GMIT devises quality plan after controversies


GALWAY-MAYO Institute of Technology (GMIT) says its academic council and governing body have developed a new “quality improvement plan” to tighten up standards at the college.

The institute’s academic council has also recommended dissolution of an “aegrotat board” which reviewed any cases of impaired student performance, other than personal culpability, immediately before and during exams.

The developments follow several controversies over the past year at the third-level college, and the recent invocation of disciplinary measures against a lecturer who was found to have been party to a “prima facie” case of misconduct. The college has found that its school of business originally treated the misconduct allegation as a “minor” case of plagiarism by a student, when it should have been considered as “major” and should have been dealt with at senior management level.

GMIT says that decisions previously taken by the aegrotat board are to be taken by the examination boards in future. A new procedure will be put in place for the next academic year (2011/12) dealing with impaired performance and inability to attend exams, other than personal culpability, it says.

“School plagiarism committees are dissolved with immediate effect and all allegations of plagiarism will be referred to the registrar’s office,” it has said in a statement, and a working group has been established to revise the code of practice on plagiarism.

GMIT has also confirmed that a number of working groups were recently established to develop new policies to meet legal, ethical and statutory requirements.

GMIT acting president Jim Fennell said the changes followed extensive engagement with staff in all campuses and schools over the past few months.

“I’d like to thank all GMIT staff for their participation and co-operation in this process. All of the improvements and changes are now reflected in the quality assurance framework,” he said.

He said that it had involved a “lot of work and time”, with extensive academic council meetings, and meetings of sub-committees and working groups. “We look forward with confidence,” he said yesterday.

The incident which led to the recent invocation of staff disciplinary procedures relates to the alleged use of an instructor’s manual by a master’s student in the GMIT school of business during the 2009-10 academic year. The manual, which includes model answers to questions, is restricted to lecturers only by a password from the publisher.

GMIT says that the lecturer who reported the possible breach was not asked, as reported in The Irish Times last Saturday, if she was aware that the student was a member of a senior GAA team in Galway. The college said that this was “totally untrue and incorrect” and “did not happen”.

“Neither her head of department nor her head of school responded to her complaint with that comment,” it has said.

An internal inquiry subsequently held in the GMIT school of business found the student to be guilty of plagiarism. His original mark for the work in question was reduced by 50 per cent. He subsequently graduated last autumn.