Irish Higher Education and the Knowledge Economy
An historian of higher education in Ireland once suggested: “memories are long in Ireland and . . . the weight of history is a burden difficult to unload” (Lydon, 1991: 51). A large part of this history is the “weight” of religion and its influence on the shaping of the education system. Most memories in Ireland are imprinted with the knowledge that the largest university (University College Dublin) developed from the Catholic University of Ireland, established in 1854 with the influential John Henry Newman as its founding rector. The diversity in the system for centuries was not about academic versus vocational orientations, but rather Catholic versus Anglican (Trinity College Dublin), versus the “godless” Queen’s Colleges. Indeed, it was not until the 1960s that the Catholic Church entirely lifted the ban on Catholics attending Trinity College, and the influence of religion in the education system was still being challenged by the OECD report on Irish education in 1965.