Smaller classes in ITs but university staff more qualified

The 14 institutes of technology have the smallest classes and most non-traditional students but universities have higher-qualified staff and generate far more research income.

These are some of the trends that emerge from the first detailed profiles of all publicly funded colleges.

While avoiding a system of league tables like those done by international ranking systems, which it says are inappropriate for evaluating performance, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) lists a range of statistics for each college. They include a dozen headings and various sub-categories, which include numbers and proportions of:

* Student by course level;

* Learners on courses under subject headings, eg arts, science, health and welfare, education;

* Flexible learners (part-time, distance, and elearning);

* Mature, disabled, and disadvantaged student.

Each college’s figures also show breakdowns of staff, finances including income sources, and research citations and funding. They allow easy comparison between institutions under each heading.

For example, University College Dublin is the most internationalised of the universities with 15% of full-time students from overseas. But its 8% of full-time undergraduates aged over 23 is the lowest of all seven universities, and compares to almost one in five mature students among NUI Maynooth’s degree students.

There are wide differences, as would be expected, between the three groups of colleges: the seven universities, 14 institutes of technology, and six publicly funded institutes that include teacher-training colleges, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and the National College of Art & Design.

The figures are for the academic year 2010/11 but the HEA plans to publish equivalent data for 2011/12 early next year and on an annual basis going forward. It will add or amend some of the indicators based on feedback from colleges and other interested groups.

One of the main purposes is to use the data as benchmarks against which the HEA and colleges themselves can set targets and measure progress.

By the end of February, each third-level institution should have reached agreement with the HEA on its role in the continuing implementation of the Government’s higher education strategy.

“The profiles are extremely useful in the context of our discussions with institutions, because they demonstrate where they are strong, where they are weak, and where they are projecting themselves three years from now,” said HEA chief executive Tom Boland.

In addition, he said, they will be of use to students, parents, guidance counsellors, business, and academia as a guide to the performance of Irish higher education by giving, for example, a sense of how projected demand for places will be met.

“It will show what is happening vis-a-vis meeting the equity of access agenda. It will show, in terms of the institutions’ ambitions, what is likely to happen in terms of research and innovation,” Mr Boland said.

* The institutional profiles are published from today on hea.ie



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