First year in college wasted breaking bad learning habits

Posted in Teaching on December 11th, 2014 by steve

Ireland“It can take universities a year to teach students how to learn, the head of education at NUIG has claimed. Universities are being forced to use the first year of students attendance breaking bad habits and reforming weak learning skills picked up in our secondary schools …” (more)

[Caroline Crawford, Independent, 11 December]

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The Higher Education and Research Bill 2014 – 2. The third level sector and government

Posted in Governance and administration, Legal issues on April 5th, 2014 by steve

Someone looking for a clear statement of what the Irish third level sector is, and a description of its relation to government, will not find it in the statute book. The HEA Act 1971 gives a few hints, including (in the amended s 1) a definition of “institution of higher education”, but this may be starting in the wrong place; the HEA was never meant to govern the sector, but rather to act as a buffer between the various government departments and the various third-level institutions.

The Barrett bill seeks to recognise and define the sector more thoroughly. By cl 3, the sector will consist of Category I institutions (universities), Category II institutions (ITs) and category III institutions (technological universities). There will also be a category of specialised institutions (such as the RIA), over which the HEA will have “a special regulatory and advisory role” (cl 5). The “aim, objective and functions” of the sector will for the first time be expressly spelled out (cl 10), with the sector’s mission stated as “to promote free research and academic and artistic education, to provide higher education based on research, and to educate students to serve their country and humanity”.

As to the sector’s relations with government, two significant changes are envisaged:

  • A new body, the Higher Education and Research Grants Committee, will inherit from the HEA “[a]ll powers related to the resource allocation process for higher education and research” (cl 4). In other words, the HEA will cede its money powers to this new committee. The committee’s membership provision is complicated; highlights are that, of the 12 members, half are to be appointed by the DES and half by PER; 4 must be “active lecturing and research staff at Universities” when appointed; the others will be selected on the basis of other strengths. (Is “Universities” really what was meant? What will the ITs make of that?).
  • Government powers to restructure the sector are re-stated and to a certain extent enhanced. These are a power over mergers (cl 7, mirroring Universities Act 1997 s 8); a power to recognise new institutions (cls 8 and 21-22, mirroring Universities Act 1997 ss 9 and 23 ); and a power to authorise changes of institutional name (cl 9, mirroring Universities Act 1997 s 10). The provision on recognition of technological universities (cl 42) is surprisingly specific, even down to specifying the chair of the expert commission to consider each application (the Chancellor of Oxford – Chris Patten? really?) and the 12 foreign universities that are to contribute members (The choice of institutions might not satisfy everyone).

Trying to define a coherent third-level sector, and to say definitively what it is for, is a dangerous strategy. If our leaders promise government that the sector is x, we will all be in the wrong if is turns out to be not-x. Promise government that the sector will benefit Ireland in a particular way, and we will find itself audited on that precise point and punished when considered to fall short. Perhaps the idea that third level is for anything in particular is a snare and a delusion. Senator Fidelma Healy Eames hit on something when she commented:

What is the rationale for placing all universities, institutes of technology and the new technological universities under one single regulatory structure? There is widespread suspicion that such efforts constitute the homogenisation of third level. Moreover, without an assessment of existing models one runs the risk of undermining diversity in the third level sector. That diversity inspires competition and innovation. It is not good if we are all the same – diversity is critical.

Senator Barrett has quietly acknowledged this, by noting the dangers of a “purely instrumentalist approach” which implies that the role of universities is solely defined by the needs of others, and by seeking to build institutional autonomy and freedom into the very definition of the third sector (see especially cl 10(c) and (f), and cl 13). How much of this will survive the ongoing legislative process remains to be seen.

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FETAC abuse must be halted – Healy Eames

Posted in Teaching on January 25th, 2013 by steve

“The issue of educational providers abusing FETAC accreditation by using additional accreditation bodies outside Ireland and advertising courses as FETAC Diplomas must be brought to an end, Fine Gael Galway Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has warned …” (more)

[Lorraine O’Hanlon, Galway Independent, 25 January]

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Ruairi Quinn refuses to rule out cuts to teacher allowances

Posted in Governance and administration on April 11th, 2012 by steve

“Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has refused to rule out cuts to teacher allowances and said that a comprehensive review of all allowances in the public service is to take place. The Minister also said that Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames of Fine Gael was ‘misinformed’ in her criticism of him …” (more)

[TheJournal.ie, 11 April]

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Technological universities

Posted in Governance and administration on February 15th, 2012 by steve

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames: … I welcome the publication yesterday of the criteria for the designation of institutes of technology as technological universities. Let us make no mistake about it, this is a major development which needs to be debated because there are fears to be allayed and questions to be answered. For example, will this development lead to a lowering of standards? …” (more)

[Order of Business, Seanad Éireann, 14 February]

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Grant time delays still putting pressure on cash-strapped students, says Healy Eames

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on January 13th, 2011 by steve

“Substantial time delays in the processing of student grants and other funds are continuing to cause huge difficulties and undue stress for students in Galway and across the country, according to Fine Gael Seanad Education spokesperson, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames …” (more)

[Martina Nee, Galway Advertiser, 13 January]

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Senator slams retired teachers returning while graduates are ‘on dole’

Posted in Life on October 21st, 2010 by steve

“Fine Gael Seanad education spokesperson Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has slammed schools which employ retired teachers to provide substitute cover when hundreds of newly qualified teachers are jobless …” (more)

[Mary O’Connor, Galway Advertiser, 21 October]

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Healy Eames questions maths/science college places after steep points rise

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on August 26th, 2010 by steve

“Fine Gael Seanad Education Spokesperson Fidelma Healy-Eames has questioned whether the number of college places for science and maths subjects has fallen, following steep rises in points for these subjects …” (more)

[Trevor Quinn, Galway Advertiser, 26 August]

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10% failure in pass maths a national embarrassment – Healy Eames

Posted in Teaching on August 25th, 2010 by steve

“The way maths is taught in primary and secondary schools needs to be urgently addressed, according to Fine Gael Seanad Education Spokesperson Fidelma Healy Eames. The Galway senator has expressed concern at the high number of Leaving Certificate students who are failing maths at higher and ordinary level …” (more)

[Galway Independent, 25 August]

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10% failure in pass maths a source of national embarrassment – Healy Eames

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on August 18th, 2010 by steve

“Fine Gael Seanad Education Spokesperson, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, today (Wednesday) said the issues surrounding the number of Leaving Cert students who are failing, not just honours but pass maths in their Leaving Cert exam has to be tackled much earlier if we are to turn around the number of students who are performing so poorly in the subject …” (more)

[Fine Gael, 18 August]

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Call for third level funding debate

Posted in Governance and administration on June 30th, 2010 by steve

“A Galway Senator has called for a debate on the future funding and provision of third level education. Fine Gael Seanad Education Spokesperson Fidelma Healy Eames has said that debate is needed in light of the fact that the return of student tuition fees is set to be endorsed by the Hunt Report on higher education in the autumn …” (more)

[Galway Independent, 30 June]

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Our children turned off Maths due to poor teaching – Healy Eames

Posted in Teaching on February 17th, 2010 by steve

“Galway ideally placed to provide link between classroom and industry practice to improve Maths and Science teaching. Speaking today in the Seanad, Fine Gael Seanad Education Spokesperson, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, said the issues relating to the poor uptake of maths and science subjects must be addressed if our economy is to thrive into the future …” (more)

[Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, 17 February]

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Increased third level applications will put strain on NUI Galway’s resources – Healy Eames

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on February 11th, 2010 by steve

“In the Department of Education’s Statements on CAO Applications and College Places to the Seanad on February 10th 2010 last, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames drew attention to the challenges and problems facing the education system and educators in Ireland at present, including the funding of third level education, the threat of a cap in third level places, and the moratorium on recruitment of teachers …” (more)

[Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, 11 February]

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NUI Galway operating at capacity on some courses; increase in places urgently required – Healy Eames

Posted in Fees, access and admissions on February 11th, 2010 by steve

“In the Department of Education’s Statement to the Seanad on CAO Applications and College Places, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames sought a commitment from the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Sean Haughey, to increase third level places in areas of high demand where students are looking for study opportunities …” (more)

[Senator Fidelma Healy Eames, 11 February]

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Government paying €450,000 for inaccurate on-line history lessons

Posted in Teaching on February 4th, 2010 by steve

“The Government is paying out €450,000 a year to Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book for schools to access online material which contains farcical inaccuracies about the Irish Civil War, according to Fine Gael Seanad Education Spokesperson, Fidelma Healy Eames. The Galway senator said this week that it was ‘beyond comprehension’ that teaching material would document one of Ireland’s most critical periods in history in such an inaccurate way …” (more)

[Martina Nee, Galway Advertiser, 2 February]

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