School of Psychology   The Academic Quality Assurance Programme, 2007–2008 

An Coiste FeabhaisAcadúil The Committee on Academic Quality Improvement The Academic Quality Assurance Programme, 2007–2008 Review of School of Psychology within the Division of Behavioural and Social Sciences College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies Final Report 14 July 2008
School of Psychology: Review Report 2008 This Report arises from a visit by a Review Group to the School of Psychology on 5­ 7 th March 2008. The School had already prepared and submitted a ‘Self­Assessment Report’ that, with other documentation, was made available to the Group in advance of the visit. The Review Group consisted of: Professor Jan Noyes, Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, UK (Chair); Professor Sheila Greene, School of Psychology and the Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College, Dublin; and Dr Anne Byrne, School of Political Science & Sociology, NUI Galway; and Dr Heinz­Peter Nasheuer of the Department of Biochemistry acting as rapporteur. Professor Fr Frank Imoda SJ, Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Roma, Italy attended as an observer. The Report is structured to cover the following main topics: 1. Aims and Objectives 2. Organization and management 3. Resources 4. Programmes and Instruction 5. Scholarship and Research 6. Community Service 7. The Wider Context: Beyond the School 8. Summary and Concluding Remarks 9. Comments on The Methodology of the Review Process 1. Aims and Objectives The School adheres to the seven strategic priorities as laid down in the Strategic Plan for NUI Galway, 2003­8. It has three generic ‘aims and objectives’: in sum, to achieve excellence in teaching activities, to achieve excellence in research, and to participate in community service activities. The School has seen rapid expansion in a relatively short time period. In the context of institution­wide restructuring in NUI Galway, the School is aware of the importance of strategic planning for present and future activities. The Review Group recommends that a strategic (operational) plan to frame and direct present and future activities (in line with institutional guidelines) be developed as soon as feasible to support the aims and objectives of the School. Such a plan might also include guidelines on the future co­operation and link with the School of Political Science and Sociology. Differentiation between aims and objectives is advised; greater clarity is required so that aims and objectives are more precise and bespoke to the School. A forward­looking and anticipatory perspective combined with clear aims and objectives aligned to the strategic priorities of the division, college and university is suggested. 2. Organization and Management The School has a committee structure comprising a School committee and five sub­ committees. The Teaching and Learning Committee was established recently. Based
Document1 2 School of Psychology: Review Report 2008 on student and staff comments, the committees seem to be working well. Though it is not yet the norm at NUI Galway for Schools to have Research Committees, given the expected demands of restructuring and the current aims and objectives of the School, advance planning for such a Committee is advised. Further, given the prevailing School interest in ethics, a School Ethics Committee to link with College/University and Health Authority ethics committees is recommended. Students appreciated the opportunity to bring issues to the Staff­Student Liaison Committee, but the postgraduates felt that much of the meeting was not relevant to them. This could be readily addressed by shifting the focus of the Staff­ Student Liaison Committee to taught programmes, and perhaps having a second committee for postgraduate research students. It is usual practice in some universities to have student representation on all sub­committees. In addition to formal meetings with postgraduates, research students mentioned the additional value of informal (and welcome) meetings with the Director of Research. We noted the number of positive and favourable comments made concerning the approachability of the Head of School, Professor Jack James, by the students. The Review Group notes that the Head of School is a member of one sub­committee and is ex­officio member of a second. It is not common practice for the Head of School to be a member of every committee and the good practice in this School is duly noted. The Review Group are is aware that institution­wide restructuring will require structural and procedural changes within Schools, in terms of financial, governance systems and succession planning, for example. The School of Psychology presents as a committed and enthusiastic participant in the restructuring process. In addition to changes required by restructuring, the School has grown in staff, student and programme numbers and consideration of process (operational issues) and management of this process change is now a matter for critical reflection. Restructuring presents an opportunity for Schools to establish Executive Committees. A more devolved management structure with greater consultation involving all members of staff and greater transparency with regard to decision making, income and expenditure are advised. The knowledge, skills, and expertise of members of staff deployed in the management of the School can only benefit future development, staff promotion prospects and staff morale. Further, given the significant growth of the School, it is surprising that the number of technical staff remains at two, and the administrative staff has increased only to 1.5 on the main campus. In line with academic restructuring, the establishment of a School Standing Executive Committee responds to the need for strategic planning and management. Sub­committees with responsibility for undergraduate activities, postgraduate activities, and research­related activities can feed into such an Executive Committee. Chairs of these sub­committees could serve on the Standing Executive Committee along with other staff having clearly designated functions. It is suggested that the Standing Executive Committee should meet at the request of any staff member, and its majority decisions should be implemented in a timely manner. A Standing Executive Committee should report to the School Committee on regular basis. The appointment of a Deputy Head of School is also typical in a unit of this size and complexity. Such an appointment may also help succession planning. Devolution of authority and responsibilities to more members of staff is seen as key to the future
Document1 3 School of Psychology: Review Report 2008 development and success of the School. 3. Resources Several resource issues were highlighted in the Self­Assessment Report: namely, building accommodation, School of Psychology budget as allocated by the College, lack of sufficient technical and administrative staff, and lack of money for tutorial provision. With regard to the new building, the University needs to provide the School with more clarity concerning the detail of its specific intentions and the time­frame for the Psychology building project. It is a matter of concern that substantive significant progress has not been made on this issue since the last external review in 2001. University issues concerning the appropriate weighting for Psychology students need to be resolved within a more transparent accounting environment. The University has expressed its intention to move towards greater transparency of income and expenditure and this is to be welcomed. 4. Programmes and Instruction Since the last review in 2001, the School has developed a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. These include: Psychological Studies, two Higher Diplomas in Psychology, the Doctor of Psychological Science (Clinical Psychology), and the Postgraduate Diploma/Masters in Applied Behaviour Analysis. In addition, the School is providing input to programmes in Nursing, Occupational Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy. Further, the 2­year Master of Psychological Sciences (Health Psychology) has been replaced by a 1­year full time MSc. Looking to the future, a new 4­year undergraduate degree in Behavioural and Social Sciences is being planned for 2010. Over a 10 year period, the School has grown from six members of permanent academic staff to 20, and similarly, undergraduate and postgraduate numbers have increased three­ to four­fold. The Head of School and the staff members are to be commended on their responsiveness to the need of for Psychology education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The maintenance of quality in a time of such rapid growth is inevitably not likely to be easy, given the teething problems associated with the introduction of new programmes. The Review Group met with a variety of students at different levels of progression in School programmes. The Group sought student views of the student experience in the School. The Review Group also met with a number of staff who had expressed an interest in meeting with the Review Group to discuss the staff experience. It is evident from the Self­Assessment Report and from Review Group meetings with students and staff that there are a number of issues that require considered and effective resolution. These include: the current tri­location of the School; the level of technical support which remains the same as 10 years ago; the lack of small­group teaching (e.g. tutorials), and more specifically, the lack of availability of space to facilitate these types of activities.
Document1 4 School of Psychology: Review Report 2008 The staff members were viewed very favourably by the students. Students mentioned a “helpful environment”, “high calibre lecturers”, that staff were “responsive” to requests and “approachable”, the wide variety of teaching methods being used, and that the “the facilities were very good”. Students appreciated the theoretical stance that is taken in the programmes. Issues for the students included: the imbalance between coursework and examinations (especially in modules where assessment was all examination­based); lack of opportunities for and information concerning work experience; the running of the Biology module for first years between 6­7 pm on Wednesdays; lack of tutorials in Years 2 and 3; the need to feedback the results of Lecture Evaluations to the students; and the need for more information relating to the number of places available on the conversion courses. In the Self­Assessment Report, the School has drawn attention to its incapacity to mount tutorials in Year 2 and 3 due to budgetary constraints. We noted that while the denominated students seemed to have few complaints, the Psychological Studies students seemed to feel as if they were "second class citizens". The benefit of more continuous assessment in Years 2 and 3 might be considered for this group. Further, they contrasted their experience in the School of Psychology with how they were treated in other Departments/Schools. Though not mentioned in the Self­Assessment Report, it was brought to our attention that the School carries out curriculum review of all undergraduate and postgraduate programmes annually. Further support for conducting systematic reviews can be sought from CELT. The poor completion rates of PhD students is an institutional wide problem, of which the School and the University are aware. A recent review of the research proposal review process has taken place in the School which is a positive response to the problem. The benefits of establishing a structured programme of courses on advanced research methods for all research students is recommended. 5. Scholarship and Research Commensurate with the growth in staff and postgraduates, and a recruitment drive to engage research­active individuals, the School has seen its research activities develop. There is a supportive environment in the School for staff in terms of research activities: for example, the facilities are generally good. Some of the research outputs are impressive although it is evident that there are marked individual differences. This may reflect career stage and/or teaching load. The research activities of the School appear to be informing and supporting its programmes. It is suggested that consideration be given to the instigation of a mentoring system where senior, research­active staff mentor new and/or less research­active staff. Further it is noted that co­operation between individuals within the School and University, and nationally/internationally is building and that additional co­operations should be explored, which will also enhance capabilities for research funding. An appropriate emphasis on defining the research strengths of the School is advised. This is an issue identified as a priority in the School's Self­Assessment Report. This clarity assists the visibility of the School, facilitates funding
Document1 5 School of Psychology: Review Report 2008 opportunities and national and international collaborations. As stated earlier, a dedicated Research Committee with a (senior) member of staff taking responsibility for research and related activities will help developments in scholarship and research. 6. Community Service Community Service is stated as one of the three main aims of the School and, in the Self­Assessment Report, it is evident that members of the School are contributing to broader community activities. These activities are instigated at the individual level, and often incidental to research interests. A more co­ordinated approach could be beneficial. The School is seen within the university as a large and flourishing unit, and there is a sense that it has the potential to contribute significantly to wider University activities. A view was expressed by the School that the availability of Psychological Studies has stimulated interest in the BA Connect (Children's Studies). Further, it is evident that the education of psychologists is of benefit both to the community and society as a whole. Opportunities exist to contribute to other programmes within NUI Galway such as the REMEDI outreach programme and GRO Project (Galway Region Outreach) for example. 7. The Wider Context: Beyond the School When considering the wider context, we have taken this to mean, beyond the School. There is a need for the School to consider how it fits within the University. This was stated in Section 1. Aims and Objectives. Restructuring offers many opportunities for the School. A new Strategic Plan for the University will present a number of opportunities for the School to be proactive and to make further contributions to the wider context. Some concern has been expressed about the ‘visibility’ of the School in the sense of a distinctive profile. Clarity of the profile will enhance School position, nationally and internationally. Given the strengths of the School, there is much potential to attract additional international students, bringing intellectual capital as well as extra income. 8. Summary and Concluding Remarks These are presented according to the SWOT analyses approach of the Self­ Assessment Report and summarised as follows: Strengths: The considerable contribution of the current Head of School to the development and expansion of the School is clear. The School has high quality, dedicated students and an enthusiastic and talented staff. The Review Group affirm the commitment of the staff, and we see a lot of potential for this School based on the calibre of the students and the staff. Further, there are more funding opportunities available today than previously, and the University itself is active, growing and thriving. The School is to
Document1 6 School of Psychology: Review Report 2008 be commended on the quality of its teaching activities, which are recognised and appreciated by students; teaching appears to be informed and supported by research activities. Weaknesses: There is no current Strategic Plan for the School. In line with current restructuring and the development of institution­wide guidelines, a distinctive Psychology Strategic Plan for the School of Psychology should be developed to support and enhance the future growth of the School. The Strategic Plan should prioritise current and future expansion and staff recruitment and guide the maintenance of quality in relation to the student experience and research­related activities. A Plan will help to assess the implications relating to succession planning; the current profile of staff over the next decade; the research clusters of the School and their development; and the management of the School’s activities as represented by the various sub­committees. Opportunities: The University is undergoing a number of major changes with regard to reorganization and the arrival of a new President. This will have implications for every part of the University, and School readiness to respond proactively to these changes is encouraged. Threats: The School has undergone a period of rapid expansion in teaching programmes and student numbers combined with a relatively young and research­active teaching staff. It is suggested that reflection and perhaps some consolidation of activities is now needed in order to ensure quality, efficiency and excellence in the years to come. Further, the preparation of a Strategic Plan will facilitate new internal management and governance structures in line with academic restructuring and appropriate to the larger and more complex School of 2008. 9. Comments on The Methodology of the Review Process Self­Assessment: The content of the Self­Assessment Report was not fully supported by some members of staff (who expressed disappointment at some aspects). The Review Group was informed that all staff had the opportunity to contribute to the document and understand the considerable challenge of representing all views while producing a document collectively. Review Group Visit: It is common practice in reviews for a senior member of the institution (and on occasion, the most senior person) to be present at the initial meeting with the Review Group. Further, it is also usual practice for the Group to be given a presentation covering a high level view of the organisation of the University and its priorities as seen by senior management. With particular reference to NUI Galway, some detail
Document1 7 School of Psychology: Review Report 2008 concerning the Irish context would be useful when members of the Review Group are not from Ireland, and hence, are unfamiliar with Irish modes of operation. The Review Group appreciated the opportunity on the first evening to have time alone to get to know each other. The meeting with the Dean was probably too early in the review visit to be useful; it is suggested that a meeting with the Head of School is more beneficial at this time, and that the meeting with the Dean be shifted to towards the end of the review visit. Likewise, it would have been valuable to have a late meeting with the Head of School. Two other suggestions are: one, instead of one meeting with all staff and the Head of School, it may be more worthwhile to meet with individual groups of staff of similar seniority, for example, lecturers, senior lecturers, etc.; two, it is not necessary to meet with five groups of students, three groups (undergraduates, taught postgraduates, research postgraduates) would have sufficed. Professor Jan Noyes (Chair) Professor Sheila Greene Dr Anne Byrne Dr Heinz­Peter Nasheuer (Rapporteur) (14th of July 2008).
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