13 colleges on what first years can expect and what sets them apart

13 colleges on what first years can expect and what sets them apart

Helen O'Callaghan asks 13 colleges how they plan to make their newest students feel welcome,what they feel sets these colleges apart, and whether they've got any new courses on offer this year.

It seems only yesterday they sat the Leaving Certificate and now in a matter of weeks they’ll head onto third-level campuses countrywide. Excited, full of anticipation, yet feeling daunted too — so what are colleges doing to ease the transition for this year’s freshers?

Here, we talk to 13 third-level institutions, asking how they plan to integrate the new arrivals; how will they make them feel welcome? Has the college any unique programme offerings? And what sets the college apart?

Wateford IT: Big welcome for first years

From helping students feel welcome and connected to assisting them to know themselves better so they’re more likely to pick the right programme — it’s all about giving freshers the opportunity to ask questions at WIT.

The institute’s ‘Just Ask’ stand is a perfect embodiment of this ‘all questions welcome’ approach. Manned by current WIT students and dotted around campus as soon as induction/orientation begins, it will give freshers the chance to ask anything from questions about fees to where a particular classroom’s located.

“Answers will be from the student perspective and not from the institutional — in talking to another student, they’re talking the same language,” says Dr Derek O’Byrne, registrar and vice-president for academic affairs.

The seven-week ‘StartWIT’ orientation programme assists freshers with transitioning to third level. It ranges across the whole student experience — with social, study and support sessions, all to get students familiar with the WIT social/educational set-up, make new friends and settle in.

The programme’s run in conjunction with the Students Union and student support services.

“It’s about building academic awareness and the social welfare of students, to create a sense of belonging and community,” comments Dr O’Byrne, adding that orientation will feature activities — anything from sumo wrestling to evening events — to help newcomers engage.

Students at WIT who worked on the Lampbot project.
Students at WIT who worked on the Lampbot project.

“Activities will also happen at course level, keeping a class group together. They might play football, go to the beach or do orienteering. A lot of stuff like scavenger hunts happens around this time. So students find themselves easily talking to others and integrating into college life.”

WIT has recently been offering more choice and flexibility in a broad entry programme, across all disciplines, allowing students make career choices later in the programme when they’re more informed.

“Some students know at 18 they want to be an accountant. Others ‘think’ they ‘might’ want to go into business. And it’s only when you get into third-level you realise the range of choices you have.”

With the ‘Just Ask’ approach, Dr O’Byrne says the aim is to engage students to find out more about themselves, so they’re more likely to pick the right programme.

“So if a student says ‘I can’t do Business because I don’t like Maths’, we can explain ‘actually, that’s not the kind of Maths you need’. We want students informed and making good choices.”

WIT marks its 50th birthday in 2020 so this year’s freshers — over 2,000 arrive in September — are going to be on-site for all sorts of celebrations. Meanwhile, in other news, Internet of things and electronic engineering students — working on emerging area of social robotics — have created a ‘Lampbot’, a robotic friend “socially acceptable in a home environment”.

They did so by combining physical build of a robotic arm and Google’s chatbot technology with a domestic lamp. It not only has all the answers but can “read human emotions and expressions and respond accordingly with its own body language using its movement, eyes and head dress”.

Great addition to Ireland’s educational landscape

TU Dublin, Ireland’s first Technological University, is an exciting milestone in Irish higher education. With campuses in Dublin City, Tallaght and Blanchardstown, it builds on the rich heritage of its founding organisations: DIT, IT Blanchardstown and IT Tallaght. It’s the only Irish university offering programmes from Level 6 to PhD and the only one providing apprenticeship training.

TU Dublin has strong links with industry – many students complete work placement as part of their degree. This prepares them for the working world plus gives them an edge on the job hunt. TU Dublin’s top 10 employers are LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, PwC, AIB, Intel and Big Four accountancy firms, and this year’s freshers, accompanied by TU Dublin graduate, will get the chance to go on employer visits. “It’ll give a sense of the skills they’ll be developing here,” says Dr Brian Gormley, head of campus life at TU Dublin.

It’s just one initiative that’ll make the college’s new arrivals – about 6,000 of them – feel supported and that they matter. From the 150 orientation student leaders doing icebreakers to help them settle in, to online quizzes they can click into on their smartphone, plenty thought has been put into seeing it from the newbies’ perspective.

The Dance Society Hip Hop crew at TU Dublin won the inter-varsity this year for the second time.
The Dance Society Hip Hop crew at TU Dublin won the inter-varsity this year for the second time.

“One quiz question we ask is: ‘what are you most nervous about?’ Perhaps moving to Dublin, making new friends or getting to grips with their programme. Everybody’s nervous about something and they see they’re not alone,” explains Dr Gormley.

Last year, over 1,000 parents attended parents’ information evenings, with 99% reporting they’d recommend it to another parent.

“We explain that TU Dublin deals directly with students. We outline supports available to students.

So if their child gets into difficulty, the parent knows what support they can send them to – if struggling with Maths, they can say ‘why don’t you go to the Maths Learning Centre’, if struggling to settle into their programme, they can talk to their peer mentor.

Five parent information evenings run during last week of August, ahead of orientation. With 400 fulltime mature students hitting campus in September, a family day for these students will see them bring their children for fun activities.

“So they know where Mum/Dad is during the day. Very often, mature students are the first in their family to go to college. If families understand the academic calendar, the year’s pressure points around exams, the student’s more likely to do well,” says Dr Gormley.

Smart Consent training around sexual consent is part of orientation this year for freshers. Developed by a NUI Galway team for third-level students, the programme’s “very interactive, led by trained students and creates discussion points about what’s appropriate behaviour”.

This academic year features the move to Grangegorman campus – by September 2020, 10,000 students will be based on the sprawling campus. And last March, the college officially opened CONNECT (Student Services Building, Blanchardstown Campus). Now, academic decision-makers and key service-providers are on one site. Before CONNECT, these functions were dispersed around campus – challenging for students.

The message now is: ‘If you have a query, go to CONNECT. The people who can help are all there’.

IT Carlow: Induction programme is a big hit with new students

IT Carlow’s virtual induction programme will give prompts to freshers during the first crucial weeks of semester – ‘Do you know where all your classrooms are?’ ‘Do you know all your lecturers’ names?’ ‘Have you got your accommodation sorted?’ – in a bid to ease the third level transition.

The Teaching and Learning Centre rolled out the online Academic Success programme for all learners three years ago and it has “been very well met”, says vice-president for student affairs David Denieffe.

Comprising three online modules, it’s designed to help students, new to higher education, to prepare for the academic/social changes they’ll meet, equipping them with key skills/knowledge to take full advantage of their third-level experience.

A self-directed programme, it can be accessed through IT Carlow’s virtual learning platform, on any device. Students can pace/track their own learning and complete the integrated activities as often as they wish. Upon successfully completing each module, learners are eligible for an approved certificate of achievement, recognised by the Teaching and Learning Centre. Since its introduction, there has been consistent increase in uptake – many lecturers now embed it in programmes as part of assessment.

Around 1,200 students are expected to join IT Carlow this autumn and they’ll be interested in TLC Student Hub, also on the virtual learning platform. Designed to support all learners, it’s a central platform where they can access resources and support material on academic skills, referencing, critical thinking, academic integrity, effective reading and note taking. It’s proving an invaluable resource for all students during their IT Carlow years.

Students at IT Carlow, a college with a proud reputation for sports.
Students at IT Carlow, a college with a proud reputation for sports.

The Institute currently ranks as the second-largest of Ireland’s 11 institutes of technology with 8,500 learners and 850 staff. It has the highest percentage of fulltime postgraduates and the highest undergraduate progression rate at Level 8 in the technological sector. It also has the highest percentage of Lifelong Learners in the higher education sector.

“Even as we’ve grown, we’ve managed to retain a sense of community, a feeling of connectedness,” says Mr Denieffe, adding that most students hail from the South East, though increasingly they’re drawn from across Ireland, especially when it comes to specialist courses.

New courses this autumn include the BSc (honours) in Tourism and Event Management, BSc (Honours) Computing in Interactive Digital Art and Design, BSc (Honours) in Digital Marketing with Analytics and the BSc (Honours) in Pharmaceutics and Drug Formulation.

Also of interest to freshers will be the new IT Carlow Employment and Employability Guide (https://www.itcarlow.ie/study/employment-employability-guide.htm). It tackles tricky topics like ‘earn as you learn’ and ‘what employers want’. The micro-site also gives samples of key employability attributes and how they’re embedded in the various IT Carlow courses.

Maynooth University: Freshers welcome intensive week of orientation

Maynooth University (MU) MU is planning an intensive week of orientation (September 16-20) for its 3,250 freshers and key to this is the new student orientation programme — My Maynooth.

A year-long programme managed by the student engagement office, it divides the academic year into five distinct phases, targeting new students with timely information and advice. This information spans a broad range: subject choices at start of year, practical elements of college life, meeting new friends and joining clubs/societies, preparing for assignments/exams, learning about key student services and eventually the jump into second year.

My Maynooth’s core endeavour is to provide wide-ranging opportunities for students to connect with fellow students, knowing these networks support a positive college experience.

Aside from peer-to-peer connections, MU wants to connect freshers to the many support services available to them — Student Health Centre, Counselling and Student Budgeting Advice, as well as academic supports, e.g. Academic Advisory Office and Programme Advisory Office. (Visit www.maynoothuniversity.ie/mymaynooth).

Another trio of supports comes in the form of the Maths Support Centre, English Writing Centre and Computer Coding Centre, where students guided by more senior students, will be helped to work out any academic problems.

Students in the laboratories at Maynooth University.
Students in the laboratories at Maynooth University.

“For example, if you’re doing Computer Science and you want to learn how to code in Java, you’ll be guided in the coding protocols at the Computer Coding Centre by a more senior student,” explains admissions officer and assistant registrar Dr John McGinnity.

Freshers coming onto Arts, Science and Business degree courses have the first four weeks of first year to choose their subjects.

“We have 36 subject offerings in Arts for example — students choose up to four in First Year and typically two in second and in third year. This gives a flavour of the degree of flexibility,” says Dr McGinnity, adding that while some colleges require students to choose subjects at CAO application, an Arts student at MU has complete freedom for first four weeks of term to sit into any subject they like across the entire Arts offering as they make their choices.

It’s now standard practice for students to decide — at beginning of second year — the proportion of each subject they wish to take to degree level: whether both subjects in equal proportion or a major/minor where they do more of one subject (40 credits) and less of another (20 credits). This continues the flexibility ethos, with second years having two weeks at the beginning of term to decide proportions.

New MU courses this autumn include the BSc in Data Science, the BSc in Quantitative Finance, the BSc in Maths and Computer Science (with Education) and Media & Cultural Studies, a new subject in the Arts faculty.

Limerick Institute of Technology: College signs unique contract with the GAA

Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) and Limerick GAA signed a major 10-year partnership this spring, unique in Ireland.

The move comes at a time when Limerick GAA headquarters are to be substantially redeveloped and opened up to the community, including a new plaza-type area and new stadium facilities.

  • The partnership builds on the historically close relationship between the two organisations and brings many mutual advantages:

  • Dedicated scholarship scheme for Limerick GAA Club members to attend LIT;
  • Limerick GAA internships and work experience for LIT students in sports coaching, event management and marketing;
  • LIT support for Limerick GAA clubs;
  • Use of LIT campus facilities by Limerick GAA teams/administration;
  • Use of GAA grounds as ‘Living Lab’ for LIT students for educational/other purposes;
  • Re-naming of Gaelic Grounds to LIT Gaelic Grounds.

In other developments, the new LIT Ennis Campus opens this September — Level 8 and 7 degree programmes in Social Care Work, Early Childhood Education & Care, Business, and Creative Media and Design will be offered here in 2020 through CAO. It’s part of LIT’s family of campuses — two in Tipperary (Thurles and Clonmel) and two in Limerick City (Moylish and Clare Street), as well as a new engineering-focused campus currently under development at Coonagh, Limerick and set to open later this year.

LIT has also invested over €1m in student scholarships over the last five years, ensuring higher education accessibility through financial support to more than 100 students. In the 2018/2019 academic year, 45 students received scholarships.

Shane Malone, LIT marketing and communications manager, points to what will be of immediate interest and relevance to the 6,500-7,500 students arriving at the Institute on September 4: Engage, which supports students’ transition to and retention in third level.

  • Mr Malone outlines the themed weeks that will scaffold students through their first eight weeks:

  • Sept 4: Welcome Week.
  • Sept 10: Engage with your college life — Clubs and Societies Week.
  • September 17: Fresher’s Fair — Class Representative Week and Money Matters Week.
  • September 24: Academic Support Week.
  • October 1: Health & Wellness Week (diet, fitness, sexual health and consent).
  • October 8: Mental Health Week. World Mental Health Day.
  • Oct 10-15: Student Volunteer Week/Careers Fair.
  • October 22: LIT Student Supports Week.

NUIG: Galway's proud history of human rights commitment

NUI Galway has been home to the International Human Rights Centre for over 30 years and the university’s School of Law is launching a new degree — Law and Human Rights — the first programme of its kind in Ireland.

“We have a very strong background in human rights law and the new degree builds on NUI Galway’s reputation in this area,” says Caroline Duggan, the university’s school liaison officer.

The course has 15 places and students will be well positioned, following graduation, for work in international human rights law, policy or legal practice — they can pursue opportunities with international organisations, UN bodies or development agencies. They could also opt to do professional legal training as a solicitor (with Law Society of Ireland) or as a barrister (with the King’s Inns).

Among other new courses launching at NUI Galway this autumn is the BA Education (Computer Science, and Mathematical Studies), a four year concurrent initial teacher education programme — graduates will be eligible to teach computer science and mathematics. The new BA in History and Globalisation Studies is offered for the first time and examines the forces that shaped our globalised world. It will prepare students for careers in business, diplomacy, education, the non-governmental sector, public service, the heritage industries and publishing.

The BA in Government, Politics, Economics and Law completes the suite of new programmes. It’s aimed at students interested in how government works, in how public policy can be improved and in understanding how politics, economics and law combine to produce public and social policy.

Orientation week

Orientation week for more than 3,000 freshers begins on September 2 and it will also include Fáilte Fest 2019.

“It’s a social programme providing opportunities for students to get to know one another, find out what services are available to them, get a taste of their academic course and take campus tours,” says Ms Duggan, adding that campus will be in “full fun mode” between 1-7pm on September 4 for the Big Fun Fest.

  • Also aiding the transition to third level is a series of themed weeks:

  • September 9: Get on track week.
  • September 16: Get involved week.
  • September 23: Get active week.
  • September 30: Skills Week.
  • October 7: Wellbeing Week.

NUI Galway celebrates its 175th birthday in 2020 and with Galway City designated European Capital of Culture in 2020, the 2019 cohort of students will be arriving at a very exciting time. “There’ll be lots of events planned for both the campus and the city of Galway,” says Ms Duggan.

Cork IT: College works with students to improve life on campus

William Carey works in AnSEO — the Student Engagement Office at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT).

On sabbatical from the UK, he joined the institute last year and says he’s “blown away” by how students and staff all pull together and learn from each other, ensuring a supportive environment for new and returning students.

“It has been super to see the way in which staff across different teams work alongside students to improve so many areas of campus life.

"I’m keen to share what CIT is doing with colleagues in the UK — it really does its utmost to ensure students feel they matter and belong in practical ways, while also challenging them to be their ‘best self’ and develop a range of core competencies,” says Mr Carey.

His words underline CIT’s recognition — nationally and internationally — as a leader in many areas of student engagement, progression and success.

Commitment to enhancing first year saw CIT invited to host the 13th European First Year Experience Conference in June, welcoming 400+ delegates from over 20 countries to campus to learn ways to ensure new students have a rich, rewarding time across their first and subsequent years of study.

Avril O'Driscoll, Karrie McCarthy and Nadine Hayden from the Nutrition Society at the Cork Institute of Technology Societies Day in the Bishopstown Campus. Pic Darragh Kane
Avril O'Driscoll, Karrie McCarthy and Nadine Hayden from the Nutrition Society at the Cork Institute of Technology Societies Day in the Bishopstown Campus. Pic Darragh Kane

A key element of this is the Institute’s flagship Good Start programme — induction with a twist: it’s ongoing and takes place beyond the start of term. Developed by returning students, it meets freshers’ needs, addressing issues in a timely way, with info on ‘Getting Connected’, ‘Health and Wellbeing’, ‘Managing your study and social life’, ‘Preparing for Assessments’ and ‘Understanding Exam Results’.

“The programme’s always changing, because it’s shaped by students. The step into third-level is inspiring, exciting and daunting at times, but always hopeful — hopeful of what’s possible when students and staff work together, in partnership,” says head of student affairs Dr Dan Collins, adding that a current key aim of the Institute is to implement good programmes around the area of consent.

On the academic and course front, CIT has three new level 8 programmes — the honours degree in Automotive Business Management and Technology responds to a dual need in the automotive sector: rapid technological developments alongside an ongoing skills shortage.

Musical Theatre’s a new programme at CIT Cork School of Music — it offers the ‘triple-treat’ areas of dance, acting, and singing, along with musical theatre ensemble, repertoire & context, and an extensive menu of theatre electives. Photography with New Media (Crawford College of Art & Design and Bishopstown campus) blends photography, video and new media to prepare students to work creatively/flexibly in a variety of photography, video and media-related areas.

UCC: Global leader in education

University College Cork (UCC) is ranked in the top 2% of universities worldwide and is the only Irish university to feature in the top 50 Times Higher Education European University Teaching Rankings.

The university’s employment rate for undergraduates stands at 94%, while over 26% of its undergraduate intake comprises mature students, those with disabilities and non-traditional students.

This, says first year experience coordinator Nóirín Deady, demonstrates UCC’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. UCC’s also the first Green Campus University in the world with a student-led programme to reduce waste and emissions.

UCC’s big story in autumn 2019 is the opening of the new Student Hub Building. Also big is Bystander Intervention training — it’ll be delivered to all first year students during orientation.

“The aim is to develop a zero tolerance approach to unacceptable verbal and physical interactions generally, but also within the context of intimate relationships and to highlight every student’s role in contributing to a safe, supportive environment,” explains Ms Deady.

The university will offer a Graduate Attributes programme in September. This will further develop students’ academic, specialist and technical competencies, equipping them with transferrable skills that can be applied in different environments. The focus is on developing core values and graduate attributes.

Orientation Week at University College Cork, which currently employs almost 2,800 staff and supports 15,000 jobs. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.
Orientation Week at University College Cork, which currently employs almost 2,800 staff and supports 15,000 jobs. Photo: Tomas Tyner, UCC.

“Initiatives will integrate with the academic curriculum, taking a holistic educational approach to develop character, professionalism and capacity for critical and creative thought. UCC graduates will be recognised as well-rounded, curious, self-aware — individuals who continually learn new skills, are open to new ideas and make things happen,” says Ms Deady.

With 3,700 freshers expected on campus, UCC prides itself on throwing a fantastic welcome festival for them. “Orientation’s a great way to meet classmates and staff before lectures begin. Over 350 trained Peer Support Leaders — current UCC students — will welcome first years.”

Freshers Fest on September 7 is dedicated to welcoming first years, their families and friends to campus for the day.

“Campus is abuzz with lots of celebrations, music, theatre and workshops — on health and wellbeing, academic performance and IT — as well as Library and facilities tours. The day ends with the Students’ Union Disorientation Ball — always great fun.” September 9 kicks off Fresher’s week, which is packed with more welcome events — e.g. freshers can explore 160 clubs/societies and join as many as they like!

Course-wise, the new four year degree programme in Agricultural Science is set to yield highly-employable graduates for the agri-food sector — they’ll also have opportunities for further postgraduate study in Science, Agriculture and Business.

Delivered by UCC in partnership with Teagasc Moorpark, the programme will give students a strong foundation in the core scientific, economic, environmental and sustainable principles underpinning farmland and livestock practice.

GMIT: Health takes centre stage for student life this year

Health and wellness is a key focus in the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) new strategic plan (2019-’23) and feeding right into this is the Institute’s new staff choir, GMIT Voices, which set up just this year.

Comprising approximately 110 staff who meet twice weekly, even forgoing lunch hour to practice, it has been “absolutely transformative” in terms of increasing morale around GMIT, says acting president Michael Hannan.

“It was a staff initiative that management absolutely supported. GMIT Voices won a regional choir competition, having just been formed, and they performed during the launch of our strategic plan in presence of Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor. She got up and joined in the singing,” says Mr Hannan, adding that the venture has been so successful moves are now afoot to set up a student choir.

“It all supports health and wellness and puts a positive vibe across campus.”

With 2,000 students accepting a GMIT place through CAO each year, the Institute has a ‘First Five Weeks’ orientation programme that continually adapts to suit changing needs of students year to year.

We’re now embedding active consent workshops into the ‘First Five Weeks’ induction – all first years will get an opportunity to engage with that.

In terms of infrastructure, GMIT is investing €1m in an IT upgrade across all campuses and it’s investing €2m in refurbishment of its Mayo campus – new vice-president Professor Neville McClenaghane, was appointed there in February. “His key priority will be to develop a strategic plan for the Mayo campus aligned to the Institute’s strategy to ensure continued sustainability of that campus,” says Mr Hannan.

An Equality, Diversity and Inclusion manager has just been appointed at GMIT – a key target for the next year is to prepare the Institute’s application for submission for an Athena SWAN bronze award in November 2020.

GMIT is currently placing big focus on development of Masters programmes – with three new ones this autumn: Design & Innovation, Applied Marine Research and Palliative & End of Life Care. The Institute has just been awarded €2.2m to deliver 14 HEA-funded Springboard courses from September.

DCU: Eight online courses to help freshers to settle in

“I feel much more relaxed and comfortable now entering DCU — I know what to expect. It helped me to get over some of the nerves” — one fresher’s comment after completing the first stage (pre-orientation) of Discover Dublin City University (DCU).

A series of eight interactive online courses (60 minutes each) designed to help freshers settle in, Discover DCU introduces them to tools/skills required to succeed at university. Packed with helpful tips/advice, it’s divided into two stages: Pre-orientation (DCU’s the first university to offer pre-orientation online courses for incoming students) and Learning Skills:

  • Pre-orientation (three courses):
  • Discover DCU (expectations about DCU/getting off on right foot)
  • Discover your Community (different ways of getting involved — clubs/societies)
  • Discover Technology (the university systems)
  • Learning Skills (five courses):
  • Discover Organisational Skills
  • Discover Study Skills
  • Discover Research Skills
  • Discover Assignment Writing
  • Discover Exam Success.

Though not compulsory, 1,000 students completed at least one Discover DCU course during month one of the 2018-’19 academic year — 2,000 courses were completed during the year.

DCU (set to celebrate 40 years in 2020) was named Dublin’s leading university for graduate employment this year and in the top two of universities nationwide. HEA figures confirmed 79% of graduates find employment within six months of leaving college/are due to start a job within next three months. DCU president Professor Brian MacCraith said the results were very encouraging, demonstrating programmes relevant for today’s economy and highly sought-after graduates, ready with skills/knowledge for the world of work.

The Bachelor of Education (Irish Sign Language) is new at DCU, unique in Ireland and enables deaf and hard-of-hearing people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) to enter primary teaching. Its first cohort of students starts this September.

Students at O'Reilly Library on the Glasnevin campus of Dublin City University, which has a student population of around 16,000.
Students at O'Reilly Library on the Glasnevin campus of Dublin City University, which has a student population of around 16,000.

Also new at DCU is the Post Primary Teacher Education — Gaeilge and French/German/Spanish degree. Academic and professional formation of the teacher is integrated into the four-year programme.

It qualifies graduates to teach second-level Gaeilge plus another language and aims to meet the current post-primary language teacher shortage — graduates will be highly sought after.

Meanwhile, DCU senior student recruitment officer Colette O’Beirne points to the brand new ‘public realm space’ set to be complete at start of semester one. “It’s right in the heart of campus and has beautiful trees, planting and seating areas. It will enhance the campus ambience and facilitate public life and interaction.”

UCD: Exciting year on horizon

Sports tours have always featured at UCD’s fresher orientation – new arrivals might meet the ladies’ football team, visit the trampoline club or have a look at the pool.

Now the Healthy UCD Team has a new goal: to ‘mainstream’ the idea of wellbeing throughout campus for students and staff. “There’ll be learning events through the year, discounted exercise schemes for staff and healthy eating week with loads of talks and demos, as a few examples,” says UCD marketing manager Lisa Flannery.

Traditional sports tours have been re-named ‘sport and wellbeing tours’, with conversations woven in about aspects of wellbeing.

“Wellbeing is a notion around lifestyle – building in actions to counterbalance the stresses/strains that are part of life,” explains Ms Flannery, adding that health encompasses being active, mindful, getting/giving help, continued learning, eating healthily and connecting with other people.

On the sports and wellbeing tour, students will be shown sports clubs, facilities and gym and also spoken to about these other aspects of wellness so they have a good grounding.

Similarly, 600 peer mentors – trained and matched to small groups of first years and guiding them through their early days on campus – will also have received wellbeing training sessions.

This will result in “a more rounded view of wellbeing [coupled with] language they can use about it when interacting with mentees, aiming for a ‘trickle down’ effect”. www.ucd.ie/healthyucd

In recent years, UCD has developed a ‘student desk connector’: online interface for students to input queries, get directed to answers online and – if further information’s needed – submit a query and get a response within 24 hours (www.ucd.ie/students/studentdesk/contact). “[With] student feedback very positive, it has now been extended to all applicants/incoming students, as well as existing students. It’s a great place to start with questions,” says Ms Flannery.

UCD students broadcasting from the Radio Pod in the college's student centre.
UCD students broadcasting from the Radio Pod in the college's student centre.

Students are also encouraged to pop into the ‘student desk’ at UCD Registry at any stage – a friendly drop-in service for face-to-face queries about anything from admissions, registration, fees and grants to official documentation, assessments and exams.

This year, UCD for ALL (Access and Lifelong Learning) will run ‘ALL student welcome’ – integrated sessions for all students who enter through pathways of HEAR, DARE, Mature entry, QQI/FET, University Access and Open Learning. About 850 new students will participate. Practical sessions are designed around confidence-building, making friends and knowing where to ask for help. This gives students a head-start before orientation the following week.

Plus, QS has ranked UCD number one in Ireland for Graduate Employability for the 2nd consecutive year:(www.thinkbigger.ucd.ie/employability/).

Trinity College Dublin: Phase two of new education project

At Trinity College Dublin (TCD), phase two of the Trinity Education Project gets underway in September with students in any Arts/Humanities/Social Sciences subject getting the opportunity to take modules outside their discipline. So a History student might take modules in Economics, Philosophy or English Literature.

It gives students exposure to subjects with very different ways of thinking, enabling them to see different perspectives on a problem, says dean of undergraduate studies Dr Kevin Mitchell.

“It raises awareness that there are multiple ways of thinking about things. It’s a consciousness-raiser.” Also starting this year are the Trinity Elective series of modules – newly-generated, interdisciplinary modules that draw together people from different disciplines in the college.

Examples of the modules include Cancer: The Patient Journey, Japanese Language & Culture, Ethics Lab (about responsible action in the real world) and Art of the Megacity. This year, Science students can avail of the modules followed by Arts/Humanities students in September 2020.

“We really hope they’ll be an eye-opener,” says Dr Mitchell.

A student may be sitting in class with a Science, Business or Drama student. We believe the dynamics in that class and the exposure to all these different ways of thinking about a problem will raise awareness of the breadth of knowledge that can be applied to different issues.

All TCD students do the Capstone Project in their final year – an independent piece of research in the lab or library or a performance endeavour, a big body of independent work.

“This is when students really get brought to the cutting edge of their discipline and where TCD being a research-intensive university – the only Irish member of LERU (League of European Research Universities) – really pays off for the student. They’ll have been getting lectures from people at the forefront of their field. Capstone is the student’s chance to really do it – to really be a practising economist, historian or neuroscientist.”

Meanwhile, the Columbia Dual Degree programme is a partnership of TCD and Columbia University, New York, an Ivy League college.

“Students do first two years at Trinity and the final two at Columbia, with ongoing collaboration between the two.”

New discipline options are now being added to this programme – Film, History, History of Art and Architecture, Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology.

Freshers will feel well supported by TCD’s tutor system – each student has designated tutor, an academic staff member appointed to look after their general welfare/development, their very own go-to person throughout their degree. Trinity has a rich tradition of clubs/societies – everything from judo to debating, from music societies to players’ theatre, some of which go back centuries.

IT Tralee’s future plans

A recent Construction Federation of Ireland report showed over 10,000 new workers joined the construction industry in 2018, with similar growth predicted in 2019. The new BSc in Construction Management is therefore a timely addition to ITT programmes.

“Construction Management graduates are highly sought after in Ireland – there’s currently a shortage of suitably qualified construction managers,” says assistant registrar/head of student engagement Aileen Kennedy.

Also new is the BSc in International Agricultural Engineering (one year add-on), a collaborative course delivered in ITT, University of Bologna in Italy and University of Burgundy and AgroSupDijon in France. Students on this one-year programme will access world-class facilities and new agriculture technology across Ireland, Italy and France, and will complete an international internship.

Freshers at ITT can look forward to an extensive orientation/induction programme across institute and department levels, with four themed weeks: Welcome Week, Get involved Week, Health and Wellbeing Week and Academic Success Week. Included in Welcome Week is a parent info evening.

Meanwhile, students on the BSc in Coaching and Sports Development programme and those on the Institutes suite of Health and Leisure programmes will be taught in ITT’s brand new €19 million Kerry Sports Academy from September.

With CIT, ITT continues to work towards achieving Technological University designation and creating the Munster Technological University (MTU). The MTU consortium submitted an application for designation as a TU in February 2019.

The submission was evaluated in May by an International Ministerial Advisory Panel, who also met with students and staff from the Institutes, as well as a range of community and industry stakeholders. The outcome of the process is awaited and it’s hoped to launch MTU in early 2020.

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