NUI Galway reveals new strategy to become top 200 university

Prof Jim Browne presents five-year plan, including progress on gender equality

NUI Galway (NUIG) says it plans to become one of the world's top 200 universities in global rankings by 2020 under a new strategic plan.

The five-year strategy, which was presented by college president Prof Jim Browne at an "all staff meeting" on campus on Thursday morning, identifies the professional development of staff - including significant progress on gender equality - as a key objective.

The university has been embroiled in controversy since faculty member Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington won an Equality Tribunal case last year - prompting the establishment of a college taskforce on gender equality, which met for the first time this week.

In its strategy for 2015-2020, NUIG says: “We are committed to making real and lasting changes to career development and advancement for women at our university.


“We will undertake a significant rebalancing of our support staff profile, with an increase in the proportion of those at professional grades, and a shift towards more specialisation and high-performing teams.”

The university is carrying out a separate “training and development audit”, due to be completed by the end of the year.

Prof Browne said teaching models had changed significantly from “chalk and talk” to e-learning, while staff had to develop new skills like “winning funding for projects” and dealing with an ever-increasing diversity of student needs.

“We would be concerned that both our academic and administrative staff are properly supported.”

NUIG has risen in the Times Higher Education world rankings from the 401-450 bracket in 2005 to 261st in the 2014 ranking.

‘Importance of rankings’

Prof Browne said he had travelled recently to New York and “what surprised me is just how important the rankings are to alumni working overseas”.

Prof Browne said that one of the first things people are asked when applying for jobs in the US is: “Tell me where your university stands.”

In this way, rankings were important “not just from a vanity point of view” but for graduates, and especially young graduates, seeking employment.

The university, which already performs well in scores for “internationalisation”, plans to boost its cohort of international students to 25 per cent of the total student population.

While other universities, most notably UCD and Maynooth University, have dramatically cut the number of courses they are offering through the CAO, NUIG has decided to take a more cautious approach.

It plans to reduce the number of CAO courses it offers from 57 to 47, but also seeks to achieve a 10 per cent rise in the number of its undergraduate programmes requiring 400 or more CAO entry points and a 20 per cent rise in the number of undergraduate programmes requiring 450 or more CAO entry points.

The State’s universities have come under sharp criticism from parents, guidance counsellors and successive ministers for creating a plethora of “prestige” high points courses that force students to specialise at an early stage, while also adding to the points race.

NUIG spokeswoman Caroline Loughnane said more than 60 per cent of its students come through general entry courses but there was also always a need to put particular niche programmes “in the shop window”.

The strategy also includes plans for new Gaeltacht work placement programmes; the construction of new student accommodation; developing and embedding “graduate attributes” within each discipline; and increasing research funding from €52 million in 2014 to €60 million in 2020.

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys

Joe Humphreys is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times and writer of the Unthinkable philosophy column