Watchdog to review how ITT degrees are validated

Ireland’s qualifications watchdog is to carry out a statutory review of the validation processes for postgraduate research degrees at Institute of Technology Tralee in light of the “unintentional” plagiarism in a thesis by the chairperson of the Institute’s governing body.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) yesterday announced the review after it had received a report from ITT into the Masters degree awarded in 2008 to Flan Garvey.

That report said there was plagiarism in the thesis, but that the plagiarism was unintentional, prompting QQI to launch its review of ITT’s validation processes for postgraduate research degrees, under the new Qualifications Act.

Three academics were appointed in December to probe the claims and found examples in two chapters of Mr Garvey’s thesis about his Co Clare parish.

It also found his degree was attained in a manner that was unjustified, but not fraudulent. However, Mr Garvey then referred the findings to an appeals committee, which found in his favour as college rules around plagiarism were not clearly formulated or clearly communicated to postgraduate students.

On that basis, it ruled that a finding of an award being unjustified would be unfair and inconsistent with due process in a case of “an unintentional and non-fraudulent infraction of an academic disciplinary rule.”

Yesterday, Karena Maguire, head of qualityassurance services at QQI, said the review would be wide-reaching.

“We have a responsibility under legislation for assuring the quality and standards of educational qualifications,” she said.

“This report raises concerns about the quality assurance procedures applied by ITT in making this particular award. However, its findings may have implications beyond the single award in question. In light of this, we intend to undertake a statutory review of postgraduate research degree validation and processes at the institute.”

QQI is responsible for reviewing the quality of further and higher education in the State. It took over the functions of the Higher Education and Training Awards Council, who awarded Mr Garvey his degree.

QQI’s responsibilities include external quality assurance of ITT, setting standards for the degrees of ITT and making research degree awards in ITT.


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