Saturday 22 October 2016

Universities 'more efficient' with higher number of women

Katherine Donnelly and Caroline Crawford

Published 12/09/2016 | 02:30

Prof Brian Lucey: One-size-fits-all approach is inappropriate. Photo: Mark Condren
Prof Brian Lucey: One-size-fits-all approach is inappropriate. Photo: Mark Condren

The more women on the staff of universities and other third-level colleges in Ireland the more efficient they are, according to a new study.

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It is one of the findings of research from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) business school on the efficiency of the country's third-level institutions.

The recognition of the value of women in higher education strikes a chord in the wake of the controversy over gender equality in Irish third level.

In one example of the male-female imbalance, women make up 43pc of academic staff in universities, but hold only 19pc of professorships. Moves to address the inequality are under way following the report of an expert group, under former EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan Quinn.

The Trinity study, undertaken by Professor Brian Lucey, Dr Charles Larkin and Dr Qiantao Zhang set out to measure the efficiency of Irish universities and institutes of technology in the key areas of teaching, research, and the transfer of knowledge to business and industry. It covered the period 2009-13, a time of funding cuts and rising enrolments,

In the first such assessment, it examined how the staffing, physical and financial resources available to a college translated into research papers, graduates and commercial spin-offs.

Colleges were found to be more efficient in teaching than in research and knowledge transfer - it was in research activity that a higher share of women was found to be beneficial.

The researchers conclude that "it may be impossible to deliver efficiency in all three areas of teaching, research and knowledge transfer".

Despite differences between institutions and the various types of activities in which they were involved, the study found no strong link between size and efficiency.

Report author, Professor Lucey said the evidence was "clear that a 'one size fits all' approach to higher education institutions' missions is not appropriate."

He said there was a strong case for specialised research and knowledge transfer-orientated institutions and for teaching-orientated institutions.

Meanwhile, another study, published today, has found that students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to struggle at third level education, with many leaving courses as a result.

Research into the experiences of adults with ADHD, found the majority of participants had either dropped out of a college course or experienced difficulty completing coursework due to the 'self-directed' nature of third level academia.

Dr Pádraig MacNeela, a psychology lecturer at NUI Galway who carried out the research, said third level education posed more challenges for people with ADHD and was often a "wounding experience".

Dr MacNeela said a lack of proper supports along with a dominance of linear thinking and rote learning was a major issue.

This practice begins in school and continues into higher education and some work environments.

He said many establishments had ill-prepared supports and structures to respond to the condition.

"Experiential learning and small tutorial-style learning environments worked best for participants studying at college.

"Although lecturers and student services were reported to be supportive, in many cases participation at this level of education had been a wounding experience," said Dr MacNeela.

He found people with ADHD need more explicit support structures to be put in place in the healthcare, school and college learning environments.

He acknowledged that some third level institutions offered school leavers supports.

Adults with ADHD were also more likely to find the work environment "unforgiving", because of a lack of supports.

While only 2.5pc of the population is affected with ADHD, a third of Irish children diagnosed with the condition see it remain with them into later life.

Irish Independent

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