The Neoliberalization of Irish Higher Education under Austerity


This paper discusses the transformations that have taken place in Irish higher education under neoliberalism and, in particular, during the period of austerity since 2008. We adopt a critical political economic framework conceptualizing Ireland as a prototypical neoliberal state and maintain that the period of economic crisis since 2008 has witnessed a deepening of neoliberalism. We argue that restructuring in the education sector has been shaped by forces originating from the European Union, global institutions, as well as from the interests of Irish political and economic elites. We examine several aspects of the neoliberalization of the education sector, including privatization, commercialization, labor casualization and the erosion of work conditions. Empirically, the paper synthesizes and conceptualizes available data on neoliberalism and higher education in Ireland. Theoretically, it presents a useful framework to investigate similar cases in other countries.


Original Paper

About the Authors

Julien Mercille (School of Geography, University College Dublin) works on global politics, international political economy, US foreign policy, media studies, and the “war on drugs”. His publications include the books The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland (Routledge, 2015) and Cruel Harvest: US Intervention in the Afghan Drug Trade (Pluto, 2012), and papers in Critical Sociology, Space and Polity, the Cambridge Journal of Economics, New Political Economy, and Latin American Perspectives, and he has made numerous more public interventions, as a regular analyst and commentator on television and radio and in a number of newspapers and websites.

Enda Murphy (School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy, University College Dublin) works on urban transportation and spatial planning, environmental noise, neoliberalisation and crises, and related issues. He has published in Applied Acoustics, Environment and Planning B, Geoforum, Critical Sociology, Cities, and many other places. Julian and Enda have recently written a book on the public policy response to the Irish crisis, Deepening Neoliberalism, Austerity, and Crisis: Europe’s Treasure Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).


Dr. Julien Mercille
Dr. Enda Murphy