UCC receives seal of approval from QQI
University College Cork (UCC) has successfully completed an institution-wide review as part of quality checks conducted by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the state agency responsible for ensuring that further education and training and higher education providers maintain their internal quality assurance systems.
An independent team of national and international experts completed a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the QA system of the university, recognising instances of good practice which deliver impact for students and staff, and making recommendations on areas for improvement in the coming years. The main review visit in UCC saw a welcome return to on-site reviews following the public health restrictions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. The resulting quality review report has now been published by Quality and Qualifications Ireland.
The university was recognised for its activities in a number of areas including:
- its approach to developing a new strategic plan. and for the enthusiasm generated among staff and students in the development of its new strategic plan. The consultative, transparent and motivating approach taken by the university’s leadership generated an obvious enthusiasm among staff and students.
- its commitment to and track-record of achievement in sustainability, and the ongoing whole institution approach to embedding the UN Sustainable Development Goals in research, innovation, learning, teaching and university life at UCC.
- the role of the First Year Experience Coordinator in detecting and supporting students who may be at risk of dropping out of programmes, and the combined impact of the Skills Centre, the First Year Experience Coordinator and student support services generally on the retention of undergraduate students and the quality of the international student experience.
- the range, quality and responsiveness of support services made available to Access students by the UCC’s Access and Widening Participation functions, and their sector-leading work on the use of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to promote access to higher education.
- the degree to which external stakeholders in industry and civic society appreciate UCC’s openness and willingness to engage with all stakeholders, adding value to Cork, the Munster region and beyond.
The expert panel also made a number of recommendations for improvements by the institution:
- In recognising the ambition of the new UCC Strategic Plan, it is recommended that UCC set sufficient income growth targets which include substantial non-exchequer components. The developing financial model should prioritise ‘quick wins’ to boost university income, such as the development of high-volume economic-fee-based postgraduate taught programmes informed by market research.
- UCC’s strategic goal of increasing the number of postgraduate (particularly PhD) students should be more coherently elaborated (including clearly specified targets, timelines and implementation mechanisms) and should avoid over-reliance on exchequer funding.
- the size of the President’s Strategic Fund should be reviewed and benchmarked against other research-intensive universities and adjusted accordingly.
- UCC should seek to maximise the value of its significant investment in IT systems and data-capture with the development of a data strategy for the university to support data-driven decision making and quality enhancement at all levels within the university.
- the university should (i) update its published governance scheme to clarify accountability and associated decision-making workflows and (ii) develop a system for ongoing monitoring of the implementation of university policies and procedures across the colleges to identify potential inconsistencies in their application and, where appropriate, to remedy these.
Speaking on the publication of the report, Professor Joanne Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Sydney, who chaired the UCC review team said,
“The Review team was hugely impressed by UCC’s journey to date, and by the bold and ambitious strategy that it has set out towards 2028. All sections of the UCC community expressed support for the strategy and its development. The Review team found the culture of UCC to be supportive and firmly grounded in principles of fairness, transparency and collegiality. This, the high quality of the leadership team and the fact that all the documentation examined by the Review team was evidence-based and reflective should give confidence that UCC provides a top quality educational environment and an increasingly impactful research output. It was an honour to be part of this Review and I have brought many ideas back to Sydney, especially around the excellent support provided to students.”
Responding to the publication of the report, Professor John O’Halloran, UCC President said,
"UCC is delighted to receive its Institutional Review Report and we welcomed particularly the constructive engagement of the Review Panel throughout the site visit, their expertise and care in their evaluation of the university's activities and achievements to date. The report has identified 39 areas of commendation overall including: the new Strategic Plan which is described as “ambitious and considered”; our sector leading practice for the engagement of Student Reviewers; the Good Practice Symposium; and the culture of quality enhancement evidenced at all levels of governance, policy and procedures. People and culture are central to the continued development of UCC, and we are particularly pleased that the contribution of all UCC staff is reflected in the final commendation “external stakeholders in industry and civic society appreciate UCC’s openness and willingness to engage at all levels, and the value that UCC adds to Cork, the Munster region and beyond.” The team also identified 17 recommendations for future action, the majority of which are already reflected in the University's new Strategic Plan Securing our Future and will be addressed fully throughout strategy implementation process as well as ongoing institutional work. I would like to thank all external stakeholders, students, and staff for their fulsome engagement with the review process. I want to acknowledge the work of UCC's Institutional Review Group in coordinating our self-evaluation and submission and thank also colleagues at QQI for their expertise and support throughout."
Dr Padraig Walsh commended UCC on its engagement with the Cinnte review process,
“QQI's Cinnte review cycle is an important tool in monitoring and safeguarding the quality of Irish higher education, and the completion of this process by UCC, particularly in the context of returning to on-site reviews, is a significant milestone. QQI commends UCC for its engagement with the review process which has provided insights into UCC’s achievements and also recommendations which outline a clear pathway for UCC to amplify its successes and sustain its momentum.”
Cinnte reviews are one element of the broader quality framework for institutions which also includes Quality Assurance Guidelines; each institution’s Quality Assurance Procedures; and Dialogue Meetings.
The Cinnte review cycle runs from 2017-2024, having been extended by a year to include four newly established technological universities. During this period, QQI has been organising and overseeing independent reviews of each of the universities, technological universities and institutes of technology.