TCD may abolish scholarship exams

 

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is considering the abolition of the college's annual foundation scholarship examinations, as part of a major review of its scholarship system for high-achieving students.

A working party set up recently by TCD's new senior lecturer, Prof Colm Kearney, is expected to examine whether students could instead be awarded the scholarship on the basis of their performance in annual examinations.

Among the other areas it may examine is the possibility of changing the traditional announcement of new scholars by the college's provost each May.This might in future place more emphasis on the involvement of parents, perhaps through their participation in a formal dinner.

However, the university says the value of the "schol" award, as it is known, and the number of awards made each year, will not decrease under the plans. The working party, made up of students, academics and other college interests, is expected to make its recommendations to Prof Kearney by April at the earliest.

The college's foundation scholarship is awarded to students who sit special examinations, usually in March or April of each year.

It is thought to be among the most competitive - and most valuable - in Europe, providing students with free tuition, room and board during term time for a period of up to five years.

However, the administrative demands the examination places on the college, as well as the cost of setting special exams for students from each of Trinity's faculties, is a significant factor in the decision to review how it operates.

The college is already introducing significant changes in the way it operates. These include a reduction in the number of faculties from six to five, and the establishment of 20 new schools and "vice-deaneries".

This year 383 students from a wide range of disciplines sat the foundation scholarship examinations.

A report in a recent edition of the college's student newspaper, Trinity News, claimed the examinations may be abolished within a year. However, speaking to The Irish Times, Prof Kearney said no decision had been taken on the issue.

"The schol system in TCD and the traditions around it are one of the strongest aspects of our competitiveness, so there is no way I or anybody else is going to harm that," he said.

"Trinity will never abolish schol. It's about making it stronger. . . There is absolutely no intention on my part, or on anyone else's part, to downplay the value or number of schols in any way."

Playwright Samuel Beckett and former president Mary Robinson are among the previous recipients of TCD's foundation scholarship.

In an interview with The Irish Times last year, TCD provost Dr John Hegarty said the college aimed to increase the number of non-EU undergraduate students enrolling from about 7 per cent currently to 10 per cent by 2009.