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Wednesday 18 October 2017

State agency report lashes college over string of failures

Institute accused of issuing misleading claims

John Walshe Education Editor

AN internationally known college has come in for scathing criticism from a State agency.

The American College Dublin has been accused of making misleading claims in its promotional material, having poor quality assurance controls and being isolated from the rest of the higher education community in Ireland.

The comments are contained in a very tough review by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC), the agency which issues awards in the non-university sector.

It was drawn up by a panel of experts who visited the college on Merrion Square for a pre-arranged institutional review.

During the visit, the college failed to provide even one external stakeholder to comment on the quality of provision there.

The only outside person who turned up was the newly appointed education attache from the Malaysian Embassy. He was not briefed by the college and was unaware that any of his countrymen were actually registered at the college. Nor could the college provide key staff involved in the international recruitment effort to meet the panel -- almost three quarters of its 623 students come from overseas.

The report said "the college appears to lack a clear and realistic vision as well as a clear strategy to realise that vision".

"There appears to be little sense of urgency in the planning process. This is despite the worrying trends in enrolment, increased external competition for students, and the global economic downturn, the latter of which is particularly important in an institution dependent on fee income."

One of the 37 recommendations made by the panel was that strategic planning should address the future viability of the college. This should support a clear sense of the challenges facing the college and should propose strategies to ensure continuing financial viability.

The college is now a part of the Irish American University but the report said it was debatable if it can be called a university under the terms of the Universities Act of 1997.

The report said the promotional literature was misleading in suggesting that HETAC had accredited awards to the Irish American University whereas the awards were for the Irish American College.

Similarly, the college claimed it had been accredited by an American agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, whereas it was in the process of seeking that accreditation. The college was ordered by the panel to withdraw the inaccuracies, which it has since done.

The panel expressed concern at the sense of detachment from the rest of the higher education community in Ireland. This led to a lack of familiarity with its statutory requirements under higher-education legislation.

The panel said the self-evaluation report submitted by the college was deficient. It lacked data, analysis, evaluation and reflection.

The academic dean, Dr Rory McEntegart, told the Irish Independent that the report was "not as positive as we might have hoped for" but insisted the college was working with HETAC to implement the recommendations.

Irish Independent

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