As a student or an academic, it is easy to view Trinity’s “commercialisation strategy” cynically. In universities, where the pursuit of knowledge – often for its own sake – is one of the ultimate end goals, the idea of money-spinning activities and a focus on profit making seems anathema.
When Trinity’s commercialisation activities clash with student or academic interests, there is, of course, a problem. And The University Times is often the first one to point out when the “prioritisation of commercial culture, entrepreneurship and profit” takes precedence over the other, more basic needs of a university, like student spaces. The conversion of the Hamilton Restaurant into a Bank of Ireland branch and a “business incubation hub” is one such example.
However, the higher education funding crisis, which the Editorial Board seems to mention every second week, leaves universities like Trinity seeking ways to make ends meet if they want to be centres of global educational consequence. And often, Trinity’s commercialisation drive does not clash with student or academic interests. The call for schools to make their rooms available during summer months for commercial bookings is one such example. Outside of term time, dozens and dozens of well-equipped rooms in the Arts Block sit empty. Renting them out, thus, brings in money that will go straight to Trinity’s central fund, where it will be used to fund Trinity’s core mission: teaching and research.
Similarly, the refurbishment of Regent House, such that it can be used as a visitor centre during summer months, should be welcomed by students. Trinity’s Commercial Director told The Univeristy Times that the commercialisation strategy “absolutely cannot impact student or academic needs” whilst still “generating significant funds” for College use.
In comparison to the US universities, like Harvard, that we all hold in high esteem, these activities are actually very noble. Across the Atlantic, it is the education itself that is monetised, through extortionate tuition fees. While it would be nice to be able to avoid it altogether, the kind of money spinning that results from Trinity’s commercialisation drive preserves the integrity and accessibility of its academic mission, while raising the funds that the university so badly needs.