DCU president criticises Leaving Cert


THE PRESIDENT of Dublin City University has said “stamina is more important than intellect” for many high-scoring students in the Leaving Cert.

In the latest criticism of the Leaving Cert, Prof Brian MacCraith also says the current exam system discourages independent thought and critical thinking.

Prof MacCraith is a key figure among the seven university presidents who are preparing their proposals for reform of the Leaving Cert and the CAO points system at the request of Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn.

The DCU president said the current system did not deliver a rounded education. With a high-quality education seen as key to economic revival, he said Ireland should set ambitious goals across all sectors.

Based on the successful Finnish model, all teachers, he added, should have a master’s degree.

He also said teachers should not be allowed to register annually with the Teaching Council unless they took part in continuous professional development.

Prof MacCraith said there was a “paradigm shift from lifetime employment to lifetime employability”. In this changed environment Ireland would need more rounded graduates with strong skills in literacy and numeracy.

However, they would also require excellent generic skills in communications, digital intelligence, adaptability, critical thinking and innovation.

The DCU president made his remarks during a presentation at the recent MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal.

Earlier last month, Prof Tom Begley, former dean of UCD’s Smurfit and Quinn business schools, was also highly critical of the education system at second level.

In relation to the Leaving Cert, he said: “I would love to see it taken out into a field and blown up. It is completely dysfunctional”.

The heads of all major third-level colleges have been asked by Mr Quinn to propose various options for change to the CAO system by early September.

These proposals will be examined at a major conference on “the interaction between second and third level”, scheduled for late September.

Prof Áine Hyland, former vice-president of UCC, has been commissioned to prepare a detailed report for this conference by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

Pressure to reform the Leaving Cert has been growing amid complaints from universities and employers about how some students are struggling with independent learning at third level.

Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA, has said many “spoon-fed” Leaving Certificate students, used to rote learning in school, came to college without the necessary skills.


The governing authority of Dublin City University has appointed Dr Martin McAleese as its new chancellor.

Dr McAleese, husband of President Mary McAleese, already holds an honorary doctorate from DCU. As chancellor, his role will be to ensure responsible governance, promote the activities and strategic focus of the university and advance its profile in public forums nationally and internationally.

“I am enormously proud and honoured to take on this important role as chancellor of Dublin City University,” Dr McAleese said. “I recognise that the pathway to ensure our country’s future economic and social success depends on the provision of a high-quality education system responsive to the needs of individuals, community, society and our economy.

“Since its foundation, DCU has committed itself to this agenda, achieving an international reputation for excellence, innovation and research in higher education.

DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said: “We are honoured that Dr McAleese has agreed to take up this important role as chancellor of the university.

“I know we will all benefit greatly from his extensive experience, in particular his focus on critical issues such as economic regeneration and employment . . .”