Online college in link-up with top London university


IN A significant development, online education provider Hibernia College is to offer degree courses in computing and business in association with the University of London which is one of the world’s top-ranked universities.

Students will pay €4,980 for the undergraduate degree courses which will be awarded by the University of London. The university has several constituent colleges, including the London School of Economic and University College London.

The Hibernia initiative – which has already trained 4,000 primary teachers – will test the growing market for private third-level education in the Republic.

Hibernia director Seán Rowland says the chief benefit for students is that they can gain a valuable degree from a top-ranked college without incurring accommodation, travel and other costs.

While the college hopes to enrol about 250 students in the first year of the programme, some observers believe that student demand for the courses could increase dramatically over the next five years.

More students could opt for more flexible, online courses as the student contribution fee for third-level colleges is set to rise to €3,000 by 2015.

There is also concern in some university circles that students here might see degree courses offered by top-ranked international colleges as more attractive than those from underfunded Irish institutes.

The three-year degree programmes on offer include: a B.Sc in Creative Computing; a B.Sc in Computing and Information Systems; a B.Sc in Management and a B.Sc in Business. A one-year diploma course in management for graduates is also available.

Hibernia is also offering 20 scholarships on the degree programmes to sports people from Gaelic games, rugby, soccer and tennis in Ireland. Yesterday’s launch was attended by several prominent sports stars including rugby international Tommy Bowe and Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan.

Hibernia, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, charges graduates about €9,000 for its postgraduate primary teaching course. Last year, it generated gross profits of close to €4 million; it is now the leading provider of primary teachers.

In the new courses, students will have access to a personal academic adviser, live online tutorials and an online collaborative space for working with other students and tutors.

There will also be regional on-site tutorials throughout the country to facilitate students who wish to remain at home.

The decision to allow Hibernia to provide primary teacher training in 2003 unleashed a storm of protest from the established teacher-training colleges and their students who accused Hibernia of delivering “yellow-pack” teachers.

In recent years, Hibernia’s presence has become much less controversial amid strong feedback from school principals about the quality of Hibernia graduates.

The college has also appointed high-profile educational figures to its board.

Its current chairman is Dr Don Thornhill, the former head of the Higher Education Authority.