Concern over lack of training for doctoral students in teaching roles at DCU

DCU is first university to face review by State education standards watchdog

Concern over the lack of training for doctoral students who are given teaching roles has been flagged in a new review of Dublin City University by the State’s regulator for higher education qualifications.

It is the first wide-ranging quality review to be carried out of an Irish university by a team of academics commissioned by the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).

The report shows the team expressed concern over the preparedness of some research students to support teaching programmes at the university.

It said a minority of research students who were interviewed said they had not undergone any formal training for their teaching roles.


Other areasrecommended for improvement at DCU included the “urgent” need to introduce a fit-for-purpose system to evaluate the student learning experience.

On a positive note, the university was commended for the quality of its internships and its access to online learning programmes for under-represented groups.

The university’s support services were also singled out for helping to boost leadership and life-skills among students.

Overall, the team overall impression of DCU was of a “ vibrant, student-centered university, committed to embedding a quality culture at all levels, with increasing capacity for innovation and research.”

DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said he was “delighted” the review team recognised and commended so many elements of the university’s provision such as the quality of its student experience and graduate employability.

“The review team has produced a comprehensive and thoughtful report that will assist the university in the continued development of structures, frameworks and approaches to assuring continued quality enhancement in all our activities,” he said.

“The university is looking forward to giving extensive consideration to the findings of this report, and developing a clear action plan to address its recommendations.”

Quality in education

The review report is one of 20 to be carried out over the coming years which will report on how higher education institutions are maintaining and enhancing quality in their education.

The reviews explore how institutions have improved their teaching, learning and research systems, and how well they have aligned with their own mission, quality indicators and benchmarks.

IT Letterkenny and IT Sligo have had their report cards published in recent months, while reports on Dundalk Institute of Technology, Maynooth University and NUI Galway are due to follow later this year.

The IT Sligo report notes that while the institution has until recently been “modest-sized” and its quality culture has depended on personal interactions and individuals talking to one another.

Given its ambition to become a technological university, it says a “step-change” will be needed with agreater emphasis on data-driven and benchmarked quality systems.

The report for IT Letterkenny commends the institute for growing its student numbers and programme offerings, but urged that it consider streamlinong its governance system.

QQI chief executive Pádraig Walsh said these “ rigorous” institution-wide evaluations – known as Cinnte reviews – aim to give students at Irish higher education institutions confidence in the quality of the education they are receiving.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent