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 (in particular during first year) and successful progression to graduation. The success of these initiatives is visible through the fact that the completion rate of Irish university undergraduates is significantly higher than the OECD average (83% in Ireland, 70% OECD average; see OECD Education at a Glance, OECD, 2007).
Irish universities have made considerable advances in recent years in the area of reinforced foundational skills, based on their experience of assisting undergraduate students who have demonstrated insufficient preparedness for 3rd level academic and other requirements. Examples include the widespread availability of mathematics support centres, academic English support programmes, study skills support programmes, etc. Universities also provide IT and foreign language skills development support for students. These supports are available throughout the year, as students need them, rather than only during an induction phase at the start of the year. Please click here for examples of academic support services which are available across the Irish universities.
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/orientation events, and reinforced through a system of personal tutors/student advisors /Year Heads who have specific roles, in particular for first year students, in relation to providing advice and information on general student issues, monitoring of academic progress, assisting in academic choices, and general advice regarding potential changes in a student’s educational arrangements.
Ensuring that students acquire key generic skills (e.g. study skills, research skills, communication skills, quantitative reasoning, essay writing and critical thinking) is also addressed in a mainstream way through the design, delivery and assessment of all academic programmes, where broader issues of specific and generic knowledge, skills and competences are incorporated as part of the universities’ adoption of the National Framework of Qualifications, and articulated through defined learning outcomes for each programme and module.