Department of Education inspectors will carry out evaluations on Teagasc and other agricultural colleges from next year, under a recently-signed agreement.
The inspectors normally conduct inspections at primary and second-level settings, but have already done pilot evaluations of teaching and learning in two colleges — at Ballyhaise College, Co Cavan, and the privately- owned Gurteen College in Roscrea, Co Tipperary earlier this year. It is one of three private colleges running Teagasc courses that are covered by the agreement.
More than 3,600 people are taught by Teagasc on full-time, part-time and distance education courses every year. The agriculture and food development authority already has a quality assurance programme, through an agreement with standards body Quality and Qualifications Ireland, but said it is introducing the whole-college evaluations as an additional measure, to guide education managers in continuously improving quality.
“The professional, independent nature of the evaluations are particularly valued by Teagasc. In recent years, Teagasc has seen almost a 150% increase in college enrolments, leading to a very substantial increase in student-to-staff ratios,” said director Prof Gerry Boyle. “It may be necessary to restrict student intake if quality is undermined.”
Department of Education chief inspector Harold Hislop said the inspectorate looks forward to co-operating with the authority as they work to improve standards of learning for agricultural college students.
The remaining four Teagasc and two private colleges — Clonakilty Agricultural College, Co Cork; Kildalton Agricultural and Horticultural College, Pilltown, Co Kilkenny; College of Amenity Horticulture, Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin; Teagasc eCollege; Mountbellew Agricultural College, Co Galway and Pallaskenry Agricultural College, Co Limerick (both private) — will undergo whole-college evaluations under the agreement which runs until 2016.
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