Review of Faculty of Science The Academic Quality Assurance Programme 2005-2006

An Coiste Feabhais Acadúil
The Committee on Academic Quality Improvement
The Academic Quality Assurance Programme 2005-2006
Report to Údarás na hOllscoile
Review of
Faculty of Science
Review Group Visit
Follow Up Meeting
October 2005 to January 2006
20th – 22nd February, 2006
19th May 2006
This Report was compiled for members of Údarás na hOllscoile, NUI Galway and its
committees as a readily accessible but comprehensive source of information on the above
review, its context and its outcomes.
Quality Office, May 2007
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
1. Overview of Department
1.1 Aims and Objectives
The members of the Faculty of Science at NUI Galway subscribe to the goal of being a studentcentred university (for its approximately 2400 students) that strives for academic excellence and
the realisation of world-class research. This vision is achieved inter alia by:
• The provision of both broadly-based (undenominated) and also focussed (denominated)
undergraduate B.Sc. degree programmes that challenge students to think critically and
develop their potential as well as assimilating facts needed to become professionals in their
areas of expertise
• Recognising that research is the defining and core activity of a university, the Faculty is
committed to supporting research by all members of its academic staff
• The development of Higher Diploma and taught M.Sc. courses that address specific
industrial needs and meet the country’s skill requirements
• The facilitation of Ph.D. and M.Sc. research programmes in a wide range of established
disciplines as well as in interdisciplinary, institute-based programmes
• The promotion of second-chance learning through the provision of a pre-university
Foundation Course for Mature Students
• The support of students with varying academic and personal backgrounds through the
provision of a range of intervention measures for retention
• The commitment to supporting further career development of all academic, technical and
administrative staff
1.2 Recent Developments
In order to develop and prioritise its goals, the faculty developed its most recent Strategic Plan
in May 2002. Key developments that have arisen as a result of this plan are as follows:
Developments at Undergraduate level
• Number of 1st year undergraduates and quality of undergraduate B.Sc. entrants maintained
with doubling of mature student enrolment in faculty foundation course
• Assessment criteria for awards for university scholars piloted by faculty; study skills and
tutorials for first-year students expanded under HEA targeted initiatives
• Requirements for progression to 4th year restructured; quotas introduced for 2nd year subjects
• Gemmology adult education course (Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences) and honours
pharmacology B.Sc. introduced; advance planning for on-line Science and Technology B.Sc.
Developments at Postgraduate level
• Postgraduate induction courses organised by Vice-Dean of Research
• Value of faculty postgraduate research fellowship increased by 50%; fellowship budget
control devolved to faculty
• Postgraduate research Full Time Equivalent allocation increased from 1 to 1.5; retrospective
award of 6-month additional stipend to holders of faculty fellowships if Ph.D. completed
within 3.5 years
• Medical Physics M.Sc. introduced; funding awarded for distance modules (part-time M.Sc.)
Developments at Staff level
• Executive Committee and position of Vice-Dean of Research established
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
• Faculty members involved in promotion of science awareness nationally; two of the
inaugural four Presidential Awards for Excellence in Learning and Teaching achieved by
Science Faculty members
1.3 Student Numbers
The total number of fulltime equivalent (FTE) students in the Faculty was 2329.4 in the year
2004/2005, representing an increase of 12.3% in the five years since 1999-2000.
1.4 Staff to Student Ratios
In 2004-2005, the number of fulltime equivalent (FTE) academic staff in the Faculty of Science
was 113.3, giving a student:staff ratio of 20.6 in year ending 2005 (this ratio was 19.4 in 19992000).
1.5 Accommodation and Facilities
The Faculty office is located in the Arts/Science building. Core facilities of the faculty are
located in numerous buildings, including the following:
• Arts/Science building
• Orbsen building
• Martin Ryan Institute
• Aras de Brun
• Quadrangle
• A range of other smaller sites
2. Review Group Report Overview and Recommendations
The Review Team consisted of: Professor Bernie Hannigan, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation,
University of Ulster (Chair), Professor Gerry Doyle, Dean of Undergraduate Studies, University College Dublin, Dr
Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive, Marine Institute, Professor John Waddell, Department of Archaeology, NUI
Galway, Dr Philip Dine, Department of French, NUI Galway (Rapporteur)
2.1 Summary and Main Recommendations from Report
The next phase of Ireland’s socio-economic development will call for a major intensification of
our scientific endeavour in pursuit of the nation’s drive towards a knowledge economy. This
endeavour has the potential to create unprecedented opportunities for the expansion of
university-based scientific capacity and service delivery. However, this opportunity will also
call for innovative and dynamic leadership, together with the capacity for a prompt, market-led,
management response on the part of third-level institutions, especially those seeking to be in the
forefront of this national effort.
It will be incumbent on all such institutions to position themselves with the most appropriate
management structures and strategies to take advantage of this period of exceptional scientific
opportunity. The external perception of this preparedness on the part of third-level institutions,
for example from external funding sources, may well prove to be an important factor in
determining success rates. All universities, including specifically NUI Galway and its Faculty
of Science, would be prudent to examine their preparedness for this challenge and to act
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
The review team highlighted the relatively limited opportunity which they were afforded to
interact with the Senior Management Team, stating that this may have resulted in a lower
appreciation of the state of readiness of that Team’s change-management plan than may in fact
be the reality. The Review Team was highly appreciative of the frank and open dialogue that
was facilitated by staff of the Faculty and University.
The recommendations were presented under the following six headings:
a) Aims and Objectives
Recommendation to the Faculty
i) The Faculty Strategic Plan should be revised and updated, identifying priorities and
their resource implications.
b) Organisation and Management
Recommendations to the Faculty
i) With regard to administrative support, that the totality of the human resource, the
organisation of reporting lines and the flow of work be considered with a view to
implementing a revised structure from the start of the 2006/07 academic session. In
the Review Team’s opinion considerable benefit might accrue from a series of
structured-dialogue meetings / workshops among the Central Administration staff
(Records, Examinations, Admissions, Library) and those in line functions (Faculty &
ii) By this same date, that a review also be initiated of the IT systems that underpin
student and management databases, including the ability of staff to access or input
iii) That a deadline be set for review and reorganization of the Departmental
composition of the Faculty. The resulting structure should remain in place for no
longer than 4 years but should not change during that period.
iv) That a single structure for undergraduate degrees be in place for students entering the
Faculty in the 2006/07 academic session.
v) That the regulations governing student progression, deferral and award be consistent
across the Faculty for students entering NUI Galway in the 2006/07 academic
vi) That from the start of the 2006/07 academic session all Ph.D. students, regardless of
their source of funds, would have the same amount of disposable income after
subtraction of fees and / or payment for demonstrating.
vii) That the lack of moderation of marks assigned by postgraduate students to laboratory
notebooks be reviewed.
Recommendations to the University
i) That Deans be included in the most senior academic and strategic decision-making
bodies, be the line managers for Heads of Department and have an opportunity to
support and prioritise applications for promotion.
ii) That the post of Dean be established as a senior post and rewarded with a significant
iii) That the Dean be provided, at least on a quarterly basis, with the information
necessary to assist in decision-making, i.e. a full list of staff in the Faculty, including
their grades; accurate details of income and expenditure, including research grants,
the overhead earned on research grants and its allocation to researchers, the Faculty
and the University centrally.
iv) That decisions on the eligibility of academic staff for promotion, with realistic
timelines and benchmarks for the evaluation of applications should be confirmed and
information communicated to all staff by no later than the end of April 2006.
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
v) The introduction of awards for excellence among administrative and technical
support staff, and that Faculty should have representation from among the
administrative and technical support staff. Support staff should also be included in
strategic planning and decision-making. The combination of a merit-award scheme
and appropriate representation would recognise more effectively the contributions
made by these staff grades to the achievement of the University’s mission made by
these staff grades to the achievement of the University’s mission.
c) Programmes and Instruction
Recommendations to the Faculty:
i) The introduction of a review system that would assess the viability of Denominated
ii) The establishment of staff-student ratio norms, and finding ways of bringing
Departments close to those norms in an effort to ensure relative equality of delivery
in all programmes.
iii) Measures for ensuring that uniformly high levels of assistance in feedback, course
information, study skills, and related student support are provided in all programmes.
iv) The provision of training for demonstrators so that friendly and positive interactions
can be maximised between undergraduates and their postgraduate role models.
v) Encouraging the further rollout of appropriate, computer-based teaching
vi) Reviewing attendance and instituting procedures to ensure effective engagement by
vii) Interaction with other Faculties to ensure that there are uniform approaches to
viii) Reviewing the timetable, with a view to maximising the utilisation of space
ix) Taking a view on the equality of opportunity in research project choice for students
in Denominated programmes vis-à-vis students taking degrees in the core subject
x) Developing a policy that allows new staff to grow effectively into their teaching and
research roles under the mentorship of experienced staff.
Recommendation to the University:
i) Measures to reaffirm its commitment to excellence in teaching and to emphasise the
positive interaction between research and high-quality teaching.
d) Scholarship and Research
Recommendation to the Faculty:
i) It is recommended that the Faculty and all stakeholders should be engaged in an
institution-wide process, led by Senior Management, to address the challenges NUI
Galway will face in a future research environment.
Recommendation to the University:
i) It was stated, by the review group that there is an urgent need, within this context, for
a clear definition of the role of an academic, valuing teaching, research and service to
the community.
e) Community Service
Recommendations to the Faculty:
i) Further provision of short topical courses for Adult and Continuing Education.
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
ii) Further promotion of science in schools, possibly through the appointment of a
Faculty outreach officer, together with a system of planned visits, and other targeted
promotional material.
iii) The extension of the Foundation course in Science, in addition to seeking some
contribution from the Faculty of Engineering.
f) The Wider Context
Recommendations to the University:
i) It is recommended that an inclusive, but decisive, process be facilitated by Senior
Management in order to strike the appropriate balance between:
• Strategic priority requirements in teaching and research competence and capacity
• Perceptions of value afforded by NUI Galway to these essential services
• Affording appropriate support for new staff appointees
• Effectively communicating decisions to all stakeholders
ii) It is recommended that, should budgetary restraints impose limitations on NUI
Galway’s scope to accommodate demands across the spread of disciplines currently
offered by the institution, it may be required of Senior Management to make
difficult, but necessary, prioritisation decisions in both teaching and research scope,
and to consolidate and support a narrower spread among strategic priority areas.
3. Action Plans
Follow up Meeting
Friday 19th May, 2006 at 11:30a.m.
Hynes Boardroom (QA132), The Quadrangle.
Present: Professor Jim Browne – Registrar, Professor Jim Gosling – Director of Quality (Chair), Professor John
Waddell – Review Group Cognate, Dr Phil Dine – Review Group Rapporteur, Professor Gerry Doyle – Review
Group, Dr Gerry Morgan – Dean of Science Faculty, Dr Iain MacLabhrainn – Director of CELT, Dr Sharon Flynn
– CELT, Dr Maura Hiney – Research Office, Professor Tom Sherry, Ms. Nora Murphy, Ms Olive Mills, Ms. Cora
Costello, Ms. Teresa Mahon, Mr. M. Hannify, Professor Noel Lowndes, Dr. Lucy Byrnes, Professor Kevin
Sullivan, Dr. Dagmar Stengel, Ms. Chris Ní Churráin, Mr. Maurice Martyn, Dr. Pat Morgan, Dr. Donal Leech,
Professor Tom Glynn, Ms Geraldine Lyons (in attendance).
Apologies: Dr. Peter Heffernan - Review Group
Action Plan for the Faculty of Science
The Faculty agree that its Strategic Action Plan should now be revised and updated. The
identification of priorities and especially resource implications will be dependent on how
the new Faculty structures emerge from the Structural Reform process. Work will begin
as soon as feasible and the Plan will be developed during the academic year 2007–08.
The Faculty feel that Structural Reform will concern directly many of the issues raised
by the Review Group and the Dean will participate fully in this process to advance these
agreed actions as reform is implemented.
During 2007–08, the Dean will explore how representation at Faculty meetings by nonacademic members of its community can be achieved.
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
The Faculty welcomes the suggestion that it review and streamline its academic
programmes, and plans to achieve this by December 2007. This review will include:
a. A fundamental review of curricula and Marks and Standards to maximise
standardisation and bring all programmes into line with specifications arising from
the Bologna process.
b. Development of brief guidelines covering basic aspects of the organisation of
academic programmes such as:
i. The widespread, appropriate use of new approaches to teaching and new
technologies including Blackboard,
ii. The regular and timely provision of student feedback on teaching and
programme administration, and
iii. The allocation of undergraduate research projects.
c. Assessment of the success and relevance of all existing programmes, including those
leading to:
i. General degrees
ii. Denominated degrees and
iii. ‘Taught’ MSc degrees.
d. Identification of new thematic programme offerings.
i. This activity will be on-going within set goals and milestones covering the
next three years.
ii. All proposals for new programmes will include a detailed assessment of costs
and extra resources required.
e. Investigation of alternative timetable models to the current standard model of ‘AM
lectures – PM practicals’. This will seek to maximise the usage of practical
laboratory and lecture space during the whole five-day week, from 09.00 h on
Mondays to 16.00 on Fridays.
In line with its commitment to the realisation of the University’s vision of a studentcentred university, the Faculty will develop appropriate new policies and practices,
a. Implementation as appropriate of the recommendation of the Academic Council’s
Student Attendance and Engagement Working Group (SAEG), which is addressing
campus-wide issues of student attendance and engagement with their academic
programmes. These are expected to be fully agreed by December 2007.
b. Further measures to minimise student under-performance and thereby maximise
student retention.
c. Guidelines on student applications for deferral of examinations. Other faculties will
be consulted to ensure uniformity of approach.
d. New initiatives with the Careers Office to develop student life-skills.
As the Faculty with the greatest mass of research activity, the Faculty of Science is
committed to achieving and maintaining very good standards for research students.
Issues given high priority include:
a. Development of local guidelines on postgraduate research degree supervision and of
effective feedback mechanisms for research students.
b. Adequate and fair postgraduate research student funding.
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
c. The development of local policies on the engagement and obligatory training of
postgraduate students in tutorial/laboratory demonstration and marking activities,
starting in September 2007.
The Faculty is creating a mentoring system for new staff to facilitate effective growth
into their teaching and research roles, to be implemented by September 2007.
The Science Faculty, along with Engineering and Commerce, has recently approved a
part time, Level-8 B.Sc. in Science and Technology Studies.
The Faculty is currently exploring the expansion of its Foundation Course with the Adult
& Continuing Education Office.
The Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, at the moment leads the way in the
provision of formal short topical extramural courses. It has recently proposed a second
such one in addition to its established Gemmology course. Further courses initiated by
other units will be sought and encouraged.
Action Plan for University Management
The Working Group on Academic Structures (formed by the APRC in late 2005) has
prepared three papers:
a. Academic Structures
b. Council of Deans
c. Role and Reporting Relationships of, and Appointment Procedures for Deans
Together, these describe proposed changes that will meet and, in some ways, surpass the
requirements of the recommendations of the Faculty Review Group. It is anticipated that
these changes will be implemented fully by September 2007.
The number of Senior Lectureship filled competitively in the current round was
increased to 20. Length of service and some other conditions to be met by applicants
were relaxed, new guidelines for the appointment procedure were agreed with the
unions, and full and equal account was taken of research, service and teaching.
The Registrar (and the University) is committed to the reform and improvement, as well
as to the expansion, of Ph.D. training.
a. The new University Guidelines on Ph.D. programmes (which are available to all who
request them) are being finalised to take account of ongoing developments, and will
be published in time for the 2007–08 academic year.
b. In these Guidelines basic principles on the participation of postgraduate research
students in teaching have been enunciated and provision will be made for the
formulation locally of sets of rules that are consistent with these principles.
The Quality Office will support:
a. Workshops for central admin staff and faculty line functions that aim to formulate
and improve Faculty policies, procedures and practices.
b. A reassessment of the overall administrative needs of the Faculty
c. Initiatives by the Faculty to give recognition to excellence among its technical and
administrative staff.
d. Faculty initiatives to achieve timetable reform.
The Quality Office will revise the standard timetable for review visits to take into
account feedback from the Review Group and from the Dean.
Report to Údarás – Review of Faculty of Science 2005–2006
Approved by: Dean of Science Faculty, Dr. G Morgan, 4th May 2007
Approved by: Registrar, Professor J Browne, 18th May 2007
Approved by: Vice President for Research, Professor N. Canny, 15th May 2007
Approved by: Director of CELT, Dr. I. MacLabhrainn, 8th May 2007
Finalised: Jim Gosling, Director of Quality, 18th May 2007