Review focuses on staff workload in Maynooth University

Maynooth University and Dundalk Institute of Technology complete quality checks

Maynooth University:  concerns over increased enrolment and budgetary constraints. Photograph: Laura Hutton

Maynooth University: concerns over increased enrolment and budgetary constraints. Photograph: Laura Hutton

 

Issues relating to staff workload management and the availability of informal learning spaces have been highlighted in a review of Maynooth University by the State’s regulator for higher education qualifications.

Maynooth University (MU) and Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) are the latest education institutions to successfully complete quality checks known as the Cinnte cycle of reviews.

The reviews, which were carried out by a team of academics commissioned by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), evaluate how effectively the country’s 19 publicly regulated higher education institutions are maintaining and enhancing quality in education.

The report on MU highlighted concerns resulting from increased enrolment and budgetary constraints. To address this, it recommended the university develops a transparent and flexible workload model for both academic and administrative staff.

Other areas it recommended for attention include the development of a more robust system for staff training, development and succession purposes as well as a more comprehensive system for collecting and using student feedback.

Sitting on floor

The report team highlighted the “limited capacity and availability” of informal learning spaces which it said was “problematic” and often led to students sitting on the floor in the library.

The team commended the university for having a strong culture of self-examination which it said allowed for continual improvement and quality assurance on all of MU’s programmes. It also highlighted the “loyal and talented student-centred academic and administrative staff”.

The university, it said, is committed to offering students “an outstanding university education” which has strong connections between research and teaching. This, it added, “was all strongly confirmed” during meetings with students and with academic staff.

Maynooth University president Prof Philip Nolan said the university was grateful to the QQI and to their independent review team “for their thorough engagement with staff and students”. He said their commendations and recommendations would be “very beneficial” as the university implements its strategic plan.

Student tool

QQI chief executive Pádraig Walsh said the reviews “rigorously evaluate” the quality of education provision and were a useful tool for students, allowing them to evaluate and have confidence in the quality of the education they were receiving.

The State’s regulator for higher education qualifications also examined Dundalk Institute of Technology where it made a number of recommendations including changes to its academic programme review process .

The report recommended that the institute consider the value of including support units in the review process “to further enhance and add to the completeness” of the outcomes.

The institute was commended on the relationship and communication between staff and students, which the report said aided “the close community feel of the campus”. It also praised “the proactive response of staff to delivering on learning assessment strategies to suit the diversity of learners”.

Dundalk president Michael Mulvey said, “We will use these recommendations to continue to enhance quality and competitiveness within our institute and to inform the DkIT 2020-23 strategic plan which will be published in December.”

Reports on University College Dublin and University of Limerick are to follow in 2020.