Inconsistencies in the level of training and guidance provided to postgraduate research students who teach undergraduates at Dublin City University (DCU), have been highlighted in a new quality report card on the institution.
Practice varies depending on individual programme chairpersons and module co-ordinators, according to a report carried out for the higher education regulatory watchdog, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).
DCU is the first Irish university to undergo QQI’s CINNTE review of the effectiveness of quality assurance procedures, which was conducted by an independent panel of national and international experts.
The review team recognised instances of good practice and also recommendations on areas for improvement.
Teaching, learning and assessment was one focus of the review, which also covered areas such as governance, strategic planning, risk management and the student voice.
Another concern raised under teaching and learning heading was a "wide variation" between programme and modules in areas such as feedback on performance or where students should expect to go to discuss overall academic progress.
It stated that the university appeared to have no overarching policy on this and arrangements depended on faculties and schools, but more commonly on individual programmes.
While DCU was seen to have well-developed overarching quality assurance policies that were rigorously implemented and managed at university level, it was less vigilant in ensuring that its faculties and schools were providing a higher quality learning experience on matters delegated to them in the routine delivery of programmes.
"There seemed to be too many features which were left to the discretion of individual staff, resulting in an uneven pattern of delivery,” the report states.
The review notes that while variations in delivery were both necessary and acceptable depending on different disciplines, all students should expect a consistent minimum provision.
Areas for which DCU received praise included its student internship programme, access to online education, student support services and how it had incorporated other colleges in recent years.
Similar reports on Maynooth University and NUI Galway will follow later this year, while there were reports last year on the institutes of technology in Letterkenny and Sligo.
QQI CEO Padraig Walsh said the reviews were a rigorous and gave student confidence in the quality of the education they are receiving.
"The evidence to date, and contained in today’s DCU CINNTE Review Report, shows that our institutions are committed to delivering real impact for their students through their teaching and learning activities," he said
DCU president Professor Brian MacCraith said the university was looking forward to giving extensive consideration to the findings, and developing a clear action plan to address its recommendations.
Professor Marijk van der Wende of Utrecht University, who chaired the review team, said they were as impressed with DCU’s success in shaping policies that deliver on opportunities for an increasingly diverse student community and with the way in which its leadership included new partners into its mission and operations through the incorporation process.