Anyone with working eyes will have seen the consequences of government indifference towards higher education in recent times – and nowhere has this shortfall been felt more keenly than in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
There is little hope of this trend being reversed. The government does not consider the arts to be essential to Ireland’s technology and finance-charged economy, and this week’s investment of €24 million – predominantly into the fields of science and technology – reinforced its obvious apathy towards courses that won’t meet the so-called “challenges of the future”.
Once again, in keeping with the trend of the past few years, the government snubbed the arts.
For universities, this is nothing new. They’ve long accepted that state funding won’t come close to meeting their needs, and they’ve tacked towards alternative streams of funding.
Trinity deserves particular credit when it comes to sourcing money away from the state: in May, it launched an impressive €400-million Inspiring Generations campaign, and it has paid for several capital projects in recent years without much help from the state.
But the arts and humanities, discarded by the government, haven’t had much of a look-in when it comes to the allocation of non-state funding.
Trinity is a college renowned for its excellence in the arts, but this reputation isn’t sustainable without investment. Arts, humanities and social science classes are packed, PhD students and lecturers are overworked and the Arts Block is looking increasingly decrepit. Meanwhile the east side of the campus flourishes, backed by new buildings, funding and the Provost’s eye.
Instead of fixing the problems the Arts Block faces, Trinity has focused on the areas the government wants it to, with buildings to house business and science students.
Capital funding, and investments in new courses and curriculums, are always a good thing. Trinity must continue to grow, and some consideration of the shape of Ireland’s economy must be taken into account – but these investments should not come at the expense of courses in the arts.
The government might have turned its back on courses that don’t align with its focus on the “future” – but that doesn’t mean Trinity should too.