Learning how it's done at Hibernia could save millions


LEFTFIELD:Jim Gleeson’s Leftfield column last week about Hibernia College was poorly informed. As a former member of the Teaching Council the author should know well that, contrary to what the subheading implied, Hibernia College teachers must meet exactly the same standards for registration with the council as graduates from all other programmes, public or private.

Hibernia College’s teacher-education programmes have consistently received outstanding formal reviews by the Teaching Council and by Hetac review panels under the chairmanship of distinguished educationalists.

As the president of Hibernia College I can say that it is also accredited by the Teaching Agency in the UK, where it has won awards for excellence in teacher education. No other teacher-training provider in the State has the assurance that its evidence-based teaching methodologies and the quality of their staff have been formally reviewed by an international authority known for its excellence and quality oversight.

Hibernia College welcomes the recommendations of the International Review Panel on teacher education, particularly those on research. Our full-time faculty are actively engaged in research, and their qualifications and research activities are submitted to Hetac as part of the programme-validation process. Members of the faculty have published widely in peer-reviewed journals and present at national and international conferences. The college is a partner in two EU-funded research projects and is research active on a global stage. For a small institution, only 12 years in existence, the research accomplishments are already impressive.

Regarding the nature of part-time teaching, we collaborate with colleagues that include the University of London, Peking University, Harvard University and MIT. While not all of our colleagues are full time, the quality of their tuition can lead to outstanding learner outcomes. Whether they are contracted or full time, we closely monitor the performance of our tutors to ensure students receive the highest standard of tuition and supervision informed by international research.

The true test of quality is the employability of our graduates. Eighty-five per cent of graduates surveyed annually, six months postgraduation, have secured teaching jobs. At our most recent graduation, last Wednesday, 87.5 per cent of those surveyed had already secured teaching employment.

The author seems to question the praise and support Hibernia College has received from the Taoiseach and former and current Ministers. We believe this support has been earned because many parties realise that the exorbitant cost to the taxpayer of publicly funded teacher training has to be managed.

Ten years ago the State-dependent colleges produced 100 per cent of newly qualified primary teachers. It is remarkable that, despite Hibernia College now providing more than 40 per cent of all newly qualified primary-school teachers, no adjustment appears to have been made to the funding of State-dependent provision. Every €20 million spent subsidising the tax-funded teacher-training colleges is €20 million denied to the funding of additional teachers’ salaries.

Contrary to the author’s wildly misleading figure, the college has only ever made a moderate annual surplus, which is reinvested in programme development. It is precisely because Hibernia College is passionately engaged in developing and delivering programmes that enhance critical thinking, professional collaboration and relationships with pupils that surplus revenue is modest.

The real question the author should ask is: if Hibernia College can achieve all of this at a fraction of the cost of the service provided by the publicly funded institutions, then what is it exactly that these institutions are spending tens of millions of taxpayers’ euro on?

Hibernia College is a creative innovator in Irish education. As Prof Clayton Christensen informed me two weeks ago at Harvard University, “positive disruption” is a powerful force for change. The author of last week’s Leftfield might embrace this. He can find it online.

Dr Séan M Rowland is president of Hibernia College

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