BH Associates
Education Consultants


News & Announcements

EVENT: Higher Education and the Public Interest


Higher Education and the Public Interest

Thursday, 14 December, 8.30-11.30am (Coffee from 8.00am)

Royal Irish Academy, Dawson Street, Dublin


In all developed countries, higher education and research is seen as core to social and economic success and is usually seen as serving the public interest because its benefits extend to the individual and society. As such, there is an implicit social contract that balances institutional autonomy and public support through taxation, in return for accountability and transparency. However, many of the assumptions that have underpinned public support for higher education are coming under public scrutiny. Questions are being asked about educational relevance, graduate attributes and the impact of research.  Higher education institutions are often accused of being self-serving and insufficiently interested in student learning or outcomes. Many governments are struggling to find the right levers to ensure the right level of accountability while institutions chafe at what they often regard as unwelcome restrictions on their autonomy.

In an Irish context, there has been recent, and very public, criticism of the higher education sector across a range of issues.  At the seminar, it is not proposed to go over this ground again or to engage in any discussion specific to any higher education institution. Instead, the seminar will focus at the level of policy.  

Among the issues to be explored with our panel and participants are: what is the public interest in higher education; who determines it; how can it best be served; is there a risk of conflict between the public interest and institutional autonomy or academic freedom and if so how should that be resolved; are the mechanisms of transparency and accountability, that are there to serve the public interest, fit for purpose.  


The seminar will hear contributions from three perspectives followed by an interactive panel and participant discussion.

Opening Remarks:

PROFESSOR ELLEN HAZELKORN. Ellen is Professor emeritus and Director, Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), and partner in BH Associates. She is Joint Editor of Policy Reviews in Higher Education (SRHE & Taylor and Francis), and International Co-Investigator, ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education, London. She was policy advisor to, and board member of, the Higher Education Authority (Ireland), 2011-2017, and President of EAIR (European Society for Higher Education), 2013-2016.

TOM BOLAND. Tom is a partner in BH Associates. In August 2016, he stepped down from his role as Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority, ending over two decades at the most senior levels in the Irish education system. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Benefacts; a member of the advisory board of Asia Matters; a member of the Board of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, and of the Denham Scholarship Foundation. 

Panel speakers are:

PROFESSOR SIMON MARGINSON. Simon is Professor of International Higher Education, UCL Institute of Education, and Director, ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Higher Education. He was previously Professor of Higher Education, University of Melbourne (2006-2013), and Professor of Education, Monash University (2000-2006).

MR. SEÁN FLEMING, TD. Sean has served as Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts since April 2016. He is also a member of the Oireachtas Finance and Public Expenditure Committee and is Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform. He has been a T.D, since 1997, currently for the Laois constituency.

PROFESSOR ANDREW DEEKS. Andrew has been President of University College Dublin (UCD) since 1 January 2014. Born in Perth, Western Australia, Andrew was previously Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Science, at Durham University in the UK.

For further information contact: 

BH Associates