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Consultation on the National Strategy for Higher Education Guidance Document Respondent’s Details Name: Professor John G. Hughes Position (if applicable): President Organisation (if applicable): National University of Ireland Maynooth Address: Maynooth Co. Kildare Telephone: 01 – 708 3895 Email: email@example.com Date: 18 June 2009 Is this response a personal view or is it made on behalf of your organisation? Personal [ ] On behalf of organisation [ on behalf of organisation ] Information in relation to this submission may be made available to any person who makes a request under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997 as amended in 2003. National Strategy for Higher Education Submission by National University of Ireland Maynooth NUI Maynooth welcomes the invitation to make a submission to the Higher Education Strategy Group in respect of the vision and objectives for higher education. This submission complements the broader response provided by the Irish Universities Association which conveys the shared perspective of the Universities on issues of common interest. Particularly since The University Act of 1997, NUI Maynooth has embraced change in a pro-active and dynamic way in all its activities. We welcome the opportunity for further development that may arise from the deliberations of The Higher Education Strategy Group and see ourselves as a partner in charting a greater and productive future for Irish higher education, consistent with national policy goals. We consider that the establishment of the Strategy Group is occurring at an opportune time and hope that the Group's analysis and recommendations will be such as to support and stimulate the progress, which Irish higher education has been achieving over recent times. . NUI Maynooth is a leading liberal arts and science university with over 8,000 students located in Ireland’s only university town some 20 kms from the heart of Dublin. Over recent years it has been the fastest growing university in Ireland attracting students from every county in Ireland and over 80 countries worldwide. This trend is set to continue as it is the only university located in the region of most rapid population growth over the past two decades and which is also projected to have the most dynamic demographic context over the next twenty years or more. NUI Maynooth has a reputation for excellent undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and a supportive student-centred learning environment. It is especially strong in relation to participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, mature students and also part-time students where further expansion is anticipated both in Maynooth and at our outreach centre in Kilkenny and elsewhere. The international student body is growing rapidly with almost 800 such students now on campus. The university has a vibrant postgraduate programme with rapidly increasing numbers of students taking taught postgraduate courses and/or enrolled for research degrees. Recent levels of PhD graduations are in line with SSTI targets and all PhD students now have the opportunity to pursue structured programmes. NUI Maynooth has been particularly successful in its research strategy with a consistent focus over many years in building centres of research excellence in a limited number of high priority areas that are collaborating with other institutions in Ireland and beyond. With above average success rates in competitive bidding to all of the main research funding programmes, the University has developed internationally recognised research institutes in Applied Mathematics (Hamilton Institute), Geotechnology, Spatial Planning, and Immunology, and positions of national leadership in areas of the social sciences and humanities. As a key part of our strategy we have developed strong relationships with many national and international companies, most notably with Intel which has chosen NUI Maynooth as its global education partner. Intel and the University have also established the internationally acclaimed Innovation Value Institute (IVI) which now has over 40 major international companies as patrons. The total research awards over the past five years has exceeded €100m which has has resulted in a significant volume and quality of research outputs and provide a basis for a vibrant and rapidly increasing level of commercialisation. In order to accommodate the ambitious plans for the future the University is planning a capital development currently costed at €150m-€200m over the next 15-20 years. For further details on recent performance and future objectives see the Executive Summary of our recently updated Strategic Plan (Appendix A). Vision for Higher Education Universities are complex institutions with a long established tradition of creating, critically evaluating and disseminating, through teaching and publications, new knowledge; supporting the intellectual and personal development of students, preparing them to be active citizens and to participate in and adapt to contemporary and future labour markets in a context of increasing social diversity and increasing globalisation. In particular universities have a crucial role in supporting social, economic and cultural development in a manner that enhances the competitiveness and global positioning of Ireland in a manner that is compatible with social cohesion and environmental sustainability. NUI Maynooth is committed to being recognised as a leading liberal arts and science University with an international reputation for teaching and research, that promotes access and inclusiveness, fosters the intellectual and personal development of its students and staff, and supports the economic, social and cultural well-being of the communities it serves (NUI Maynooth Mission Statement). In order to continue to successfully implement this vision within the broader framework of a strategy for higher education we consider that significant changes will be required in the following areas: 1. Reform of the teaching and learning model underpinning third level education, especially in the context of increasing participation rates and more diverse cohorts of students, 2. Sustain and adapt the model for supporting research and fourth level education, 3. Enhance through appropriate strategic alliances, the capacity to address the challenges in relation to teaching, research, provision of support services, engagement with external stakeholders and achieving greater efficiency. The barriers or obstacles to achieving these changes include: 1. The level and distribution of public funding for the universities, 2. Structural issues arising from mission creep among the different components of the higher education system, 3. The on-going erosion of autonomy and increasing imposition of inappropriate forms of accountability. Changes that are necessary 1. Reform the teaching and learning model underpinning third level education, especially in the context of increasing participation rates and more diverse cohorts of students. The projected increases in participation rates for higher education will present many challenges related to design and delivery of programmes; progression pathways; the balance between undergraduate and postgraduate provision, and between ‘standard’ and ‘non-standard’ students; and the physical environments for new approaches to teaching and learning. Research informed third level teaching is a core function of universities. NUI Maynooth attaches equal value to excellent undergraduate teaching and excellence in research performance, and we require all academic staff to contribute to the teaching programmes. We are committed to a student-centred model of education and learning, and already have a strong track record of leadership and innovation in this area as evidenced by external peer reviews of academic departments and by the surge in CAO first preferences for places in NUIM as prospective students are made aware of the high quality teaching and learning experience provided by the University. Going forward the specific challenges for NUI Maynooth will include: Revision of design of programmes to place more explicit emphasis on learning outcomes and on enabling more students to gain workplace experience as part of their education; Increased adoption of new technologies to support greater flexibility in delivery of programmes to increasingly diverse groups of students including participants in part-time programmes and also in courses focused on continuing professional development; Flexible use of staff across a network of educational outreach centres; Special supports for new entrants to overcome academic and personal challenges associated with the transition to university; Strengthening the linkages between the third and fourth levels through the provision of increased numbers of internships for undergraduates with demonstrated potential to become strong graduate students. NUI Maynooth already has a very successful internship programme but it needs to be extended to cater for the very strong demand; Increasing the number of part-time and non-standard students in line with national objectives; Developing progression pathways along the ladder represented by the National Qualifications Framework. The University will continue to concentrate most of its efforts on programmes at levels 8, 9 and 10. It will also continue to provide courses at levels 6 and 7 in areas of the humanities and social sciences where it has developed particular expertise. NUI Maynooth already has a strong track record of enabling students to progress along the NFQ ladder and has had students progress all the way from level 6 to 10. Enhancing the professional capacity of the academic staff to be more effective educators, Adapting the nature of capital investments in support of teaching and learning to the needs of new pedagogical approaches with greater emphasis on providing additional teaching and learning spaces for smaller groups of learners. NUI Maynooth has already identified many of these challenges as priorities to be addressed over the next five years as part of its Strategic Plan. The Strategic Innovation Fund has provided resources for collaborative initiatives in response to some of the issues identified above. A major constraint on achieving our objectives in regard to undergraduate teaching is the unfavourable staff/student ratio. The NUIM ratio is an outlier among the universities and is a direct result of the funding model that has been applied over many years – this will be elaborated on below. 2. Sustain and adapt the model for supporting research and fourth level education in order to meet changing priorities, as, for example, in the government’s Smart Economy Strategy. It is only over recent years that substantial amounts of public funds have been made available for supporting research in the higher education sector. Through this investment, Ireland has made significant strides over the last decade: infrastructure is transformed and research teams of genuine world class are emerging. Reaping the benefits of strong investment in our research and innovation ecosystem must be recognised as a medium to long-term strategy. NUI Maynooth has developed a research strategy that is well aligned to national objectives. This has resulted in a transformation of the research endeavour of the University and yielded significant success in terms of research funding secured, outputs in the form of high-quality PhDs and internationally refereed publications, and research commercialisation. Research expertise is distributed broadly across the seven universities in Ireland. However, delivering research and innovation at internationally competitive levels, especially in the sciences, does inevitably require significant concentration of physical resources. The model we favour is of increased consolidation of activities within individual institutions (through focussed research institutes and centres), complemented by participation of these institutes in national and international networks. A key challenge for NUI Maynooth will be to increase its capacity in terms of scale (number of researchers) and scope (models for inclusion of many disciplines to tackle on a programmatic basis complex cross disciplinary research themes). This will be achieved by building on the many national and international collaborative arrangements that are already in place. NUI Maynooth is particularly keen to strengthen collaborative approaches to graduate education in cooperation with partners in the Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance. We are also keen to strengthen research capacity in areas where there are strong complementarities between researchers in institutions that are geographically proximate, as for example a recent proposal by DCU, NUIM and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to develop a translational research hub in biomedical sciences. The introduction of structured PhD programmes is ongoing in NUI Maynooth as in all other universities in Ireland. It is essential that all newly registered PhD students have the opportunity to benefit from a structured programme and that all funding agencies will cater for this situation. The delivery of structured programmes is a costly exercise that requires responses in the form of collaborative delivery models. Unfortunately, the current diverse system of PhD funding is incoherent, focussed on the short term (2013), and does not adequately recognise the wider costs of delivering a simultaneously broad and deep postgraduate education. NUI Maynooth is already successfully participating in, and indeed leading, a number of regional and national graduate education programmes. In the future it will be essential that the fourth level graduate system in Ireland will be regarded as comparable to the best internationally. An area of concern is that the full costs of research and PhD training and supervision are not provided to the universities. A public research funding target should be set that will place support for research in Ireland in the top quartile of OECD countries. NUI Maynooth is cognisant of the government’s concern, expressed in the Smart Economy Strategy, about the translation of research into innovation. NUI Maynooth has a vibrant commercialisation office with plans for further expansion in dedicated space on the Carton Estate where we will also further develop the world leading Innovation Value Institute in association with Intel. Through our School of Business and Law we are developing plans to partner with Jonkoping University, Sweden, in a European Entrepreneurship and Innovation network. One area in relation to PhD training and supervision that needs to be addressed concerns the registration of students in institutions without sufficient critical mass to deliver high quality programmes. The question centres around what level of research activity and quality an institution should demonstrate before a credible PhD programme might be offered. NUI Maynooth’s view is that Ireland must harness and exploit talent wherever it resides, and as such we are willing to collaborate with any institution with research expertise and, if necessary, to provide opportunities for joint registration, especially within our region, for example with IT Tallaght. 3. Enhance through appropriate strategic alliances the capacity of the university to address the challenges in relation to teaching, research, provision of support services, and engagement with external stakeholders. A key issue facing the entire higher education sector, and particularly the universities, relates to how greater levels of scale and scope can be achieved in order to enhance international competitiveness. We are already addressing the issue through participation in a number of strategic alliances, nationally and internationally. Looking ahead to what may be needed to address the challenges likely to arise over the medium term NUI Maynooth is actively pursuing with DCU and RCSI the possibility of a strong inter-institutional framework for collaboration across many areas of activity which could greatly enhance the scale, scope, competitiveness, impact and efficiency of the partners. There is an increasing expectation among higher education funding agencies that the higher education institutions should become more actively engaged with a wide array of external stakeholders. There is also strong international evidence that such engagement can be beneficial to the higher education institutions themselves. There is now an emerging view that a more coordinated and programmatic model for engagement may be desirable within a regional context. In this regard NUI Maynooth and neighbouring institutions working together within the region can provide a more comprehensive model of engagement. This will lead to provision of different types of lifelong learning and professional development programmes. At another level, it is appropriate for the university to use its high level research capacity in supporting agencies such as the IDA in their efforts to attract international corporations to Ireland. By way of example, the engagements by the university with international corporations through the Innovation Value Institute, and by our Institute for Chemical Biology are particularly significant in that regard. In order to encourage greater levels of external engagement by the Universities, such activities should be included among the performance measures for allocating funds to the universities. Barriers or obstacles to achieving changes in the higher education system 1. The level and distribution of public funding for the universities A new method of distributing public monies to universities was introduced in 2004, the Recurrent Grant Allocation Model or RGAM. Equality in funding at the student level was promised within three years. It is a matter of concern to NUI Maynooth that students at some universities still attract significantly more core grant funding than students at this university – around 10% per student more. This places our students at a disadvantage and is a barrier to the achievement of better teaching and learning outcomes. We agree with the IUA position that the quantum of funding available to the sector needs to increase. It is our view that any further adjustments in funding at a sectoral level, either up or down, must in the first instance implement equality of funding for all students across the sector. For the future we favour a funding model that is performance related, with performance measured across a broad spectrum of output metrics to reflect the full range of objectives for the university sector. 2. Structural issues arising from mission creep among the different components of the higher education system For the past 40 years the higher education system in Ireland has been organised as a binary model with distinctive missions for the universities and the Institutes of Technology. The model is no longer applied in a consistent manner as there has been considerable mission creep, despite a clear recommendation from the OECD review in 2004 that the binary system had served Ireland well and should be maintained. There is an emerging international consensus around the notion of regionally based alliances involving institutions with diverse missions where they can collectively deliver the full spectrum of qualifications without duplication and where students have clear progression pathways. NUI Maynooth is already collaborating with some Institutes of Technology in our hinterland and we are open to further exploration of a model that might lead to regional networks. This proposal would not, of course, preclude collaborations with other universities elsewhere in Ireland and further afield. 3. On-going erosion of autonomy and increasing imposition of inappropriate models of accountability International experience overwhelmingly points to a positive relationship between the performance and innovation capacity of universities and the extent of their autonomy. A shared sense of autonomy needs to be developed between the universities and other stakeholders represented by public servants, politicians, private sector interests, students and the wider community. This should include freedom of the universities to select staff and admit students, within the bounds of their budgets and resources, and to determine curriculum content, degree standards and research directions. In return for this autonomy universities must comply with appropriate levels of external accountability that is transparent and sufficiently robust to underpin the confidence of all internal and external stakeholders. This will require more comprehensive information systems to support assessment of how effectively universities apply their resources to the pursuit of national objectives for the sector. NUI Maynooth would welcome a move towards an accountability framework that would place more emphasis on performance indicators to demonstrate effective use of resources in return for greater operational autonomy. In saying this we accept that the university and its employees must comply with public procurement policy and standards as well as legislation such as the Ethics in Public Office Act. We also accept that the Minister or his agents can instigate a review of our books of accounts at any time. In summary, the sector requires a consistent model of high level accountable autonomy that will be have the support of all stakeholders. APPENDIX A NUI MAYNOOTH STRATEGIC PLAN 2006-2011 Addendum for period 2009-2011 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The NUI Maynooth Strategic Plan for the period 2006-2011 was adopted by the Governing Authority in December 2005. A mid term review of the implementation of the Strategy was initiated in 2008 to assess progress and to identify adjustments for the period 2009-11. The need for a reassessment of strategy became all the more urgent as the wider national and international economic context in which the University operates has changed radically from when the Strategy was initially formulated. ACHIEVEMENTS 2006-2008 Considerable progress was made over the period 2006-2008, including: The total number of students on campus increased by 1,068 or 18% to 7012, The total intake of first year undergraduates in 2008 was 25% higher than in 2006; over the same period the average CAO entry points increased from 406 to 412, The numbers of non-standard entrants (students on access programmes, mature students and students with a disability) increased by 26.3% to 436 between 2005/06 and 2008/09; they accounted for 21.3% of all new undergraduate entrants in 2008, In 2008 there were almost 780 international students (on basis of nationality) representing 11% of all students, The student/staff ratio improved from 21.8 in 2005/06 to 21.0 in 2007/08, though there are still some departments with exceptionally high ratios, The undergraduate completion rate improved from 77.4% in 2005/06 to 82.3% in 2007/08, The number of taught postgraduates increased by 38% to 1,022 between 2006 and 2008; over the same period the number of first year research students increased from 98 to 132, PhD completions are on target to meet SSTI objectives, with 58 NUIM graduations in 2008, New PhD and other doctoral programmes are being developed in line with international best practice for Graduate education, Total research income increased dramatically from €14.3m in 2005 to over €22.0m in 2007/08, New Research Institutes have been established and existing ones have developed further, with recruitment since 2005 of over twenty internationally renowned PIs in targeted areas. The volume of high quality research output has increased substantially: the total number of academic journal papers increased by 52% over the four years to 2006/07. Book chapters increased by 44% over the same period. ISI recorded citations have increased by over 67% since 2005, with c.3500 in 2008. Several strategic research collaborations have been formed, especially in the context of PRTLI, SFI centres and SIF. Additional collaborations have been formed with many industrial partners, including unique global initiatives such as the Innovation Value Institute partnership with Intel, A Campus MasterPlan has been prepared that will provide the framework for a campus to serve the needs of the twenty first century, with potential investments of approximately €200 million over the next 15-20 years, The University finances have been managed so as to avoid deficits accruing in the annual budget accounts, A substantial borrowing facility is being put in place to complement public investments in new capital projects, Approximately 4,200 sqms of net additional space for teaching, research and offices was provided between 2006-2008, Significant reforms have been introduced into the governance, leadership and management of the University, Quality assurance and staff development supports have become better aligned with the strategic objectives and planning cycle of the University, NUI Maynooth was recognised as University of the Year 2008 by the Sunday Times. NUI Maynooth 2009-2011: Contribution to Building Ireland’s Smart Economy The framework provided by the Strategic Plan 2006-2011 has served the University well and the current suite of nine Strategic Goals continues to be appropriate for addressing the national priorities over the coming years. However, some significant adjustments are required to address the changed external context and to plan for positioning the University so that it will be able to take advantage of opportunities that may arise in the period post 2011. Particular note has been taken of the roles set out for higher education in the government’s Building Ireland’s Smart Economy – A Framework for Sustainable Economic Renewal published December 2008. The broad strategic approach adopted in amending the University Strategy for the period 2009-2011 consists of: Safeguarding core strengths of the University, Consolidating recent successful initiatives, Introducing new initiatives to address potential weaknesses and threats, and Gradual directional change in anticipation of emerging needs and opportunities. The strategic goals for 2009-2011 are: SG1. Provide a teaching environment and a learning experience that will continue to attract high calibre undergraduates and support modest expansion, SG2. Become a national leader in the provision of taught postgraduate programmes in targeted areas, SG3. Provide graduate education programmes of international standing, SG4. Develop research programmes and knowledge transfer initiatives to enable NUIM become a national leader, and an international centre of excellence, in targeted areas of liberal arts and science, SG5. Further develop NUI Maynooth’s reputation as the national leader in the provision of access programmes and in catering for part-time students while also extending offerings in lifelong learning, SG6. Develop further the potential of NUIM in teaching and research through participation in inter-institutional collaborations especially in the Dublin city region, SG7. Develop an influential role in social, economic and cultural issues of national, regional and local importance, SG8. Implement strategies in relation to human resources, financial management, estates and other infrastructures to enable NUIM achieve its core objectives, SG9. Develop governance, management and organisational structures to enable the University to implement the Strategic Plan and comply with its statutory and other obligations including risk management. New objectives and actions are included in the Strategy for 2009-2011 with the main focus on. achieving a sustainable level of funding to support the core academic activities of the University, prioritising supports for, and continuing to improve, the teaching and research activities, managing the growth in undergraduate student numbers, their distribution across disciplines, and improving retention and progression rates, continuing to diversify the student cohort by increasing the number of non-standard students and also the number of international students, increasing the number of postgraduate students especially the number taking taught programmes, and introducing structured programmes for all doctoral students, continuing to develop research structures and strategic recruitment in areas where NUI Maynooth already has internationally recognised expertise, provides national leadership and has developed capacity in terms of research staff and other resources to merit recognition as nationally important strategic resources, achieving greater levels of highest quality research output and facilitating additional innovation and knowledge commercialisation, significantly increasing the provision of high quality teaching and research space through implementation of core elements of the Campus Development Plan, investigating the potential for further strategic alliances with other major higher education institutions that complement the mission of NUI Maynooth, further enhancing the governance and management capacity of the University, developing a strategic position for NUI Maynooth within the context of the Strategy for Higher Education, maintaining and enhancing the distinctive student experience provided by NUI Maynooth with more attention to the needs of part-time students, sustaining the culture of collegiality, innovation and enterprise among staff.
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