Colloquium: Policy and Practice


Irish University Training Network (IUTN)

Royal Hospital Kilmainham 1st-2nd December, 1998

Partially funded by the European Social Fund

[Also available in MS-Word format.]


The Irish Universities Training Network sponsored Ireland’s first Colloquium
on university teaching and learning which took place at the Royal Hospital
Kilmainham on December 1st and 2nd, 1998. About 100 participants were drawn
from all universities on the island together with the Dublin Institute of

President McAleese opened the Colloquium and keynote addresses were
delivered by Mr Noel Treacy TD, Minister for Science and Technology, Dr Don
Thornhill, Chair of the Higher Education Authority and Professor George
Brown, Visiting Professor, University of Ulster. The Proceedings include two
of these addresses, the other not being in a suitable form for reproduction.

Unusually for an academic conference, most of the time was spent in Working
Parties charged with making recommendations. The Working Parties

  1. Managing Change in the Curriculum
  2. Key Skills in the Curriculum
  3. Accreditation and Development for Third-level Teachers
  4. Performance Development for Academic Staff
  5. Flexible Delivery and Learning
  6. Quality Assurance and Improvement

In addition, participants met to consider the formation of a Society for
Higher Education and overwhelmingly supported the concept. Further
information is included in these pages.

The Proceedings are being distributed to every academic staff member of the
participating institutions in the hope that interest in teaching and
learning might be increased significantly.

Many thanks are due to the European Social Fund and the Higher Education
Authority of the Republic of Ireland for making the Colloquium financially

Thanks are also due to Ms Nicky Duff, Ms Rose Marie Lynch, Ms Louise Power,
and Ms Tracy Richardson for their administrative support.

Sylvia Huntley-Moore

Trinity College

Organising Committee

  • Ms Patricia Bailey (QUB)
  • Ms Saranne Magennis (NUI Maynooth)
  • Ms Linda Carey (QUB)
  • Professor Hubert McDermott (NUI Galway)
  • Dr Sandra Griffiths (UU)
  • Dr Noel Murphy (DCU)
  • Ms Sylvia Huntley-Moore (TCD)
  • Professor Dermot O’Connell (NUI Dublin)
  • Dr Marie Keating (DIT)
  • Dr John Panter (TCD)
  • Ms Kathleen Kennedy (DIT)
  • Professor Evan Petty (UL)


Part 1: Keynote Addresses

Higher Education: A Perspective from Government

Mr Noel Treacy TD

It gives me great pleasure to be here, and to have been invited to address
your Colloquium this morning.

As I stand before you today, it strikes me that every single individual in
this hall holds at least one concern in common. It is a concern that impacts
directly upon us all, whether academic or politician, and on the lives of
every other person in this state. This concern is, of course, the future of
education, and in particular, that of Higher Education.

We are all aware of the huge changes that have taken place in Irish
education in the past 30 years. Prior to 1970, third-level education was out
of the reach of the majority of Irish citizens, a luxury reserved for the
middle classes. Over the past three decades, however, there has been a
fundamental change in both the way education has been run and in its
availability to the various sectors of society. Even within the last fifteen
years, the increase in participation rates has been remarkable. Let me give
you an example: in 1984-85, around 39 percent of eighteen year olds were
engaged in full-time education. Ten years later, that figure had risen to
60.6 percent. Amongst those aged 20 years and older, the rate of
participation had increased from 8.9 percent to 18.2 percent–a two fold
increase in the space of a decade.

Of course, with that growth has come new challenges. The role of third level
education has changed and advanced substantially over the last couple of
decades as our national economy and society have developed. It has moved
from being a training mechanism for the middle and professional classes, in
an economy dominated by agriculture, to being the fulcrum of a modern,
technologically based society. Higher Education is no longer marginal. Its
development provides the momentum for the development of the whole of our
society. Its expansion has allowed more and more of our people to fulfil
their potential and to develop their God given abilities.

Anyone who has observed the development of the government policy
towards Higher Education, in recent years will be aware of its
rapid ascent in the national scale of priorities. Just a few
weeks ago, we announced a £180 million package for
research and development. Prior to that, there was a £5
million fund, and before that again, the £250 million
Scientific and Technological Education Investment Fund. While I
accept that there has been a certain degree of overlap between
the three, it is indisputable that this government has
demonstrated its commitment to the development of Higher
Education and the pursuit of excellence, not only in the
sciences, but also in the humanities and social sciences. In the
case of the latter, provision of funding has increased
dramatically, after previously being barely existent–proof that
while the sciences may fuel our economy, we are cognisant of the
need for development in other areas.

Society is better served by a broad-based educational excellence, than by
the myopic concentration of resources in one area.

I was pleased to note that many of the other challenges that face Higher
Education appear on the agenda of this two-day Colloquium. Issues such as
Quality Assurance, the updating and development of the curriculum,
accreditation and training of third level teachers. These are all areas that
must be given the utmost consideration if we are to maintain and improve on
the standards which we have already achieved. We in government are conscious
of this fact and are open to the possibility of change. We maintain close
contact with the Higher Education Authority, with the Higher Education
Institutions themselves and with the various bodies, ad hoc and permanent,
that are concerned with this important area.

Any university system is only as good as those individuals within
it. Students may enter our Higher Education institutions with
all the talent in the world, but they will be sold short if the
quality of the education provision which they find within those
institutions is not of a sufficient standard. Remember the words
of W.B. Yeats: Education is not the filling of a pail, but
the lighting of a fire.
It is important that those who teach
at third level, not only maintain the standards set in the past,
but that they improve on them. Ireland already has a good Higher
Education system. It is the role of both government and those who
work within that system, to ensure that that good system becomes
a great system.

For this reason, I believe a vigorous policy of staff development is an
essential element, for Higher Education institutions. Clear policies should
be established to encourage Higher Education teachers to focus on teaching
students how to learn and how to take initiatives. Staff development
programmes should encourage constant innovation in curriculum, teaching and
learning methods, and ensuring an appropriate status for those teaching in
Higher Education.

It is precisely that reason that gatherings such as this one here today are
to be welcomed. The concentration of so many fine minds on the issues
affecting the development of Higher Education can only be beneficial. The
very fact that the Higher Education community is mindful of the dynamic for
change, demonstrates its awareness of the developing society around us. The
fact that so many auspicious members of that Community are willing to sit
down and to discuss the future needs of Higher Education and to make
recommendations on fulfilling those needs, shows an admirable openness of

Everywhere, Higher Education is faced with great challenges and
difficulties. Over the centuries, it has given ample proof both of its
viability and its ability to change and to include change and progress in
society. In the modern era, Higher Education institutions have a
responsibility to educate highly qualified graduates and responsible
citizens able to meet the needs of all sectors of human activity.

In a world undergoing rapid changes, there is a perceived need for a new
vision and student-orientated paradigm of Higher Education. Both here and
elsewhere, this will require new methods, practices and means of delivery,
based on new types of links and partnerships with the community and with the
broadest sectors of society. Higher Education Institutions should educate
students to become well informed and deeply motivated citizens, who can
think critically, analyse problems of society, look for solutions to the
problems of society, apply them and accept social responsibilities.

Our Higher Education Institutions, need to adopt the philosophy of lifelong
learning, giving the individual an optimal range of choice and a flexibility
of entry and exit points with the system. We need to develop open and
continuous access to higher learning, including bridging programmes and
prior learning assessment and recognition.

Higher Education should define its mission according to the present and
future needs of society and base it on an awareness of the fact that Higher
Education is essential for both economic and social development. Individual
institutions must use their autonomy and high academic standards to
contribute to the development of society.

The importance of the development of Higher Education is something of which
we are keenly aware at government level and which we have endeavoured to
encourage through our financial support. However, in the final analysis, our
universities are autonomous entities and the responsibility for ensuring
that that development takes place falls squarely at their feet, and of
course, at the feet of the Higher Education Authority.

It is gratifying, therefore, to visit a gathering such as this and to see
the progressive nature of the discussion taking place. I am a great believer
in the old adage that he who does not have one eye on the future is left
in the past
. However, this Colloquium does more than enough to reassure
me that the future of our Higher Education Institutions is in good hands.

Go raibh maith agat.

Higher Education: An International Perspective

George Brown–University of Ulster

The primary purpose of this paper is to provide a framework for exploring
higher education in different countries. In so doing, it provides a
background for the six themes of this Colloquium. At the outset, it is
stressed that the paper does not attempt a detailed survey of higher
education in all the major countries. Rather it provides a set of heuristic
devices for examining higher education in any country. Nor does it provide
detailed bibliographic references for the information presented. To do so
would require several person hours of work and convert what is essentially
an opening address to a Colloquium into a scholarly review.

A heuristic framework

Not surprisingly, there are several ways of exploring any
country’s higher education system. Here I offer a framework based

  • ideologies
  • purposes of higher education
  • notions of control and cost
  • input–process–outcome
  • access–retention–performance
  • performance-standards
  • the concept of value added
  • globalisation and information technology


Beneath the approaches to higher education across the world are competing
ideologies which reflect wider cultural values. At one pole are approaches
based on highly centralised governments who control staff, students and the
curriculum. At the other pole are systems that rely heavily on market forces
and preach a gospel according to freedom of choice. In between, are systems
that are mixes of varying proportions of central control and market forces.
Beneath these ideologies are different theories of human nature. Some
ideologies are based upon the notion that people are not to be trusted, that
they need to be tightly controlled and made accountable. Other ideologies
are based on the assumption that human beings thrive in environments that
are relatively free, that self reliance, moral responsibility and creativity
flourish when people are trusted.

The Purposes of Higher Education

The dominant ideologies of a country give rise to its purposes of higher
education. Not surprisingly, the more prosperous and democratic a country
is, the wider the debate on what are the purposes of higher education. In
Western democracies the debate may be traced to the early Greeks.
Hippocrates, for example, discusses whether the study of medicine should be
primarily educational or primarily vocational. In the 19th Century, Newman
took the view that a liberal education was the best preparation for work and
life. In the language of his day, he expressed it thus:-

`that education which gives a man a clear conscious view
of his own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing
them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging
them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right
to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect
what is sophistical, and to disregard what is irrelevant. It
prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master any
subject with facility. It shows him how to accommodate
himself to others, how to throw himself into their state of
mind, how to bring before them his own, how to influence
them, how to come to an understanding with them, and how to
bear with them.’

(J.H. Newman,1853)

In the latter part of the 20th Century, the advent of technology
has produced a reduced need for workforces and shrinking
employment prospects for the young. The debate has swung towards
vocationalism: the development of skills and the preparation for
work. But even within the vocational perspective there are those
who prefer a narrow approach to job preparation and those who
take a longer view. I am of the latter persuasion. In the next
millennium, graduates will change jobs more frequently and, even
if they do not change jobs, their jobs will change. Hence the
primary purpose of higher education should be to prepare students
for uncertainty. Put less circumspectly, the primary purpose of
higher education is to lay the foundations of effective, lifelong
learning in order to prepare students for their working lives.
Non scholae sed vitae discimus: we learn not merely for
scholarship but for life.

It would be wrong to leave the purposes of higher education suspended in
ideologies. There are important questions to ask and important tasks to
pursue. The central question is `Whose purposes should predominate?’ The
expressed purposes of higher education by Government, Industry and
Universities themselves need close scrutiny. For example, do the purposes
take account of values, the development of culture or the personal
development of students? For democrats, it is important to ask if the
purposes of higher education include the development of well informed
critics of an academic discipline, of industry and commerce and of the wider
society. Last but not least, do the avowed purposes match the reality of the
higher education provided? By examining the purposes of higher education in
a country and the underlying realities, one gets a measure not just of its
higher education but of the country itself. Herein, lies the importance of
considering the procedures for estimating and enhancing the quality of
higher education in a country, its modes of delivery of higher education and
its management of change in the curriculum of higher education. One needs to
look also at recognition that it accords its academics, the support provided
to its academics through professional and performance development and its
accreditation and training procedures. These are the major themes of this

Control and cost

Control of the HE curriculum was, and is, a major concern of many European
countries and of developing countries. For example, in Britain there are
some who want a national curriculum in HE. In the United States, market
forces appear to prevail but not for the major professions–one sits the
National Board of Medical Examinations to qualify as a doctor. Control also
extends to qualifications and the status of university teachers. In many
countries–Germany, Republic of China, Eastern Europe and some African
countries all university teachers are civil servants. In some countries,
academics may be re-located at the whim of the Ministry of Education.

Costs of mass higher education have alarmed many countries so they are
seeking ways of reducing costs. In Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Germany,
the Governments are looking closely at ways of ensuring students complete
their degrees within 6 years. In contrast, in the United States, it is
common for less prosperous students to take time out. In the Middle East,
parts of Europe, Asia and Australia, there is concern about the political
promises of free or cheap higher education.

Control and costs clearly affect the purposes of higher education, its
provision and its capacity for change.

Quality Assurance and Improvement

Control and costs have, arguably, led to the quality assurance movement.
Ostensibly, quality assurance is concerned with the quality of the learning
experience of students. In reality, it is probably more concerned with the
control and cost of higher education. This movement towards quality
assurance permeates most of western higher education, school education and
health care systems. It is likely that the more remote the source of quality
assessment is from the field that is being assessed, the more likely that
quality assurance is perceived as of little value and bureaucratic. Such
perceptions do not induce commitment to quality assurance.

Yet almost all Western countries have opted for a bureaucratic solution,
although the French and Germans now seem less interested in centralised
systems and the Italians more interested in making pronouncements about
quality than changing their system of higher education. For the
Anglo-Saxons, centralised quality assurance is a current obsession.

The common method of quality assurance

The most common method of quality assurance in Europe is a self-assessment
report followed by a site visit to meet staff and students and a report by
the assessors or visitors. The self assessment document is usually based on
the deceptively simple questions:-

  • How well are we doing?
  • How do we know how well we are doing?
  • How could we improve?

Underlying the method is a model based on `fitness for purpose’.
Observations, outcomes of interviews, discussions and documentary analysis
are matched against the objectives of a department or school.

In England, each of six aspects of provision is assigned a score
on a four point scale. This approach has led to the construction
of league tables of universities. These league tables confuse
`fitness for purpose’ and national standards of teaching. Fitness
for purpose in England has been transmogrified into `good’ and
`bad’ university departments. In Scandinavia, great reliance is
put on the report by the subject provider and the views of
international visitors. In the Netherlands the approach is very
flexible–but the system is changing. In the United States there
is no national system; each university has its own system,
although state funded universities are expected to monitor

It is too early to decide whether current systems of quality assurance are
effective. Certainly, in the UK, grades awarded have gradually increased but
this might be due to test sophistication. Few universities in Britain have
been found to be unsatisfactory yet the central costs of the quality
assurance system are in excess of £12 million pounds. To this sum should
be added the costs incurred by each of the 104 universities and their loss
of opportunities for research and teaching because of the time and resources
devoted to quality assurance. Whether the benefits of a highly centralised
system are worth the costs of the system is doubtful. My advice is, keep the
system of quality assurance simple and close to home.

The input–process–outcomes model

This well known model is derived from manufacturing industries. It provides
a crude measure of a higher education system. The model stresses
qualifications on entry. It assumes that qualifications are an accurate
measure of an individual’s potential achievement yet clearly the quality of
earlier education can affect performance in school leaving certificates. If
the process is quality assured, it is assumed that the outcomes will be
assured. But outcomes in higher education are less precise than in
manufacturing industries. Measure of outcomes may be immediate, intermediate
or distant. One needs to consider carefully the question of `outcomes for
whom?’ and find useful ways of measuring them. Of the many possibilities to
consider are outcomes for the national culture, the economy, employers, a
better equipped workforce. For students, one might consider whether a degree
leads to a better job–or even a job.

A prediction of this model is that if you change or increase the input and
hold the process constant through quality assurance then the output will
change. This simple truth appears not to have been grasped by some

There is also a naivety about this model. It assumes that universities are
merely people-processing institutions. Yet students grow and develop during
their university years regardless of their specific course experience. They
are not passive: they interact with their environment and each other. The
idea that if one gets students with the `right’ entry qualifications and
`processes’ them, then one will get the `right’ outcomes is not borne out by
experience down the ages. Further, the assumption that by producing more
graduates one will advance the economy is not borne out by the evidence. The
Far East, Middle East and South America have graduates doing menial tasks.
Economies need more than higher education to move them on.

The access–retention–performance model

This model provides a slightly different perspective on a higher education
system. It examines the accessibility of higher education, retention rates
and performance.

However, access has widened in many countries and wider access has brought
with it expectations of a relevant curriculum and better opportunities for
high status employment. These expectations are based, in part, on peoples’
perceptions of higher education when it was an elite system. As access
widens and higher education becomes a mass system or, in some countries,
virtually a `universal’ system, these expectations are less likely to be

The widening of access has brought in its wake financial, political and
administrative problems. This has led to different structures of HE in
different countries. Two common approaches to the problem of expansion are:-

Set up a parallel structure: Finland, The Netherlands
and Norway have just about completed the development of their
polytechnic system. France and Germany have long had a
differentiated system. In the UK, until 1992, there was a binary
system. Usually in these systems, the polytechnic systems are not
as well funded as the established universities.

Absorb all non universities into the university system:
Teacher training has been largely absorbed into university
systems in the UK, the Middle East and many other countries. In
Australia and the UK, the binary line has been demolished and the
boundary between further and higher education is blurred. Unit
costs (per student) in the UK have been reduced by 63 per cent
over the past twenty five years. Equality, in this context, means
cheaper higher education. In the US higher education ranges from
Research universities to Community Colleges that do not award
degrees. But beneath these changes in a country’s system there is
a hierarchy of universities which may or may not be denied by
that country’s government.

Retention can become a major problem when governments pay the bulk of costs.
There is a pressure to retain students with consequent implications for
assessment and, perhaps, student support and guidance. However the matter is
not clear cut. In many Western countries, it is assumed that students will
drop out or drop out and return. This approach works less well for students
from developing countries who are expected by their family and Government to
stay at the course even if they are not suitable.

Performance usually refers to the class of degree awarded. In some countries
performance is measured at a minimum threshold–pass and proceed. All
degrees are apparently equal–but some students get better grade point
averages than others and can therefore proceed to postgraduate programmes.

Performance is intimately related to the question of standards across degree
courses within the same discipline and between universities. There seem to
be three strategies: seek to impose national minimum standards, ignore the
problem, allow market forces to decide.

Benchmarking is an attempt to calibrate degree standards across a nation or
a set of nations. It is a fashionable concern in the United States and it is
beginning to be fashionable in Europe. Whether it is a useful device is open
to investigation and debate. My guess is that high levels of abstraction
might yield some uniformity within subjects but accurate benchmarking across
disciplines is a chimera.

Links between the input and access models

There is clearly a link, if not a conflict, between the input and access
models of higher education. Widening the access changes dramatically the
cognitive levels of the input. It may also change the nature of the process:
what are appropriate methods of teaching and assessment when dealing with an
elite corps of students, may not be appropriate for dealing with a mass
entry of students. The risk of lowered retention rates increases and, of
course, the costs of using elite methods in a mass system soar dramatically.
Last but not least, measures of performance may change.

For example, about twenty years ago just over one third of all degrees
awarded in the UK were firsts or upper seconds. By 1990, more than half of
degree awards were firsts or upper seconds and by 1993, in the eight most
popular subjects, just under sixty percent of the degrees awarded were
firsts or upper seconds. The modal class is now the upper second whereas
previously it was a lower second. During roughly the same period, Higher
Education has expanded from six per cent of an age cohort to about 28
percent. Resources per student have declined by 63 per cent since 1973. Not
surprisingly, the increase in the number of good honours degrees awarded
give rise to the question whether standards are declining. The question is
complicated by changes in Advanced Level syllabuses (usually taken by 18
year olds), changes in subjects, the shifting purposes of higher education
and the definitions of `standards’ and `decline’ that are used. It could be
argued that if standards have not declined in the past 20 years, then there
has been remarkable changes in the gene pool of the present generation of
students or a dramatic shift in methods of teaching and learning. On the
other hand, it could be argued that standards have not declined so much, as
changed towards greater emphasis on preparation for employment.

Finally, here is yet another paradox. At the time that many countries are
increasing access to higher education, the number of higher status jobs is
declining. So higher education is no longer the gateway to jobs that it was
in the past. As a consequence, postgraduate schools are expanding and
perhaps replacing the undergraduate course as the point of entry into `good
jobs’. It maybe that as access increases into undergraduate courses, that
the postgraduate schools will become the place for `higher education’.

Value added

Underpinning both models is the notion of `value added’. This is a notion
borrowed from accountancy which is used to estimate efficiency and
effectiveness of a higher education system.

The common, and naive, approach to value added is to compare entry
qualifications with outcomes in terms of degree classes. The wider the gap,
the greater the value added. But given that Advanced Levels (School leaving
certificates) and degree results correlate at between 0.2 and 0.4 one can
hardly make strong claims about `value added’. If the correlations were much
weaker then it would imply that entry qualifications are irrelevant and what
would that tell us about the relationship between higher and secondary
education? To complicate matters further, value added in higher education is
based on the assumption that pre-entry performances are accurate and degrees
are of comparable standards across subjects and universities. Both of these
assumptions are, at best, weak.

Despite these reservations, there is much interest in the notion of value
added. But before accepting reports of a higher education system based on
the concept of `value added’, it would be prudent to examine critically what
is meant by the term `value added’ in the report and the assumptions
underlying the methods of analysis.

Globalisation and information technology

It would be wrong to leave this discussion of higher education
systems without referring to globalisation and information
technology. Put rather starkly, the purposes of globalisation and
information technology are to colonise (or re-colonise) and make
a profit for a small number of people. Globalisation and
Information Technology are already having an impact on the
economies of smaller countries and they will affect the Higher
Education Systems of such countries. There has already been an
upsurge in distance learning and franchised courses. Large North
American Universities are setting up courses on the Net. Many
Australian, Indian, Far Eastern, North and South American
Universities use and export distance learning packages. The new
University of Lapland uses it. The Open University in the UK is
based on it and, more recently, in Britain, the University for
Industry has been founded to develop distance learning courses
with an industrial flavour. Private `universities’ have been set
up by international corporations to provide distance learning and
short courses.

All of these approaches may widen access–but not necessarily to
underprivileged groups. Retention may be a problem. IT approaches present
special problems of process, retention, standards and outcomes. IT based
courses may be effective at some tasks but the whole range of interpersonal
relations and interpersonal skills are not easily developed in front of a
screen or handbook. Nor are IT based courses necessarily good at developing
empathy, values or critical thinking. In short, IT is important but so too
is person to person teaching and group learning.

There are further risks of globalisation. Minority studies such as Classics,
Archaeology and Irish studies are likely to be squeezed further in a global
market yet such courses are often the mainstay of a nation’s culture.
Standards of courses provided by distant providers may vary and who will
monitor them? One answer is to rely on market forces, the other is to
regulate them. Caveat emptor or Quis custodies custodiet: which is the more
important? The answer lies in the ideologies and purposes of a country’s
higher education.


This paper has explored the major approaches to examining a higher education
system. Each of the approaches merits further exploration by providers and
users of higher education. If one wishes to discover the truth of an
educational system, one needs to look first at the alignment between its
espoused purposes and its modes of teaching, learning and assessment. Then
one should explore its approach to quality assurance and its concern for
developing its students and its staff. All of this needs to be placed in the
context of its approach to access and inputs, retention and outcomes. It is
hoped that this Colloquium will further discussion of these issues in the
context of the Higher Education Systems of Ireland.

Brief Annotated Bibliography

Atkins, M., Beattie, J. and Dockrell, B. (1993) Assessment
Issues in Higher Education Sheffield: Employment Department
Provides, inter alia, a discussion of the purposes of
higher education.
Brown, G., Bull, J. and Pendlebury, M. (1997) Assessing
Student Learning in Higher Education London: Routledge
See particularly the chapters on quality and standards,
student learning and changing assessment procedures.
Bowden, J and Marton, F. (1998) The University of Learning:
Beyond competence and quality London: Kogan Page. For
those interested in a deeper look at the issues of higher
education and the themes of the Colloquium.

Part 2: Recommendations

It should be noted that the Working Parties acted independently and that the
Reports and Recommendations may exhibit some inconsistencies in style and
substance. On the other hand, there is overlapping which indicates
considerable consensus on a number of issues.

Group 1: Managing Change in the Curriculum

Recommendations to Institutions

  1. Curriculum Reviews should be student-centred and derived from clearly
    articulated learning outcomes.
  2. Curriculum Reviews should encompass all aspects of the curriculum;
    learning objectives, content, teaching/learning methodologies, learning
    modes, assessment and evaluation.
  3. Where possible, Curriculum Reviews should have an external focus using
  4. The process of Curriculum Reviews should be inclusive with extensive
    internal and external consultation taking place, all stakeholders being
    invited to contribute.
  5. The process should be iterative and subject to continual evaluation.

Group 2: Key Skills in the Curriculum

a. Recommendations to Government

(i) A circular be sent to all universities and the CHIU
which provides a brief discussion of the importance of skills
as a vehicle for course design, delivery and evaluation
together with a recommendation that skills are identified
explicitly in all degree programmes.
(ii) A skills development fund be established to assist
subject networks to develop and disseminate good practice in
the implementation of skills in the curriculum.

b. Recommendations to the Committee of Heads of Irish Universities

The CHIU should establish a working party to discuss the Government circular
and to develop a consultative document for circulation to all universities
and higher education institutions. The report should provide a set of
recommendations for Universities to:-

(i) establish what broad generic skills are expected of their graduates,
indicate how these might be used to inform course design, delivery and
evaluation at faculty and subject level.
(ii) At the end of the consultative phase, the recommendations should be
presented to a national seminar of senior managers of universities. The
recommendations should then be published.

c. Recommendations to Institutions

In the light of the above recommendations:-

(i) Each university should develop its own set of generic skills.
(ii) Faculties and departments should be encouraged to extend and develop
the generic set of skills for use in their course design, delivery and
(iii) Course documents should make reference to the skills that are being
developed in a course or degree programme.

d. Recommendations to Faculties and Subject Areas

In the light of the above recommendations:

(i) Each Faculty and its subject areas should initiate a
debate concerning the nature of skills and their implications
for curriculum development.
(ii) Faculties, in conjunction with central staff
development units or quality assurance units, should provide
support and guidance on the use of skills in course design,
delivery and evaluation
(iii) Faculties and subject areas should consider how they
will monitor the use of skills in course design and delivery,
course evaluation and in course documents.

Group 3: Accreditation and Teaching Development

a. Recommendations to Institutions

(i) That recruitment and selection processes should reflect
the importance of teaching.
(ii) That there should be a common core curriculum across
the sector for the professional development of those staff with
teaching responsibilities.

b. Recommendation to the Irish Universities Training Network

(i) That the IUTN be asked to establish a Working Party to
facilitate further inter-institutional collaboration in
development of a core curriculum for the professional
development of staff with teaching responsibilities.

c. Recommendations to the Proposed Working Party

(i) That in developing an appropriate core curriculum, the
Working Party should consider the range of staff (in addition
to newly appointed full-time academics) who may wish to engage
in a professional development programme e.g. part-time teaching
staff, postgraduate students with teaching responsibilities,
experienced academic staff, support staff with teaching duties.
(ii) That in order to address the range of participants’
needs in relation to programme content and the delivery, the
Working Party should develop a flexible curriculum which
incorporates modules applicable to all staff regardless of
teaching experience together with modules designed to meet more
specific needs.
(iii) That consideration be given to the development of
reciprocal arrangements for the recognition of professional
development programmes in the Republic and in Northern Ireland.
(iv) That support for mandatory induction and/or
professional development programmes be canvassed across the
(vi) That the resource implications of the introduction of
comprehensive induction and/or professional development
programmes be examined.
(vi) That current arrangements for the integration of
professional development into institutional policies relating
to appointment, tenure and promotion be analysed.
(vii) That options for the accreditation of professional
development be considered
(viii) That options for the funding of induction and
professional development programmes be explored e.g. Higher
Education authority targeted fund.

Group 4: Performance Development for Academic Staff

1. Recommendations to Government

(i) That funding be provided for initial professional
development programmes for academic staff with little or no
teaching experience.
(ii) That funding be provided for teaching development
grants to be awarded to individuals across the sector on a
competitive basis.
(iii) That funding be provided on a demonstrated needs
basis to institutions to upgrade sub-standard teaching

2. Recommendations to Institutions–Teaching Development

(i) That teaching development programmes be strengthened
and that a senior person of the rank of Dean or Vice-President
or equivalent be appointed with responsibility for teaching and
learning development.
(ii) That an operational strategic plan be established for
the development of teaching and learning.
(iii) That systems be established for disseminating models
of good teaching and learning practice which enable the sharing
of expertise.
(iv) That it be mandatory that learning objectives should
be stated for each course and articulated with content,
teaching and learning methods and assessment.

3. Recommendations to Institutions–Personnel Policies

(i) That recruitment and selection procedures include
assessment of teaching experience in a systematic way.
(ii) That policies be developed which give recognition of,
incentives to and rewards for good teaching.
(iii) That tenure and promotion policies and procedures
take account of teaching in a systematic way.
(iv) That consideration be given to the introduction of a
performance development system.

4. Recommendations to Institutions–Faculties
and Departments

(i) That faculty and/or departmental reviews include
formative evaluation of the quality of teaching in a systematic
way which includes evaluation of learning objectives and their
match with content, teaching and learning methods and

5. Recommendations to Institutions–Individual Staff

(i) Institutions should ensure that Performance Development
Programmes for academic staff include the following principles:

(a) the purposes of the programme should be made explicit;
(b) the programme should have a forward looking planning
focus rather than concentrate only on the evaluation of past
(c) the programme should be continuous;
(d) the programme should provide incentives and recognition of good
performance and provide feedback to staff;
(e) processes should be transparent leading to a culture of trust;
(f) self review should be a basic feature of the programme;
(g) goal setting for staff should be conducted in the context of career
planning for individuals and systematic departmental planning;
(h) resources should be made available to support outcomes
of the process.
(ii) Institutions should ensure that Performance
Development Programmes for academic staff include the following
principles of implementation:

(a) widespread consultative processes are used in
developing policy and procedures;
(b) senior staff including the Chief Executive Officer
support the programme as integral to the strategic development
of the institution;
(c) senior staff should engage in the process before
introducing it to their own staff;
(d) all staff should be prepared for the programme by
participation in developmental workshops or other activities.

Group 5: Flexible Delivery and Learning

  1. That Academic Support Units be established in each institution whose
    specific remit is to provide induction and continuous staff development
    relating to the application of best practice in teaching, learning and
    assessment and the application or existent and emerging technologies. These
    units should pool their resources and engage in optimal collaboration.
  2. That the necessary investment be applied to the provision and renewal
    of the necessary infrastructure.
  3. That an Irish broad-band network be provided for the Higher Education
  4. That a representative administrative structure be created to
    co-ordinate co-operative networking initiatives for Higher Education, and to
    negotiate with third parties.

Group 6: Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement

1. Primary Recommendation

That each institution adopt a Charter for Teaching and Learning.

2. Secondary Recommendations

(i) That students be provided with adequate and timely
information in a suitable format.
(ii) That existing evaluation systems incorporate student
evaluation of courses together with timely and constructive
(iii) That promotions systems should recognise and have
mechanisms for validating teaching and learning excellence.
(vi) That institutions consider the establishment of a
suitably resourced Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Part 3: Working Party Reports

Group 1: Managing Change in the Curriculum

Factors Leading to Pressures for Change in the Curriculum

There exist a number of factors which are leading to pressures for review of
current curricula and development of new ones:

  • demands for greater accessibility and participation in
    Third-level education brought about by the need for life-long
    learning manifested in requests for continuing general
    education, continuing professional development and distance
  • advances in information and communications technology which
    have the potential to radically change teaching and learning
  • changes in stakeholder expectations brought about by
    demographic trends, economic developments, industry demands and
    recognition by academic staff of the need for quality
  • educational research into teaching and learning.
  • government legislation relating to discrimination,
    accountability, quality assurance and improvement and
    transparency of procedures.
  • accreditation of programmes by professional associations.

Curriculum Review and Development and Student Learning

The principles of curriculum review and curriculum development
can be seen as two sides of the same coin in that the criteria
used to assess current curricula should also be the basis on
which new curricula are developed.

Teaching may be defined as, `the creation and sustaining of an
effective environment for learning’. The definition is a good
basis for curriculum review and development because it reminds us
that the primary purpose of teaching is student learning. Thus an
effective starting point for the process of review and
development should be the determination of appropriate learning
objectives or outcomes. Such outcomes should list what it is the
students can be expected to be able to do by the conclusion of
the programme in question and should include: content-based
skills such as problem solving, analysis etc. and generic skills
such as written and oral communication and computer literacy. The
choice of particular outcomes will vary from programme to
programme as will the level of attainment. The computer literacy
required of an engineer, for example will be at a much higher
level than that usually required of a graduate in English

Learning Objectives and Curriculum Review and Development

Programme content should be chosen on the basis of what is needed to be
known for students to meet the set learning objectives but the process of
curriculum review consists of much more than judgments about the quality and
quantity of content and that of curriculum development more than choice of
content, important though these matters are.

The teaching methods (including assessment procedures) adopted by staff
affect the choice of learning methods adopted by students and should be
designed to create an environment which will assist the achievement of the
learning objectives. Thus, for example, if the generic skill of computer
word-processing is an objective, then provision must be made in the
programme for practical classes and the skill must be assessed if the
students are to take it seriously.

Another issue is the decision about learning modes. Traditionally,
Third-level programmes have been open only to successful school leavers and
taught by face to face teaching methods operating within a highly structured
timetable. Flexible learning modes offer the opportunities to admit students
on the basis of work and/or life experience, to enable learning to be based
on information technology packages and to permit the students to achieve the
learning objectives at their own pace and in their own time.

Finally, all good curricula build in continuing evaluation procedures to
ensure and improve quality outcomes.

The Processes of Curriculum Review and Development

There are several groups with a legitimate stake in the outcomes of
curriculum reviews and developments. Among them are employers, students,
academic staff, government and where relevant, professional associations.
Curriculum reviewers and developers should involve all stakeholder groups
through a process of wide-ranging internal and external consultation and
transparent decision making procedures. In practice, successful curriculum
development is an iterative process which continuously invites and takes
into account constructive feedback from all stakeholder groups.

Group 2: Key Skills in the Curriculum

Group 2 of the National Colloquium on `University Teaching and Learning :
Policy and Practice’ were given the following task :-

To make recommendations for the rationale, role and
time-scale for the introduction of `key’ (generic) skills
development into the curriculum.

This paper provides a brief report of the Group’s deliberations and a set of
recommendations for consideration by Government, CHIU, Universities and
Faculties (or Schools). The deliberations were informed by a review of
research on skills. The deliberations and recommendations are intimately
linked. Indeed it would be curious to merely offer recommendations in a
field as complex and challenging as the integration of skills into the
curriculum, without providing a background discussion of the topic. The
recommendations are primarily for consideration within the Republic of
Ireland. Delegates from Universities in the North of Ireland may wish to
adapt the report and its recommendations for their own purposes.

1. The Rationale

The term `skill’ is now used widely in university subjects that have a
vocational orientation (dentistry, engineering, law, medicine and nursing),
in secondary and primary education and in industry and commerce. `Skills’
therefore provide a useful language for discussions within and across
educational systems and between educational systems and industry and
commerce. However, the term `skill’ is more complex than it first appears so
it is prudent to clarify the meaning of the term and to consider briefly the
main characteristics of skills and the necessary conditions for their

A skill may be described as the `ability to perform at an appropriate
standard in a given context’. This definition leaves open the question of
`appropriate standard’ and `given context’ so the term may be used at
different levels of an educational system, different years of a degree
programme and in different contexts. For example, improving `writing skills’
is a common goal in university courses and in secondary schools but the
standards expected are different. Within universities, the standards of
writing expected of first year students is different from those expected of
third year students. The writing skills required in the context of
Engineering are different from those required in History. These
considerations lead to some important features of skills. All have
implications for the design, delivery and evaluation of courses and degree
programmes in universities.

Skills may transfer from one context to another. Transfer of skills from one
context to another is not a natural process. For students to be able to
transfer their skills from one context to another, they need to have
knowledge and understanding of the skills, of the new context and
opportunities to practice skills in a diversity of contexts. The capacity to
analyse contexts and reflect upon experience are a sine qua non of effective

2. The role of skills in the curriculum

Skills may be used as:-

  1. a basis for identifying learning outcomes
  2. a focus for course design
  3. a guide to providing learning opportunities
  4. a determinant of assessment methods
  5. a method of evaluating courses and degree programmes

However there are three caveats with regard to skills as a
vehicle for course design, delivery and evaluation. First, the
purpose of higher education is not merely to furnish students
with skills. Knowledge, understanding and attitudes are also
important. As indicated in Section 1 of this report, knowledge
and understanding are the bases of skills and skills are the
basis of furthering knowledge and understanding. Secondly, skills
are a useful starting point for thought and discussion of a
curriculum: they are not a substitute for these activities.
Thirdly, there are dangers of being unduly prescriptive or vague.
Over-prescription becomes a strait-jacket for learning, personal
development and assessment. Too broad a description of skills may
offer no useful guidance on course design, delivery and
evaluation. Despite these reservations, skills, when used
sensibly, are useful heuristic devices.

3. Introducing skills into the curriculum

There are two tasks involved in introducing skills into the

  • the identification of an appropriate set of skills for a
    degree programme or course
  • the implementation of the skills into the curriculum.

There are several published lists of skills which can be adapted
for use in a programme or course. Almost all of them include, in
some form or other, the following skills:-

Cognitive skills Social skills Personal effectiveness (Conative skills)
Information retrieval Written communication Initiative
Information organisation Oral communication (including
persuasion and negotiation)
Analytical skills Teamwork Flexibility
Problem solving Time management
Critical thinking Career management
Creative thinking Leadership
Evaluative skills
Reflective skills
*`Learning to learn’ skills
(A meta-cognitive skill)

*(`Learning to learn’ skills are those concerned with the ability to reflect
upon one’s own learning styles and enhance them. `Conative skills’ are those
concerned with the will to succeed. All the skills are inter-dependent.)

Whilst such lists as the one above are useful starting points, it is more
important for each faculty or department to identify and own its set of
skills. Some of these skills are likely to be specific such as control
systems in chemical engineering or documentary analysis in history, others
are likely to be generic, such as problem solving or written communication.
As indicated in Section 1, the precise nature of the skill is determined, in
part, by the context. Problem solving in history is rather different from
problem solving in histopathology.

The second, and perhaps more challenging task, is the implementation of
skills in the curriculum. The first hurdle is to help people to recognise
that skills are implicit in any curriculum. The challenge is encouraging
course designers and course teams to use the concept of skills. The approach
suggested by the Colloquium group may be summarised as `promotion,
persuasion and persistence’. Successful implementation is a political
process. One needs to prepare the ground as well as plan. Leadership,
encouragement, continued support and ownership are necessary conditions of
successful implementation. Pilots, field testing and opportunities to modify
the innovation need to be built into the implementation.

4. Time to change

As indicated above, skills are implicit in any curriculum but time and
perhaps, other resources are needed to make skills a vehicle for course
design, delivery and evaluation.

The amount of time required to integrate
skills into the curriculum varies according to the subject area, its
existing course design, its culture and the state of skills development in
the subject. Other factors are the university’s culture and the willingness
of its senior managers to implement a skills based approach across
universities. Estimates of time required for this task varied from the
optimistic to the pessimistic, from one year to well into the millennium. A
reasonable expectation might be that, within three years, :-

(i) All universities will have developed an outline of what
skills their graduates are expected to develop;
(ii) All university departments and faculties have
identified the skills that they are developing in their
(iii) The skills are used explicitly in their course
design, delivery and evaluation and published in their course

Whilst it is unlikely that substantial resources will be provided
directly by Government to universities for this task, Government
might wish to provide modest development funds to assist some
department or networks of departments (subject groups) to develop
and disseminate good practice in the implementation of skills in
the curriculum.

Appendix 1–Skills expected of graduates

1) Knowledge skillsGraduates should

(a) have a body of knowledge in the field(s) studied;
(b) be able to apply theory to practice in familiar and
unfamiliar situations;
(c) be able to identify, access, organise and communicate
knowledge in both written and oral English;
2) Thinking skillsGraduates should

(a) be able to exercise critical judgement;
(b) be capable of rigorous and independent thinking;
(c) he able to account for their decisions;
(d) be realistic self evaluators;
(e) adopt a problem solving approach; and
(f) be creative and imaginative thinkers.
3) Personal skillsGraduates should have

(a) the capacity and desire to continue to learn;
(b) the ability to plan and achieve goals in both the
personal and the professional sphere; and
(c) the ability to work with others.
4) Personal attributesGraduates should

(a) strive for tolerance and integrity; and
(b) acknowledge their personal responsibility for

(i) their own value judgements; and
(ii) ethical behaviour towards others.
5) Practical skills (where appropriate)Graduates should he able to

(a) collect, correlate, display, analyse and report observations;
(b) apply experimentally obtained results to new situations; and
(c) test hypotheses experimentally.

(From Brown, G., Bull, J. and Pendlebury, M (1997)
Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education London:

Group 3: Accreditation and Teaching Development


The academic profession must be one of the very few in which members are not
prepared formally for one of their primary roles, namely teaching. Most new
entrants have received a comprehensive research training, either through
formal courses or by way of the research degree `apprenticeship’. Of course,
many have limited experience of teaching during their postgraduate studies
as Teaching Assistants, Tutors or Demonstrators. This, however, provides
only restricted exposure to the many dimensions of teaching at Third-level.

This approach may, however, need to change. Governments at one end of the
spectrum and students at the other are calling for quality assurance and
quality improvement programmes. Academics themselves are increasingly aware
of the need for professional development. More insidiously, growing class
sizes and worsening staff:student ratios are beginning to lead to breakdowns
in the effectiveness of traditional methods of teaching and learning. The
new technologies have the potential to solve, or partially solve these
problems but the costs involved may be considerable. One such cost is the
professional development of both new and experienced academic staff.

Some Overseas Programmes

A 1994 Report into the provision of courses in teaching methods for recently
appointed academic staff in Australia noted that, at that time, such courses
were chiefly notable for their variety `in terms of length, educational
philosophy, content and teaching methods’ (Martin and Ramsden, 1994). The
authors were particularly critical of the inadequacy of the shorter courses
which concentrated on teaching techniques and ignored the need for on-going
collegial support. In general, there was little evidence of Departmental or
institutional support for the programmes.

The Report was quite influential and the situation has changed for the
better in that, there now exist a number of Semester or year long programmes
at Graduate Certificate levels which articulate into Diploma and Masters
Awards. Reflective practice and curriculum development in the context of the
broad academic environment are now common features. Some universities
require successful completion of the programme as a prerequisite for the
granting of tenure with exemptions being granted for those staff who can
demonstrate experience and excellence in teaching at Third-level.

Readers will probably be more familiar with the United Kingdom scene. For
some years, the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) has
accredited university courses in teaching and learning. To date, 57
programmes have been approved with a further 17 under consideration. More
than 1000 staff have graduated from the programmes with 400 enrolled
currently (SEDA Statistics, 1999).

The future of SEDA accreditation is, however, far from clear. Following
publication of the Dearing Report, the Institute for Learning and Teaching
has been established which will, among other tasks, `accredit teaching and
learning programmes/pathways for higher education staff’. At this time, the
Institute has rejected mandatory training on accredited courses for all
academic staff but has not ruled out the possibility in the longer term.

In summary, universities in the two countries with education systems very
similar to Ireland’s are rapidly developing programmes for initial
professional development of academic staff and are well on the way to
accepting nation-wide accreditation for those programmes.


On this island, systematic professional development courses for new academic
staff are available only at The Queens University of Belfast and at the
University of Ulster. In the Republic, the common pattern is short induction
courses of less than one week, together with ongoing teaching development
workshops open to all academic staff.


The Working Party supported strongly the view that collaboration between
universities on both sides of the border should be encouraged. To this end,
it recommended that a common core curriculum be established for the
professional development of staff with teaching responsibilities. The
curriculum would not be binding on universities but would provide a
framework for institutions to develop their own courses relevant to specific
requirements. The curriculum should take into account the specific needs of
experienced and part-time academic staff as well as those of staff entering
the profession and those support staff with a teaching role such as
information technology and Library staff and those staff who assist in the
preparation of learning packages.

Further, there should be reciprocal recognition of professional development
courses which implies that consideration be given to their formal
accreditation. The Working Party made no recommendation in relation to
whether any professional development programmes should be mandatory except
to suggest that the question should be investigated further as should the
resource implications and possible funding sources for all such programmes.

More generally, the Working Party recommended that recruitment and selection
processes should reflect the importance of university teaching.

The most appropriate vehicle for furthering these recommendations is the
Irish Universities Training Network (IUTN) which includes representatives
from all universities on the island.


This Report does not go into great detail about the deliberations of the
Working Party because, since the Colloquium, events have to a certain
extent, overtaken them. The Republic’s Higher Education Authority has funded
a project entitled, `Introduction to Third-level Teaching: developing and
implementing a common core curriculum’. The project will be co-ordinated by
Trinity College with a Reference Group consisting of representatives of all
members of the IUTN. In addition to work connected directly with the
project, the Reference Group will discuss further the Recommendations of the
Working Party.


King, R., `The Institute for Learning and Teaching: Implementing the
Martin, E. & Ramsden, P., Effectiveness and Efficiency of Courses in
Teaching Methods for Recently Appointed Academic Staff, Australian
Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1994.
SEDA Statistics,

Group 4: Performance Development for Academic


`Performance Development’ is an extension of the concept of appraisal or
review as it is known in the United States. For simplicity, this paper will
use the term `appraisal’ to discuss schemes already in place and defines it
as a systematic process aimed at assessing performance and nurturing the
development of staff.

There have been three recent comprehensive reports describing and analysing
the state of appraisal schemes in universities in Australia, the United
Kingdom and the United States respectively. It is clear that the schemes are
widespread. In Australia, appraisal for staff development became compulsory
for all academic staff in the early Nineties as a result of a ruling by that
country’s Arbitration Commission. In the United Kingdom, implementation of
compulsory appraisal was a condition of the 1987 pay settlement. The
situation is somewhat different in the United States with its more
decentralised Higher Education structure. Nevertheless, in the last decade,
there has been a rapid growth in appraisal schemes and a 1995 `survey of 680
public and private institutions found that 61 percent of respondents had a
post-tenure review policy in place and another 9 percent had a policy under
development.’ [Licata, p. 2]

Appraisal schemes may be widespread in English speaking countries, but are
they efficient and effective? Alan Lonsdale, who reviewed the Australian
experience, concluded that `in most institutions staff development outcomes
beyond those already occurring had not resulted and were unlikely in the
future, and that other outcomes which may have enhanced institutional
functioning did not result’. [Lonsdale, 1997, p. 2] Of the UK scene, Hughes
concluded, `Appraisal has yet to fulfil its considerable promise.’ [Hughes,
p. 3] Licata et al are cautious about making an overall judgment about the
America scene but conclude that, `The benefits of instituting post-tenure
review appear to outweigh the costs.’ [Licata, p. 33]

It is beyond the scope of this paper to describe and analyse the reasons for
these conclusions which, in any case, vary from institution to institution.
One problem, however, does stand out. Hitherto, most appraisal schemes have
concentrated on the performance of individuals isolated from the context of
strategic leadership and institutional and departmental planning.

Nevertheless, it is important that appraisal schemes be not rejected out of
hand. In a rapidly changing educational environment, individuals and
institutions need to be able to change to meet external and internal
pressures, not the least of which is accountability. Individuals and
institutions not wishing to have inappropriate evaluation schemes imposed on
them are well advised to develop their own in a professional manner.
Furthermore, the authors of the Reports in question are optimistic that the
schemes, when extended to incorporate strategic leadership and planning, are
likely to realise their potential. Hence `Performance Development’.

The Learning Environment

The remit of the Outcomes Group was to examine Performance Development in
the context of teaching and learning but many of its conclusions are
relevant to other forms of academic activity. The Group began its work by
exploring some of the implications of a widely accepted definition of
teaching, `The creation and sustaining of an effective environment for
learning.’ The advantages of the definition are that it is student-centred
and that it reminds us that students learn in an environment of which the
classroom performance of academic staff is only a part. The following table
indicates the principal elements of the learning environment. Performance
Development implies the development of the performance of all major

The Government The Institution The Faculty
Academic Leadership The Department
Valuing Teaching The Teacher
Personnel Policies

Recommendations to Government

Governments influence the learning environment in a number of ways, chiefly
by developing and implementing policies for Higher Education which reflect
and demonstrate the level of importance given it by the State and by
providing funding to enable institutions to fulfil their Missions.

The Group identified three areas in which Government actions would have an
immediate effect in improving academic performance; initial professional
development programmes, teaching development grants and the improvement of
sub-standard teaching facilities.

Very few academic staff in this country have been trained to teach and entry
to the profession is normally by way of a research degree which is of
limited relevance in assisting staff to cope with a rapidly changing
learning environment. The state requires its doctors, lawyers and engineers
to be properly qualified before dealing with the public. Academic staff have
at least an equivalent effect on their students spread over many years.

Some Irish universities provide short induction courses for new
staff, but limited resources have hitherto prevented the
implementation of the kind of comprehensive courses needed which
should last at least a term. Resources are needed, not only to
appoint suitable qualified staff to teach the course, but to
enable participants to have a reduced teaching and research load
while they are attending it. This matter is considered in more
depth in the Report and Recommendations of Group
3–`Accreditation and Development for Third Level

The learning environment is always changing: class sizes are growing; new
teaching and learning technologies are becoming available; student profiles
vary; and so on. In some other parts of the world, governments have
recognised the need for innovation in Third level teaching and have provided
significant grants which enable academic staff to investigate new ways of
helping their students learn.

In Australia, for example, the Commonwealth Government has, for a number of
years, made Teaching Development Grants to individuals on a competitive
basis. The sum set aside in 1999 is $A2 million (grants are between
$A10,000 and $A50,000). Broadly speaking, Teaching Development Grants
are of two types: those which involve innovative developments likely to
result in improvements to the quality of teaching, student learning or
assessment; and those which involve the uptake or adaptation of existing
products or processes which have previously demonstrated their value in
other contexts. The term `innovation’ should not be interpreted as meaning
only technological innovation. It also includes incorporation of research
findings into teaching/learning, curriculum planning, course management and
delivery and flexible learning in any of its manifestations.

The Group believes that the introduction of such grants to Ireland would
stimulate interest in teaching at Third level and would lead to a
significant improvement in performance.

The physical environment can stimulate or impede teaching and learning. The
Group believes that there are some serious `black spots’ in the sector which
should be remedied as soon as possible. In some instances, classrooms must
be put to use for which they were not designed and others are shabby and not
fit for purpose. Short of a systematic audit of all teaching and learning
spaces in the country, it is impossible to gauge the extent of the problem
but it is believed to be serious in some institutions.

Recommendations to Institutions–Teaching Development

The university itself is an important constituent of the learning
environment and its formal and informal statements about teaching and
learning and their importance send strong messages to academic staff and
students. The Group recommends the HERDSA `Checklist on Valuing Teaching’ to
readers as a set of institutional performance indicators. After considering
the Checklist, the Group focussed on four areas of common concern.

In comparison with their counterparts in Australia and the United Kingdom,
Irish universities have employed few academic development or learning
development staff, with the result that some teaching development programmes
tend to be somewhat ad hoc. The situation varies from institution to
institution and there is welcome news that several new appointments will be
made in 1999. Most universities, however, have appointed Deans of Research
whose very existence raises the profile and status of that activity and who
have been able to assist academic staff to improve their research
performance both directly and by developing and implementing comprehensive
research plans. Equivalent appointments for teaching support would be

On the basis that teaching is a fundamental role of any university, the
Group recommends that resources be made available to strengthen teaching
development programmes and to raise their status in the academic community.

While observing considerable variation from institution to institution, the
Group noted that there is little strategic planning in relation to teaching
and learning although developments in the areas of Quality Assurance and
Quality Improvement may force the more reluctant universities to approach
planning in a more systematic way. See also the Report and Recommendations
of Group 6, `Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement’.

Irish universities are now of a size which inhibits good internal
communications. In each institution, there are undoubtedly many instances of
outstanding and innovatory teaching and learning practices but members of
the Group admitted that these were generally unknown outside of the
Department in which they took place. Institutions are encouraged to develop
interest groups, websites and/or in-house newsletters and journals which may
alleviate this problem. See also the Recommendations relating to the
formation of an Irish Society for Higher Education.

Teaching is still too often equated with classroom instruction
and course design too often begins with the selection of content.
Thus, teaching improvement courses tend to concentrate on
classroom instruction and on better ways of transmitting
information. Given our student-centred definition of teaching, it
is clear that this view is too narrow. Universities could
radically improve much teaching by insisting on clearly
articulated learning objectives in particular and by reform of
the curriculum development process in general. See also the
Report and Recommendations of Group 1, `Managing Change
in the Curriculum’
and Group 2, `Key Skills in the

Recommendations to Institutions–Personnel Policies

The performance of at least new generations of academic staff would be
improved if recruitment and selection procedures emphasised teaching much
more than they do at present. Position descriptions and advertisements
should emphasise the need for high quality teaching performance in addition
to listing the areas of the discipline to be taught.

Senior recruits ought to be able to demonstrate the quality of their
teaching performance and extent of teaching experience and should be
required to do so. While many entrants to the profession will have had
limited teaching experience, they should be able to reflect on it and be
able to demonstrate that they have taken advantage of any teaching
development courses available to them as postgraduate students. (Making such
courses more readily available to postgraduate students would itself lead to
improved performance.)

Requiring short-listed candidates to give a demonstration class is desirable
but limited as the process only evaluates one dimension of teaching and
emphasises the importance of lecturing at the cost of other, perhaps more
important and useful methods. At least one referee should be asked to
comment on the candidate’s teaching experience and quality.

Group members reported that, in most institutions, little attention was
given to teaching in the granting of tenure or the award of promotion. One
or two institutions give prizes for excellence in teaching, but overall, the
situation is bleak, there being remarkably few incentives for good
performance. It is sometimes argued, on the basis that many staff could earn
considerably more in commerce or industry, that the joys of academic life
are their own reward. But, of course, quality research is rewarded–by
promotion, by travel, by sabbaticals by Fellowships and by prestige. In such
a situation, it is not surprising that, where the demands of teaching and
research conflict, so many choose to emphasise the latter at the expense of
the former.

It is also argued that teaching cannot be evaluated and hence cannot be
taken into account in reward/incentive schemes. The argument is based on a
false premise. In other parts of the world, teaching is rewarded in various
ways including promotion, the process being based on the vast amount of
research available into the evaluation of teaching. See Marsh, Ramsden and
Webb for extensive accounts of the research and the practice. While good
teaching cannot be measured quantitatively, the use of multiple sources of
evidence (peers, students, graduates, Heads), each of which is capable of
supplying valid and reliable information about one or more dimensions of the
activity, can be the basis of sound evaluation.

To this point, this paper and its recommendations have urged strongly that
performance development is a broad concept and that governments and
institutions have key roles and key responsibilities in enabling and
ensuring improvements in the learning environment. This is not to deny that
individual members of the academic staff have a key responsibility in
`creating and sustaining an effective environment for learning’.
Institutions, therefore, should consider the adoption of a performance
development scheme for individuals which goes beyond appraisal and review

Recommendations to Institutions–Faculties and Departments

There is a growing awareness of the usefulness of regular Departmental
Performance Reviews involving external scholars in the relevant discipline.
Recommendations from such reviews can lead to substantial performance
improvement, both individually and collectively.

Some Group members reported that the protocols for such reviews frequently
require the provision of much quantitative data about teaching but little or
no information which would assist assessors to comment on the quality of
teaching. Care would have to be taken to avoid the excess paperwork and
pressure of the British Quality Assessment procedures, but those of the
Group who had experienced that system testified to its benefits as well as
its costs.

Recommendations to Institutions–Individual Staff

The Group used Lonsdale (1997) as its major working document. It is
relatively short, concise and looks to the future rather than dwell on the
shortcomings of current appraisal systems. Readers contemplating the
introduction of Performance Development schemes in their own institutions
should, in addition, consult Hughes and Licata.

The methodology used by the Group was to examine Lonsdale’s detailed
recommendations for establishing and implementing `fourth generation
performance management’ [his term for what we call `performance development]
and to select the most important and relevant to the Irish situation. This
is not to imply that Lonsdale’s other recommendations, such as the use of
360 degree feedback, are neither important nor relevant. Individual
institutions may have different needs and different priorities from those
the Group considered most significant.

Nevertheless, the Group believes that all successful Performance Development
programmes will combine career development of individuals with systematic
departmental planning.


Anonymous, `Checklist on Valuing Teaching’, HERDSA,
Hughes, P., `Appraisal in Higher Education’, Draft Report,
UCoSDA, 1998
Lonsdale, A,* `Fourth Generation Performance Management:
Integrating Organisational Development, Staff Development and
Strategic Management in Universities’, 6th AHED International
Forum, 1997, available from Staff Development, House 4, Trinity
College, Dublin 2
Lonsdale, A, `Performance appraisal, performance management
and quality in higher education: Contradictions, issues and
guiding principles for the future’, Australian Journal of
Education, Vol. 42, No 3, Nov. 1998, pp. 271-284.
Licata, C.M., & Morreale, J.C., `Post-Tenure Review:
Policies, Practices, Precautions’, AAHE Working Paper FR12WP,
1996, pubs/licata.pdf
Marsh, H.W., `Students’ Evaluations of University Teaching:
Research findings, methodological issues, and directions for
future research’, International Journal of Educational
Research, Vol. 11, 1987, pp.253-378.
Ramsden, P., Recognising and Rewarding Good Teaching in
Australian Higher Education, AGPS, 1995.
Webb, G., Making the Most of Appraisal: Career and
Professional Development Planning for Lecturers, Kogan Page,
London, 1994.

*This paper contains more detail than that published in the AJE.

Group 5: Flexible Delivery and Learning

The Group discussed three aspects of flexible learning and delivery, namely
the place of teaching in academic work, the nature of flexible teaching and
learning and the role of libraries in facilitating flexible learning.

The Place of Teaching in Academic Work

Teaching is not simply a delivery and dissemination process, it is
indivisibly linked with a variety of complex modes of learning and at the
third level of education with scholarship and research.

There are different models of teaching and learning which frame flexibility.
A pedagogy of practice needs to be considered, one which entails a research
base in and of itself, generating a symbiotic relationship where teaching
informs research and research informs teaching.

There should therefore be a parity of esteem between teaching and
discipline-based research which should be formalised and validated by
recognising effective and innovative teaching and learning practices by
giving them the same status as such research. Research into the teaching and
learning process should itself be recognised and rewarded in the same way as
all other forms of scholarship.

Just as academic staff are given opportunities and encouragement to develop
and practice research skills in their chosen disciplines so there is
necessity to support and encourage them to engage with the scholarship and
practice of effective teaching.

The Nature of Flexible Teaching and Learning

Flexibility is not a simple concept. It can and should be manifested inter
alia in:

  • how we develop the curriculum;
  • how we timetable our courses;
  • how we organise the learning spaces;
  • how we design our materials to support diverse learning styles;
  • how we assess learning;
  • how we accommodate wider access;
  • how we choose our teaching and learning methods.

Increased flexibility helps to resolve the tension that exists in our
current examination-driven system between preoccupation with teaching
content and the need to develop the students’ capacity for life long
learning. To achieve this end requires the transformation of much current
practice and perhaps even changes to the structure of third level education.
Such a transformation should produce a flexible learning environment which
provides the learning community with a diverse range of guided choices and
where students are encouraged and supported to take greater responsibility
for their learning and to make informed decisions resulting in greater
autonomy and empowerment.

The Role of Libraries in Facilitating Flexible Learning

The role of libraries in the development of policies and strategies for
flexible learning will focus primarily on information and communication
technologies (ICT).

The main areas of activity will be:

  • providing and co-ordinating access to learning resources in
    digital form e.g. electronic journals, indexes etc.;
  • co-operating with teaching staff in providing access to
    digitised learning materials;
  • finding and evaluating information resources;
  • training and guiding readers in exploiting digitised
  • partnership activities for acquiring and providing access
    to digitised information.

Group 6: Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement


The Working Party addressed itself to the objective of producing
recommendations for embedding Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement
in the design and delivery of academic programmes.

The Group warmly welcomed the affirmation of the Minister for Science and
Technology and the Chairman of the HEA at the Colloquium of the high level
of quality achieved in the delivery of academic programmes in Irish
universities. Thus going forward we can be confident that we are building on
a foundation of strength. The quality of Teaching and Learning (T&L)
activity within the university sector is assured at present through a number
of channels:

  • processes for on-going programme and course evaluation and appraisal;
  • processes for new programme course evaluation, including provision for
    external assessment; and
  • the critical oversight role performed through the External Examiner’s

The quality of the T&L activity is validated through:

  • the excellent record of Irish university graduates in
    gaining quality employment;
  • the ready acceptance of Irish graduates into world ranking
    postgraduate programmes in universities in other countries; and
  • the acknowledgement by informed commentators that the
    recent strong performance of the Irish economy has been
    assisted in no small measure by the accumulation of human
    capital through our higher education system.

The Group, however, recognise that there is no room for complacency about
the quality of the T&L activity within the sector. Our stakeholders which
comprise our students, their parents, taxpayers and the wider community have
the right to demand no less than excellence from our teaching institutions.
The processes in place within the university sector for assuring and
improving quality need to be periodically reviewed to ensure their relevance
to modern demands and to changing priorities. The context for stocktaking at
this stage is the 1997 Universities Act. The Group viewed this legislation
as an opportunity to build upon the acknowledged high quality base by
developing structures and policies within the higher education sector
designed to develop and deepen the quality of the delivery of the T&L

A Charter for T&L within the University Sector

The Group recommends that the most effective way a high-quality T&L
function can be assured within the university system would be through the
adoption by each institution of a Charter for Teaching and Learning. This
Charter would set out a strategic framework and vision designed to deliver
the best possible programmes and courses of education. Each institution will
naturally want to determine its charter so that it is congruent with its own
unique ethos and tradition. The Group therefore felt it should not be overly
prescriptive in laying out guidelines for the contents of the proposed
Charter. We confine ourselves to suggesting some general principles which we
hope will be modified and extended by each institution as it sees fit.

Strategic Pillars of a T&L Charter

The Charter should set out a series of integrated policies which build upon
the existing structures and supports for T&L within each institution and
extend these where appropriate. While the experience of each institution is
different, the Group felt that the foundation for an institutional
commitment to T&L was likely to be based on three mutually dependent

  • enhancing the quality of the T&L experience for our students;
  • support of and recognition for individual university teachers;
  • the development of supportive university T&L structures.

The Student Pillar

Students have the right to expect to receive the best possible education
from whatever institution they attend and to be treated with respect and
courtesy at all times.

Commensurate with this right is the responsibility to adequately participate
in the T&L experience. The quality of the T&L experience for our
students can be enhanced by, for example:

  • the availability of an appropriate learning environment in all its
  • the provision of adequate and timely information in a suitable format;
  • the incorporation of student evaluation of courses together
    with timely and constructive feedback into our existing
    evaluation systems.

The Teacher Pillar

The professional academic at university level is expected to
perform to a standard of excellence in terms of teaching,
research and service to the institution and the wider community.
The Group were of the view that parity of esteem must apply to
each element of this role. The parity of esteem principle as far
as the key T&L function of the university academic is
concerned can be promoted by imaginative and innovative incentive
mechanisms, for example:

  • the promotions’ system could recognise and have mechanisms for validating
    T&L excellence. These might include encouraging candidates for promotion
    to submit portfolios of their T&L record. Consideration might also be
    given to the option in the application for promotion for an applicant to
    nominate an external referee who would be able to assess the T&L
    performance of the applicant. The external referee’s assessment might
    include, for instance, visits to the classroom of the applicant.
  • there is also scope for each institution to consider the introduction of
    awards for excellence in T&L. There are examples of such awards here and

The Structural Pillar

Creative leadership together with a determination to commit the significant
resources that will inevitably be required from the uppermost levels of
university administrations is essential to ensure that the adoption of the
proposed Chapter will be reflected in tangible benefits for all
stakeholders. Structural innovations which may be considered could include:

  • the appointment of a senior academic post possibly at
    vice-president level or equivalent dedicated to the T&L
    function. This post would need to be
    complemented at departmental level by the designation of an academic with
    responsibility for T&L;
  • the establishment of a suitably resourced Centre for T&L
    (CTL) within each institution. This Centre would be primarily
    responsible for promoting excellence in teaching and learning
    through inter alia the dissemination of systems of best
    practice, training for teachers, promotion of new teaching
    technology, etc. The Group noted that the function of the CTL
    should be kept separate from the review procedures of the
    Universities Act 1997.

Part 4: A Society for Higher Education

An Irish Society for Higher Education


A plenary session at the Colloquium examined a number of models of
societies concerned with third-level education and considered several
options including membership of overseas societies already in existence. In
the event, the meeting voted unanimously to recommend in principle that an
Irish Society for Higher Education be established.

The IUTN is considering a draft constitution for the Society and will
announce further developments as they occur.

Possible Aims

Possible aims for the Society include:

  1. To advance education at Third-level.
  2. To facilitate the improvement of teaching, research and policy-making
    in Third-level education.
  3. To provide a forum for discussion of issues relevant to Third-level
  4. To contribute to the professional development of members.
  5. To encourage and disseminate research on teaching, learning
    development and policy in Third -level education
  6. To encourage co-operation with other societies with complementary

Part 5: List of Participants

Group 1: Managing Change in the Curriculum

Facilitator: Ms Meri Huws, Dublin City

Ms Patricia Baillie
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Professor Chris Bellenger
NUI Dublin
Dr Maeve Conrick
University College Cork
Dr Mary Kelly
Trinity College
Ms Carol McGuinness
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Mr Noel O’Connor
Dublin Institute of Technology
Dr Geraldine O’Neill
Trinity College
Dr Sean Ryder
NUI Galway
Dr Richard Watson
NUI Maynooth

Group 2: Key Skills in the Curriculum

Facilitator: Professor George Brown, University of Ulster

Ms Ellen Breen
Dublin City University
Dr Brian Caul
University of Ulster
Ms Teresa Dowling
University College Cork
Mr Sean Gannon
Trinity College
Professor John Gardner
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Ms Isolde Harpur
Trinity College
Dr Desmond Hunter
University of Ulster
Ms Loretta Jennings
NUI Maynooth
Dr Philip Johnston
NUI Dublin
Dr Susan Lindsay
Dublin Institute of Technology
Dr Colin McCormack
University College Cork
Ms Muireann Ní Dhuigneain
Dublin City University
Professor Dermot O’Connell
NUI Dublin
Dr Ronny Swain
University College Cork
Ms Mary Sweeney
University of Limerick
Dr Alan Tuffery
Trinity College

Group 3: Accreditation and Development of Third Level Teachers

Facilitator: Ms Sylvia Huntley-Moore, Trinity College

Ms Carmel Browne
NUI Galway
Ms Linda Carey
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Professor Peter Carr
NUI Maynooth
Ms Kathleen Kennedy
Dublin Institute of Technology
Mr Brian Lucey
Trinity College
Mr Michael McGrath
Committee of Heads of Irish Universities
Ms Carol McGuinness
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Dr Máirtin Ó Fáthaigh
University College Cork
Mr Alan Robinson
University of Ulster
Dr Anne Wickham
Dublin City University

Group 4: Performance Development for Academic

Facilitator: Dr John Panter, Trinity College

Dr Patricia Barker
Dublin City University
Mr Paul Brown
NUI Dublin
Mr Ian Callaghan
University of Ulster
Professor Frank Hegarty
NUI Dublin
Dr Marie Keating
Dublin Institute of Technology
Dr P.J McGuinness
Trinity College
Dr Frank Mulligan
NUI Maynooth
Dr Noel Murphy
Dublin City University
Dr John O’Brien
University of Limerick
Ms Susan Parkes
Trinity College
Professor Evan Petty
University of Limerick
Dr Anne Rath
University College Cork
Mr William Thompson
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Mr Brian Thornburgh
Trinity College

Group 5: Flexible Delivery and Learning

Facilitator: Ms Mary Mallon, Northern Ireland Network of

Ms Francoise Blin
Dublin City University
Mr Peter Corrigan
NUI Galway
Professor Martin Downes
NUI Maynooth
Dr Richard Follett
NUI Galway
Dr Ivan Gibson
NUI Galway
Mr Kevin Hurley
NUI Dublin
Dr Mary Lennon
Dublin Institute of Technology
Dr Ciaran MacDonaill
Dublin Institute of Technology
Professor Hubert McDermott
NUI Galway
Mr Frank McMahon
Dublin Institute of Technology
Ms Lindsay Mitchell
University of Limerick
Mr Fergus Murray
Trinity College
Dr Manfred Schewe
University College Cork
Mr Maurie Scott
University of Wollongong
Mr Paul Sheehan
Dublin Institute of Technology
Professor Alan Smeaton
Dublin City University

Group 6: Quality Assurance and Improvement

Facilitator: Professor Don McQuillan, NUI Dublin

Dr Gerry Boyle
NUI Maynooth
Professor John Carroll
Dublin City University
Mr Leo Colgan
University of Limerick
Dr David Gillingham
Dublin Institute of Technology
Ms Vivien Jenkins
Trinity College
Ms Stephanie McBride
Dublin City University
Mr Dermot McCartan
University of Ulster
Dr Barry McMullin
Dublin City University
Mr Chris McNairney
NUI Galway
Ms Joan Mulholland
University of Ulster
Mr John O’Donoghue
The Queen’s University of Belfast
Dr Norma Ryan
University College Cork
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