The growth of inward jobs investment in Ireland is evidence that critics of the quality of Irish graduates are wrong, says the president of Maynooth University.
He will today launch a reformed curriculum aimed at producing graduates with an appreciation of many study disciplines for a changing economy and society.
While the main changes will take effect for new entrants in 2016, students beginning degrees at Maynooth this autumn will see more benefits in second year.
Much of the reform is aimed at addressing the needs of employers, following some criticism over recent years from industry figures about the quality of graduates.
“Some individuals are saying things with very little evidence to back it up,” he said.
“But the counter-side is that for every major expansion you get from medium-sized enterprise, or multi-nationals relocating here, it’s stated that we have got very high and diverse skills levels.
“If there was something wrong with Irish education system, we wouldn’t be getting the foreign direct investment. Some of the negative feedback is valid but we do produce good graduates by international standards.”
The number of CAO codes at the Co Kildare college will almost halve from just over 40 this year to about 24 in 2016, and will fall to about 20 by 2017. The idea of allowing students a broader entry programme, sampling different subjects in first-year before specialising, is being discussed by all universities since 2011.
However, Mr Nolan, who chairs an Irish Universities Association task force overseeing the changes, said Maynooth was the country’s fastest-growing university and was introducing its changes sooner than others, as well as other initiatives.
“Our size and structure also allow us to do things with our curriculum, like the ability to combine a language with any other degree, and also expanding the combinations that allow you study science and arts subjects, such as chemistry and economics, or biology and geography,” he said.
“University education in 2020 is going to be different from what it was in 1980. If you’re trying to have more students benefit, the outcome will be more diverse. Some people say it means standards are falling but my view is that it’s a different world.”
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