Galway students refunded after complaints about course

Postgraduate journalism students received thousands of euro over several years

Dozens of postgraduate journalism students at NUI Galway have received refunds worth thousands of euro over several years on foot of complaints over the quality of the course, it has emerged.

The university’s complaints board upheld complaints and found they stemmed from issues such as difficulties replacing staff on sick leave and a poor standard of specialist equipment.

The refunds are likely to raise wider questions about the quality of programmes at third level and whether funding cuts for the sector are impacting teaching and learning.

On Monday The Irish Times reported that 30-40 undergraduate students received full refunds – typically €3,000 – in respect of their third year of the course.


However, a number of former postgraduate students have since disclosed that they received partial refunds for the MA in journalism – which costs about €8,200 – over a six-year period.

A total of 15 students complained in 2011/2012 on the basis that a range of technical and staffing problems had not been dealt with in a satisfactory manner.

Lack of equipment

In a complaint, students said some key staff did not have any background in journalism and that a lack of equipment meant that students, in some cases, had to purchase their own software or technology.

The university's complaints board upheld the concerns and found that they negatively impacted on the educational experience of students

They also maintained that timetables for courses were delivered late and that guidelines for their theses – due to be completed in August – were not received until May.

Students were later refunded 50 per cent of their fees after their complaints were upheld by the university.

In a similar pattern of complaints, a total of 14 students in the 2014-15 MA journalism class objected to staffing problems and a lack of access to specialist equipment.

Again, the university’s complaints board upheld the concerns and found that they negatively impacted on the educational experience of students on the programme.

The students were refunded 25 per cent of their fees on the basis that major elements of the programme were provided and students completed the programme successfully with their degrees.

It said that many of the issues stemmed from resourcing difficulties brought about by the sudden and unexpected illness of a core staff member to the programme.

Digital skills

The university’s complaints board also recommended a comprehensive review of the programme, including the views of students and external experts.

It said a full report would be presented to senior staff at the university with a view to implementing recommendations before the 2016/17 academic year.

In a statement on Monday, NUI Galway said the MA journalism programme was reviewed in 2017 and would relaunch in September.

“The programme did not run this academic year. The ambitions of the relaunched programme are to produce graduates with up-to-date skills and specialisations suited to the contemporary world of journalism,” the university said.

“Following the review, NUI Galway has appointed a senior academic to lead the development of its journalism, media and communications programmes in the coming years.”

It said the revised programme will add a focus on digital skills such as verification, social media, analytics and data journalism.

A new MA in sports journalism is due to launch next year, while the BA journalism programme is being reformed and a new joint honours degree will replace the current structure.

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