Teacher’s Pet: News from the chalkface

Where next in the Institute of Technology Tralee plagiarism story?

Plagiarism row: what next?
It'll be interesting to see what happens next in the Institute of Technology Tralee plagiarism story. On the one hand Flan Garvey, chairman of its governing body, is under pressure to step down. Lecturers at an emergency Teachers' Union of Ireland meeting last week overwhelmingly passed a motion that it was inappropriate for Garvey to continue as chairma n. On the other hand Garvey vowed to return to work straight away, as an appeal had found in his favour.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland , which monitors academic standards, is considering how to proceed, and the TUI vows to defend members if the college invokes disciplinary procedures against staff who exercised academic freedom.

Garvey, a former Fianna Fáil councillor, stepped aside in December for an investigation of an accusation by 26 lecturers that he had plagiarised sections of his MA thesis at IT Tralee. The institute’s examinations assessment and appeals committee found in February that the thesis did not reference citations of secondary research, found plagiarism in chapters 1 and 5 of Garvey’s dissertation, “A Study of the Saiocht of a Parish in Co Clare”, and found the degree was attained in an “unjustified manner” but “not in a fraudulent manner”. It also found evidence of conflict of interest. The panel believed the plagiarism was unintentional.

Garvey appealed the decision and the college set up an examinations assessment and appeals committee – which found that the plagiarism was “an unintentional and non-fraudulent infraction of an academic disciplinary rule, which had not been clearly formulated or communicated” to students. The review committee said the original finding was not fair. It concluded corrections could be made to the thesis.


A TUI email noted “widespread concern among the members of this branch about the decision for the protection of academic standards, for the ability of academic staff to do so and for the reputation of this institute and of the whole IOT sector”.

Gongs aplenty for Irish universities

They’re under pressure and money’s tight, but credit where it’s due to Irish universities . Eight made it to the top 200 i n the prestigious QS rankings last Tuesday, a boon followed smartly by a global ranking of 18th place for Ireland in the Universitas 21 chart.

It’s only the ranking’s second year , but Ireland has made the top 21 both times. Overall, the top five countries in this year’s rankings were the US , Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and Denmark. The biggest jump was achieved by Malaysia, which hopped nine places, to 27th. This year’s Irish ranking is a bit of a slip – we were 16th last year – but a fillip nonetheless.

Universitas researchers have drawn a direct link between government spending on education and the rankings. “Worldwide, governments are spending more on higher education as a percentage of GDP. Compared with 2012 rankings the median level of spending has increased from 0.95 to 1.10 per cent of GDP, which means that government spending needs to have increased to maintain a nation’s ranking,” said Universitas.

We were overtaken this year by Germany and Hong Kong SAR. Why did we fall? According to Universitas it’s down to a decline in “the ‘connectivity’ measure due to the addition of more web-based variables which measure open- access publications and the number of ‘external backlinks’.”

Work that one out and we may be in with a shout next year.