Merger of Catholic and Protestant Colleges of Education may be finalised by 2016

Ethos and identity of each to be protected

 Prof. Brian MacCraith, President DCU (left) Prof. Philip Nolan, President NUI and Prof. Cathal Kelly, CEO. Prof MacCraith has announced the coming together in Dublin of St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, the Mater Dei Institute of Education, and the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) on a new campus at St Patrick’s in Drumcondra.  Photographer: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Prof. Brian MacCraith, President DCU (left) Prof. Philip Nolan, President NUI and Prof. Cathal Kelly, CEO. Prof MacCraith has announced the coming together in Dublin of St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, the Mater Dei Institute of Education, and the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) on a new campus at St Patrick’s in Drumcondra. Photographer: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Fri, May 9, 2014, 06:41

Dublin City University (DCU)is committed to protecting the ethos and identity of those Catholic and Protestant Colleges which are to become the Institute of Education in Drumcondra under its control.

The university was putting in place “structures that will allow the ethos and identity of the incoming denominational Colleges to be respected, and for the preparation of teachers for denominational schools to be fully protected,” DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith has said. “You can institutionalise diversity within the context of a secular university by putting in place appropriate structures,” he said.

Prof MacCraith was speaking of the coming together in Dublin of St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, the Mater Dei Institute of Education, and the Church of Ireland College of Education (CICE) on a new campus at St Patrick’s in Drumcondra. The matter was expected to be discussed at the Church of Ireland General Synod in Dublin yesterday afternoon.

Arising from this DCU will add a fifth faculty, a new Institute of Education, and will have an expanded Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. This proposed Institute of Education will integrate initial teacher education and continuing professional development for teachers across the full education continuum , from early childhood, through primary and secondary, to third level.

“We aim to have this process finished by 2016. The objective at the moment is that all students entering in 2016 will be entering into a single entity which is DCU. By Sept 2015 all first years from St Pat’s and Mater Dei will be registered as DCU students. The timing process for the CICE is not finalised yet,” Prof MacCraith said.

He continued “The plan is that from Sept 2015 just to have two campuses, the DCU campus and the St Pat’s campus. If the plan goes as indicated all students of education and all staff in education would be co-located on the St Patrick’s campus. That is the ultimate goal.” It is expected that this new Institute of Education in Drumcondra will have a student body of around 3,000.

Noting that two of the integrating Colleges are Catholic with one Protestant and that there might be fears that a minority ethos could be swallowed up in that context, Prof MacCraith said that at DCU they were “ very sensitive to that issue from the start and we’ve committed to ensure that this does not happen, to allay those fears.”

He said that “the overall principle is that the core curriculum for teacher preparation is denominationally neutral but that one will ensure the delivery of modules for all denominations which will allow the appropriate preparation of teachers for denominational schools, whether that be for Church of Ireland schools, for Catholic schools, or ultimately for multi-denominational schools, as well as for non denominational schools, but maintaining a core backbone of preparation and a commitment to that ethos and identity.”

One of the main objects would be “that relationships with schools in particular denominations will be maintained and enhanced in fact, in the new Institute of Education itself.”

Where other faiths were concerned this would also apply. “We believe that we can ensure the protection and fostering of faith-based education in a secular university. I think that’s a reflection of a modern, pluralist Irish society where denominational education can feel strong and safe in such an environment. That’s a very important statement which we will stand over,” he said.

Where non-believers were concerned, he said “DCU will remain a secular university and those without religion, or who are non-denominational, will feel equally as valued and cherished, which is the fundamental principle of this university itself. I suppose it’s that sense of pluralism in a secular university that is the core principle. But I think the strong message is sometimes that people take pluralism as meaning not actually having respect for any religion. In fact we respect all religions, that’s the core message of the university, and none.”

As regards the teaching of religion in schools he said “we’d leave that to the specialists in those areas.”

What they’d been focusing on “is ensuring that the structures agreed upon reflect that commitment to maintain the ethos, identity and value systems of the denominational schools and non denominational schools.” Such structures , where minorities were concerned, start “with our clearly articulated commitments, which we’ll stand over.”

He felt it important to make clear that DCU had no role in the decision of the Church of Ireland College of Edcuation to break its link with Trinity College. “At no stage were we involved in those discussions. All those changes happened independently of any engagement with DCU itself. When we were approached to have dialogue around these issues we just spoke openly about our vision for the Institute of Education and our commitment to enable faith-based education to flourish in a secular environment. I think it was evident to us from the earliest conversations that the value systems we were articulating resonated with both denominations,” he said.