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Critical Pedagogy in the Contemporary Irish University


16 Jun 2014 / 16 Jun 2014 University of Limerick, Limerick
More information:

Ralahine Center for Utopian Studies Website 


President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative “Critical Pedagogies in the Contemporary Irish University: Challenges, Methods, Horizons”: a workshop-seminar organised by the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies, University of Limerick.




The Irish system of public university education stands at a decisive point in its history. Commercialization and globalization of university education have, arguably, served to put in place an entirely revised and deeply problematic set of parameters within which educational value and mission are defined. Increasingly preoccupied with its placements on a range of questionable ‘rankings’ systems rather than its location within a wider community and a republic, the university is cast, simultaneously, in the role of support to certain kinds of ‘wealth creation’ – ‘delivering’ knowledge and knowledgeable subjects in accordance with the foregrounded needs of a narrowly-defined ‘industry’. The state itself, undermined by the experiences of an unsustainable prosperity and its aftermath, struggles to articulate and advance a vision for university education which transcends these developments.


Academics, those variably involved with the university’s distinctive pursuits of teaching and research, encounter a growing disconnect between the imperatives of the corporate university and the historical mission of the university as a space both for the free development and exchange of ideas and the nurturing of students as critical thinkers and citizens. In this environment, the practice of teaching, consistently a poor relation of ‘research’ in terms of the actual power relations at work in the institution, poses particular questions that are directly linked to the changes outlined above.


The value of critical thinking is frequently given rhetorical importance in discourses on university pedagogy, but is there a distinctive commitment in the Irish university system to the development in its students of critical thinking as an ethical practice with respect to their world and its (formal and informal) institutions? What are the threats to any such commitment within the university sector as it currently appears to be evolving?


How should creative critical engagement with a subject be evaluated and recognised by university teachers? How does this issue sit with a contractual construction of the ‘learning experience’ and a blurring of the distinction between education and training?


How can the university accommodate and facilitate academic freedom and intellectual risk taking among its students and its teachers? Is productive failure any longer thinkable as a necessary part of a ‘successful’ learning process in a university context?


Does the construction of the student as a consumer of services, and of the university experience as a preparation for a life of entitled consumerism, leave any space for dissonant ideas or intellectual narratives in the classroom? What are the modalities – discursive, performative, other – whereby critical pedagogical engagement by all parties to the educational experience can become manifest?


This Workshop proposes to explore these and related questions. The event will host individual contributions from practitioners in a variety of disciplinary fields within the Irish University system followed by a forum on critical pedagogy offering opportunity for discussion and debate.




Colin Fitzpatrick (Engineering, University of Limerick)


Mary Gallagher (French, University College Dublin)


Gráinne Hassett (Architecture, University of Limerick)


Kathleen Lynch (Equality Studies, University College Dublin)


John McAuliffe (Creative Writing, University of Manchester)


Mary Nunan (Dance, University of Limerick)


Donncha O’Connell (Law, NUI Galway)


Darren Webb (Education, University of Sheffield)


Phil Wegner (English, University of Florida)



Organising committee: Michael G. Kelly, Tom Moylan and Aileen Dillane


Venue: Tower Theatre, Irish World Academy, University of Limerick


Attendance is free but registration is required (


To view the poster for the event click here.




16 Jun 2014 / 16 Jun 2014 University of Limerick, Limerick
More information:

Ralahine Center for Utopian Studies Website