Final REPORT The Academic Quality Assurance Programme 2009 - 2010

National University of Ireland, Galway
An Coiste Feabhais Acadúil
The Committee on Academic Quality Improvement
The Academic Quality Assurance Programme 2009 2010
(12th APRIL 2010)
This report arises from a visit by the review team to the School of Medicine on
the 16th March, 2010. The Diploma/Master of Medical Science (Health
Informatics) Self-Assessment Group had already prepared and submitted a
'Self Assessment Report' that, with other documentation, was made available
to the review team well in advance of the visit.
The review team consisted of: Dr David M Abrahamson, School of Computer
Science and Statistics, Trinity College Dublin (Chair); Dr Cees van der
Schans, Hanze University Groningen, The Netherlands; Dr John Williams,
Sligo General Hospital; Ms Aideen Gallagher, School of Health Sciences, NUI
Galway; and Dr Tony Hall, School of Education, NUI Galway acting as
The report is structured to cover key recommendations in the following main
Aims and Objectives
Organization and management
Programmes and Instruction
Scholarship and Research
Comments on the Methodology of the Review Process
Summary and Concluding Remarks
Opening Remarks:
The review panel was very impressed by the feedback from students of the
course. Students reported very positively about their experiences on the
master’s programme, and the encouragement and support provided by the
teaching staff. Students felt that the course has equipped them very well with
the requisite competences and skills to undertake further research in their
specialised area.
The members of the teaching staff are to be commended on their
commitment, enthusiasm and innovation in the delivery of this programme.
The panel recognized the excellent efforts of the programme team in
managing the course in difficult circumstances, without the necessary
administrative or financial supports. This programme could be a flagship
programme for the School of Medicine. It is a well designed programme that
could serve as a prototype for other cognate or similar courses in the
The panel made the following recommendations, ordered in terms of priority
within the six main areas identified:
Aims and Objectives
The Programme Director needs to communicate effectively the role, future
direction and market for the programme.
Organization and management
The School of Medicine should formally endorse this course.
There is a need for administrative assistance at the School level (modelled on
current effective practice within the School). An interim solution for
administrative support needs to be provided, while the allocation of
administrative resources across the School is being determined.
An external examiner needs to be appointed for the diploma modules, to
ensure quality assurance for all taught modules (broadening the remit of the
current examiner from the research component of the master’s degree to
include also the taught diploma modules).
The programme should be aligned with other programmes to achieve
economies of scale through appropriate rationalisation and sharing of
resources, e.g. sharing modules between courses on research methods.
Quality assurance processes for the programme should be formalised and
A student handbook should be provided, containing clear information and
guidelines on research ethics; University policy on plagiarism/academic
honesty; marking schemes; marks and standards and academic progression;
and grade descriptors.
There should be a formal course committee and student representation on
that committee.
There should be better procedures for dealing with student relocation or
change of supervisor, including formal induction and support of research
In future, the self-assessment documentation provided to the review team
needs to be improved, to reflect both the programme’s strengths and
The self-assessment documentation should also position the programme
clearly within the School and its suite of taught postgraduate programmes.
Programmes and Instruction
A full-time lectureship should be appointed to the programme to avoid the
current reliance on pro-bono work.
There should be one intermediate exit route: diploma. A time limit for
completion of the diploma/progression to master should be specified in the
marks and standards for the programme.
Support should be provided to academic staff to make more effective use of
technology-enhanced learning to improve the distance learning component of
the modules (CELT, Blackboard).
Scholarship and Research
A full-time lectureship should be appointed to consolidate and build on the
potentially high-impact research emerging from the programme; and to ensure
the continued quality of the taught components.
Comments on the Methodology of the Review Process
The methodology of the review process should ensure relevant, key people
are involved in the quality review. A representative/plenipotentiary of the
School should have been present for this review, especially considering the
support of the School is crucial to the future viability of the programme, and in
advocating on the programme’s behalf for adequate resourcing and staffing.
Summary and Concluding Remarks
The panel felt this is an excellent programme overall, and unless adequately
resourced its future viability is in question. However, with the full support of
the School of Medicine and adequate staffing (both administrative and
academic) and resourcing, the programme should continue to attract highcalibre students and produce high quality research outputs.