Experts to meet Tralee staff after plagiarism case

A team of leading academics will meet staff and students of Institute of Technology, Tralee (ITT) next month in a research degree review prompted by the plagiarism case of the college’s former chairman.

Experts to meet Tralee staff after plagiarism case

Flan Garvey stepped down from the role in July after controversy over his 2008 master of arts research thesis, on the history of his local parish, which was awarded on foot of his study at the college where he was governing body chair since 2001.

Following complaints last November by 26 ITT academics, a panel of international experts found there was unintentional plagiarism in the thesis of the former Fianna Fáil mayor of Clare. But an appeal committee rejected the finding that the degree was unjustified because it said the rules around plagiarism were not made clear.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), whose predecessor body awarded the MA degree, decided that issues raised in the inquiry warranted a college-wide review of how its research degrees are validated. The college had indicated that the investigation and appeal findings had wider implications, particularly for regulations on postgraduate study.

A self-evaluation report has been received from ITT and the review panel will visit the college in mid-October as part of its evaluation of how research degrees are operated and managed, and to recommend improvements.

The review goes beyond questions about Mr Garvey’s award or issues relating just to plagiarism, which were raised in the investigation of his case.

“The discovery of a failing in one area increases the probability that there may be other undetected deficiencies,” say the review terms of reference.

The six-approved research masters and five PhD research degrees programmes at ITT may be examined. Around five or six people receive postgraduate awards at the college each year, although the number that are research degrees is not clear.

The review process allows for staff and students on research degree programmes to be interviewed, in addition to meetings at the college.

The panel can recommend that validation of a degree be withdrawn, on grounds that might include non-compliance with conditions or no longer meeting criteria for validation.

A QQI spokesperson said the review panel is due to report its findings in the weeks following the visit, which will be published after consideration by QQI.

The panel are: Richard O’Kennedy, professor of biological sciences at Dublin City University; David Timms, higher education consultant and professor of English at Bath University; Prof Veronica Campbell of Trinity College Dublin’s school of medicine and Dr Nicole Foeger, director of the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has yet to announce a replacement for Mr Garvey as chair of ITT’s governing body.

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