Universities in the Irish Free State
The policy of successive governments towards university education between the early 1920s and the late 1940s consisted essentially of benign neglect. Higher education was peripheral to the considerations of political elites preoccupied with state formation, constitutional reform and economic nationalism. A traditionalist societal and cultural context militated strongly against investment in university education, which was identified with training for the professions and high-status white collar occupations. It was no accident that higher education remained an underdeveloped, university dominated sector well into the middle of twentieth century. The Department of Finance was overtly hostile to public funding of university education and had no hesitation in pressuring institutions to increase fees and unsuccessfully, to reduce student enrolments. Higher education featured hardly at all in a dominant national discourse marked by integralist Catholicism, protectionism and social conservatism.