Universities are key to our citizens realising their full potential and dynamically contributing to their communities, economy and society. Universities are the primary generators of the talent pipeline for the workforce and they are also pioneers of thought leadership and creativity, encouraging and provoking critical thinking and intellectual discourse across all aspects of society.
To sustain this, the universities work to stimulate and support active, engaged and enquiry-based student learning. This is done through enhanced student-centred teaching methods and practices, ensuring that teaching remains informed by the latest relevant research, and through increased small group and project-based activities. One of the actions in ‘A Charter for Irish Universities’ aims to develop a coherent national programme in digital learning in partnership with government. This programme will provide the necessary systems and infrastructure for an increasingly digital and flexible learning environment. The universities ensure students have a broad range of cultural and social development opportunities, with appropriate services and structures in place to support these. The universities are committed to delivering a high quality student learning experience for all, on a par with the best in Europe.
The universities provide information and resources for students to support the learning process and to ensure that students acquire critical skills (e.g. study skills, research skills, communication skills, quantitative reasoning, essay writing and critical thinking). Such targeted supports, often offered through the universities’ centres for learning and teaching, include: study skills and exam techniques; academic writing courses; language labs; mathematics support; computer and IT training and assistance; postgraduate skills development. These supports are available throughout the year, as students need them, rather than only during an induction phase at the start of the year.
Ensuring that students acquire critical skills is also addressed in a mainstream way through the design, delivery and assessment of all academic programmes. Broader issues of specific and generic knowledge, skills and competences are incorporated as part of the universities’ adoption of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), and articulated through defined learning outcomes for each programme and module.
There is national and international evidence that the first year of undergraduate studies is the crucial year for students. Students who progress beyond this first year have much greater chances of successfully graduating. As a result, Irish universities have been active over many years in addressing issues aimed at improving student retention and successful progression to graduation. This has been borne out in HEA analysis of completion in Irish higher education, which demonstrates positive results that compare well internationally.
These provisions, along with many others which are designed to ease the transition of students into higher education, are available to all new students through formal induction events. They are reinforced through a system of student advisors and tutors who have specific roles, in particular for first year students, in relation to providing advice and information on student issues, monitoring of academic progress, assisting in academic choices, and advice regarding potential changes in a student’s educational arrangements.