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The Grin of the Cheshire Cat: The Gradual Disappearance of European Studies in Irish Universities (1974-2014)

Edward Moxon-Browne

The fortunes of European Studies in Irish universities have tended to reflect the experience of Ireland as a member-state of the EU. At the outset, the need to prepare graduates for careers in EU institutions and, more broadly, for occupations directly affected by the EU such as law, banking, business, farming and tourism, was met by a wide range of courses (BA and MA)at most Irish universities. These had a strong vocational mission and were supported by EU-funded schemes such as TEMPUS, Erasmus and, later, Jean Monnet, all of which stimulated transnational mobility and the subsequent homogenisation of curricula through the adoption of credit transfers (ECTS) under the 'Bologna Process'.In all these developments,Ireland punched above its weight in a context where the country was basking in economic success largely attributable to favourable trade and inward investment conditions. More recently, and especially since the demise of the Celtic Tiger, public opinion has been much more circumspect. This was evident in negative referendum results and, most recently, in the management of the Irish economy by a "troika" of external agencies. Today, European Studies programmes have been the victim of tighter budgets, and "cannibalised" by their constituent disciplines so that the label "European Studies" is reduced to a fig-leaf barely concealing the underlying fragmentation into more traditional mono-disciplinary degrees.

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