputation in scholarship internationally. The idea that an academic in UCD that gets a research grant from a major donor should first see if there is someone surplus to requirements inside UCD and then search in other universities, or even State departments, before hiring a post-doc clearly indicates to me that the state has no idea how knowledge is created. Incentives are for academics to leave Ireland rather than refocus efforts.

What do we do?

Universities have to realise the State is broke. Just like the State should have understood the Irish Banks were broke, now the Universities have to drop the State like a hot potato (Taxpayers and the IMF-EU would approve).

Trinity by the nature of its charter and academic ownership of its property can break from State faster than most.

The first move would be to establish income streams from undergraduate fees, increase the number of international students and external research income.

Most Universities like Trinity already have private enterprise on campus in terms of the library shop, rented accommodation, a Foundation office and Campus Companies. These could turn a higher profit to fertilise academic scholarship.

The University of Dublin, and the National University of Ireland, could create new colleges. Let’s call the one alongside Trinity College, “Christchurch College”. Christchurch could hire and promote and pay pensions on a private basis funded by the new income streams.  All existing contracts could be honoured by Trinity College.

The nature of self governance in a third-level institution means that academics rule. They can promote academic scholarship, and while doing so they can control all non-academic units and can easily restructure the internal indirect costs over-time and reduce them to less than 30 per cent, retaining these savings to invest in Education and Research.

The top slicing of finance by education Quangos would be removed and most importantly their ability to constrain academic freedom to create knowledge for use in a global society would come to a deserved end.

Some universities have endowments and assets that could buy the limited time to achieve such academic and financial security.

Even if the State does not default the case for the third-level institutions to break away from the influence of the State and its agencies is growing with every minute.

The Irish State is a sinking ship and academics need to escape on lifeboats labelled ‘University Charters for use when Academic Scholarship is put at risk from the State, Church or private interests’.  The Founders’ bequest throughout the centuries gives academics an instrument for use when academic scholarship is threatened. Academics need to use it now.

Unintended consequences, academic edition

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Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Colm Harmon has a nice little piece on some (possibly) unintended consequences of current government higher education policy here.

Assessing business schools and scholars (4)

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Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

The working paper is now available. Conclusions are by and large as before (2, 3), but details are different. This is the abstract:

The research performance of business scholars on the island of Ireland is evaluated based on their number of publication, number of citations, h-index and the same divided by the numbers of years since the first publication. Data were taken from Scopus. There is a large variation in both life-time achievement and annual production. Almost half of the 748 scholars have not published in an academic journal. Men perform better than women. More senior people perform better. There are distinct differences between disciplines, with accountancy performing poorly. On average, scholars in Northern Ireland perform better than scholars in the Republic. However, Trinity College Dublin has the top rank among the eleven business schools; Queen’s University Belfast and University College Dublin share the second place; and NUI Galway and the University of Ulster share the fourth spot. Irish business schools specialize in particular research areas so that mergers would lead to schools that can support a broader range of cutting-edge education.

This is the last opportunity to correct the data. (UPDATE: One name removed because of a legal threat.)

Business schools and scholars (3)

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Monday, November 1st, 2010

The third edition is here.

The records of more people have been vetted. Junior and administrative staff have been removed. And Cork has been added. The refined ranking is TCD, (QUB, UCD), (NUIG, UU), (UL, NUIM), DCU, UCC, DIT, NCI.

The main conclusions (here and here) still stand.

I also counted publications in top journals (score 4 according to ABS) by people affiliated to Irish universities. Less than 5% of people have published in these journals (while employed in Ireland); and less than 2% of published papers are in these journals. The scores are as follows: UCD (15), UL (7), NUIG & TCD (6), UCC (5), DCU (4), QUB (3), NUIM (1). Four people published three papers in top journals (while affiliated in Ireland): Patrick Gunnigle (24), Tom Turner (32), Rory O’Shea (74), and William Kingston (109). The number in brackets is their rank on life-time achievement (publication, citations, h-index). While some people want to exclude all but the top journals, I really do not understand that.

I’ll write up the paper now. Comments on the data should be made, by email, within the next two weeks.

Business schools and scholars (2)

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Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

I decided to give an interim update of the assessment of business schools and scholars on the island of Ireland, because things have changed. Latest results are here.

The records of 18 people have been double-checked and corrected where appropriate. More significantly, I had overlooked a department in Maynooth which has been added. Another department employs two high performers without listing them on their front page.

As a result, the preliminary ranking has changed: TCD, (UCD, QUB), (NUIG, UU, NUIM), (DCU, UL), DIT, NCI. Brackets indicate institutions whose performance is similar.

Note that Cork is still missing.

I’ve added sex and rank where known. The sex results are not good. The rank results are roughly as they should be: professor > reader > senior lecturer > lecturer > junior lecturer.

There are two exceptions, however: Associate professors perform on par with full professors, and post-docs perform on par with lecturers. I would expect there to be progression from the former to the latter.

While looking at the ranks, I came across all sorts of weird stuff. Full professors without a doctorate. Teaching assistants with a doctorate. Lecturers of French (in a business school!). Senior teaching assistants. And one of the department runs a restaurant — ostensibly for experimental purposes.

Assessing business schools and business scholars

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Monday, October 18th, 2010

Recently, Benoit and Marsh assessed the research performance of political scientists in Ireland and Ruane and Tol did the same for economists. It is business’ turn now.

There are 8 business schools in the Republic of Ireland that claim to do academic research (and another 11 that only teach). Early September, the 8 research-oriented business schools employed 543 teaching and research staff. For comparison, Queen’s U Belfast and Ulster U are also included. This makes a total of 761 business scholars.

For that reason, a simple method is used. Data were collected from Scopus only. Four statistics were gathered: year of first publication, number of publications, number of citations, and h-index. People’s name, affiliation, specialization, degree, rank, and sex were also recorded. The results are here (5 people updated).

The data have been cross-checked with CVs when online. Other than that, the data are not validated. If you are a business scholar in Ireland, please check your entries and send me an email when something is amiss.

There are preliminary results that are likely to stand up to vetting of the data.

Some 60% of business scholars in the Republic and 50%  in the North have never published in a journal included in the Scopus database. This is the most comprehensive database available, covering all the main journals and many minor ones (e.g., Economic and Social Review, Knitting International) — but not all (e.g., Irish Journal of Management, Irish Marketing Journal, Irish Marketing Review). University lecturers are partly paid to do academic research and a large number appear not to fulfill this duty — including some who are full professors. The fraction of research-active people varies dramatically between institutions, from 10% to 80%. It also varies between specializations, from 30% (accounting) to 75% (management information systems).

The life-time achievement varies substantially between business scholars. The highest number of publications is 91, the greatest number of citation is 499, and the largest h-index is 13. This indicates that the top business scholars of Ireland perform on par with the top economists and political scientists. Productivity varies too. The largest number of published papers per year is 6, the greatest number of citations is 37 per year, and the highest h-rate is 1 per year.

The top 10 (life-time achievement) consists of Paul Humphreys (UU), Rodney McAdam (UU) , Tony Brabazon (UCD), John Addison (QUB), Ronan McIvor (UU), Tom Begley (UCD), Brian Lucey (TCD), Rob Gilles (QUB), Brian Fynes (UCD) and Frank Barry (TCD). For productivity, the top 10 contains Rodney McAdam (UU), Karan Sonpar (UCD), Paul Humphreys (UU), Tony Brabazon (UCD), Maria Annunziata Liguori (QUB), Ronan McIvor (UU), Frank Figge (QUB), Brian Lucey (TCD), David Collings (UCG) and Regina Connolly (DCU). Recall that individual data still have to be vetted.

The institutions are very different too. The smallest has just 10 faculty, and the largest over 150. If we rank the institutions based on the average number of publications (per head and per active researcher), citation and h-index, and the average number of publication, citations and h-index per year, the following order emerges: TCD, UCD, QUB, UU, UCG, DCU, UL, NUIM, DIT, and NCI.

QUB ranks 19th in the 2008 RAE; UU ranks 49th out of 90 business schools. Although the RAE uses a very different methodology, this suggests that TCD and UCD are on par with the best 20 business schools in the UK, while the other business schools in the Republic are more like the worst 40.

In terms of research, most of the institutions specialize in 2-3 (out of 6) areas; UCD and UL cover 4. If these were businesses rather than business schools, one would recommend that the institutions limit their activities to their core competences. As there are horizontal economies of scale in teaching the various aspects of business, mergers would follow.

Smart, smarter, smartest

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Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Another day, another committee. Forfas has established a high-level group to identify research priorities for Ireland. The group’s composition suggests that its recommendations will be demand-driven. Research is no good, however, unless it is top class. Ireland should research those things at which it can beat the world — and import all other knowledge.

Batt O’Keeffe reminds us that economic growth and job creation are driven by technological progress but forgets that this is true in the medium- to long-term. In the short-term, other factors are more important, as reported earlier by John McManus. Ronnie O’Toole adds that it is all good and well to focus on the export sector, but that the domestic sector urgently needs to be smartened up too — through regulatory reform rather than by spending money we don’t have.

Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy

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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The government’s latest strategy document is Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy. Apparently, the strategy is going to create 150,000 jobs directly and a similar number indirectly. Sounds good, though how exactly it’s going to achieve that was a bit unclear to me. Admittedly, my persual of the document was a bit brief as I’m suffering from glossy strategy brochure burnout.

Heckman Policy Website

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Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

James Heckman’s work on human capital investment has been prolific over the last number of years and has major implications for a wide range of policy areas. His papers are rarely easy reading, drawing from detailed structural econometric models that he has developed over several years with colleagues. A new website outlines his basic ideas in short and accessible videos and documents (h/t Colm Harmon who is one of a number of colleagues in UCD working on this area in Ireland). This is as close as it gets to a clear answer to a major question in Economics and is essential for any policy people who read this blog across fields such as health, education, social policy, criminal justice and a range of other fields. Heckman has emphasised rigorously designed and evaluated early childhood interventions that promote a broad range of skills and personal development.

Exporting Irish Education

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Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

The Government has just announced its plan to increase the number of non-Irish students in higher education by 50% between now and 2015, and to increase the “value” of the university sector by one third to 1.2 bln euro. The news bulletin and press release emphasize the targets, but are hazy on the implementation. After some digging, the underlying report can be found too. In this regard at least, education has something to teach to the other departments.

The report has a snappy title and great graphics, but is a bit hazy on the actual plan. It would of course be great if tens of thousands of non-EEA students would flock to Irish universities and pay a hefty fee that would cross-subsidize Irish students. But why would they? Ireland has the advantage that it teaches in English — but so do Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and, indeed, the Netherlands. Parents who wonder where to send little Yuan or precious Sujata may look at one of the university rankings and decide that there are more prestigious universities elsewhere. Ireland could compete on price, but that defies the purpose. Why would the Irish taxpayer subsidize the education of foreigners?

These considerations are not part of the report. In fact, little thought is given to the students or their parents. Two concrete measures are proposed. First, it will be easier to obtain a student visa. Second, there will be a major branding campaign. While branding is largely in your own hands if you sell butter, lager or dance, education is a harder sell. Substance should back up the image. Sending your kid abroad for 3-4 years is a major decision. The potential client is well-informed.

The report has an interesting factlet: Ireland has the highest proportion of students in the EU who study abroad. If our own students have so little confidence in the Irish universities, why would foreign students want to pay for the same?

Comptroller and Auditor General on the Universities

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Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The Comptroller and Auditor General released a special report on the resource management and performance of Irish universities.

The report is 161 pages long. One part attracted a lot of attention: pay (here, here, here and here). The solution is rather simple: Introduce a special tax, rated at 100%, for unauthorized payments.

The report is not just about pay, though. The title has “performance” and Appendix C is supposedly all about that, but it is not. It is a qualitative assessment of the procedures in place and planned. All is fine if there is a committee to discuss it and a report going forward. Measuring academic performance is not the core task of the C&AG, but they could have hired a consultant. The report does lament that the universities are so bad at collecting data (about themselves) that any quantitative assessment of value for money would be impossible.

The report also describes resource allocation, which is by and large driven by the number of students. Quantity over quality.

The scale of the system is telling too. There are 27 institutes of higher education in the Republic. Seven universities have a total of 100,000 students. When I joined Hamburg U, we had 40,000 students (and one university president), but we merged with a neighbouring IT to gain economies of scale.

More uni rankings

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Thursday, September 16th, 2010

THE and QS are now divorced, so more rankings for all.

The Times Higher Education ranking is out too (the number in brackets is QS):

TCD: 72 (52)

UCD: 94 (114)

Cork: >199 (184)

Numbers 200-399 can only be had with an iPhone.

The THE ranking is of course far superior than the QS ranking because the Vrije U Amsterdam does much better according to THE (139 v 171) and ranks higher than U Amsterdam.

See Indo and Times.

New university rankings

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Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

The latest QS university rankings are out. The rules have changed, so comparisons to last year are nonsense.

Ireland has three universities in the Top 200: TCD (52), UCD (114) and UCC (184). The others require a bit of searching: UCG (232), DCU (330), DIT (395), Maynooth (401-450), UL (451-500).

It this good or bad? I counted the number of universities in the top 200. Ireland (4.4 mln people) does better than Austria (8.3 mln), Finland (5.4 mln), Greece (11.3 mln), Portugal (11.3 mln),  Norway (4.9 mln), Singapore (5.0 mln) and Spain (46.0 mln); about as good as Denmark (5.5 mln) and New Zealand (4.4 mln); but worse than Belgium (10.8 mln), Hong Kong (7.0 mln) and Sweden (9.3 mln).

Your Country, Your Money

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Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Five finalists have been announced for the Your Country, Your Call competition which, you may recall from the large advertising campaign earlier this year had the modest ambition of finding “two major proposals that, when implemented, will transform our economy – or significant elements of it – by creating jobs and opportunity.”

Competing ideas include installing solar panels on wind farm sites, creating “an Irish Content Industry Association which would then drive the development of a cultural and creative quarter. A media park would be established to attract global content industries” and, my favourite, “Building a world-beating entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem around digital services aimed at positioning Ireland at the forefront of its associated spin-off industries.”

Two winners will be selected. They will be awarded €100,000 and then be given a development fund of, em, up to €500,000 each to implement the ideas. (Isn’t it great how these transformative ideas are so cheap?)

Obviously, it’s easy to poke fun at this competition. However, there is a serious question. The Times reports

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation said yesterday it had not provided money to fund the competition but a spokeswoman said formal arrangements were being put in place to allow a payment to be made. Earlier this year, Your Country, Your Call asked the department for €300,000 in funding for the initiative.

The question is whether public money should be used to support this idea. Just to be clear, my answer would be no.

Trends in economic research

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Monday, August 30th, 2010

Cardoso and co have another interesting paper. Here’s the abstract:

Given the recent efforts in several countries to reorganize the research institutional setting to improve research productivity, our analysis addresses the following questions: To which extent has the recent awareness over international quality standards in economics around the world been reflected in research performance? How have individual countries fared? Do research quantity and quality indicators tell us the same story? We concentrate on trends taking place since the beginning of the 1990s and rely on a very comprehensive database of scientific journals, to provide a cross-country comparison of the evolution of research in economics. Our findings indicate that Europe is catching up with the US but, in terms of
influential research, the US maintains a dominant position. The main continental European countries, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, experienced some of the largest growth rates in economic scientific output. Other European countries, namely the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden, have shown remarkable progress in per capita output. Collaborative research seems to be a key factor explaining the relative success of some European countries, in particular when it comes to publishing in top journals, attained predominantly through international collaborations.

Unfortunately, they did not include Ireland.