The Ethical Emptiness of Higher Education Emptiness and #Brexit

ethics

License: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0 Creator attribution: Nick Youngson – link to – http://nyphotographic.com/  http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/highlighted/e/ethics.html

There have been a number of commentaries arguing that Irish higher education is well positioned to take advantage of #Brexit.  They have been notable for one thing – THE ABSENCE OF ANY SENSE OF ETHICS.

A recent example of this comes from one of Ireland’s leading economists, Brian Lucey from Trinity College Dublin.  In a blog post entitled “How to strangle an export industry” he advocates that,

Exports of  educational services from Ireland represent a potentially enormous market…This is a large body of exports.  It is responsible for approx. 1.75b in value added per annum

…that is, Education.ie can capture segments of the international student market from Britain.  He mentions, in particular, the English language teaching (whose standard in Ireland is appalling).  He notes that under pressure of reduced state funding of higher education HEIs increasingly look to other revenue streams – including international student fees.

BUT – where is the ethical content of this debate?  Are these human bodies to be reduced to columns in an accounting ledger?

In a paper my colleague Lisa Moran and I are presenting at the forthcoming Sociological Association of Ireland conference, we explore the ethical relationship between institutions and the ‘international’ students they seek to recruit*.  While there are many benefits to internationalisation, we also point to the ‘gendered danger’ that many women face when living and studying abroad and the micro-aggressions of racism.  We argue that HEIs are careless, if not reckless, in their relations with international students.

We argue that internationalisation demands an ethical response.  It means that we have to stop conceiving of international students as hosts that the higher education parasite feeds off.  We begin by recognising them first and foremost as persons and not ‘exports’.

* The paper is based on Lisa’s research as part of undertaking the MA in Academic Practice at NUIG