Richard Bruton takes on private international colleges

Education Minister Richard Bruton is expected to propose new legislation to regulate third-level and private international colleges.

Under the new legislation, Institutes of Technology would become designated awarding bodies. In addition, the proposed law will tackle so-called essay mills that write or provide academic papers for students.

International education mark

The new legislation would give Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) the power to provide an international education mark. This would cover private English language, business, and others colleges in Ireland. As a result, international students would know that an education provider is reputable.

Furthermore, the new legislation would create a Learner Protection Fund. These colleges would pay to set up an “academic bonding” system. Should a college cease offering courses, students enrolled at that institution would still be able to complete their courses.

The proposal is a response to college closures. A number of colleges providing language education for foreign students ceased trading in recent years. Hundreds of students were unable to complete their language education, despite having paid their fees. The Learner Protection Fund would prevent that happening in future.

The proposed international education mark would give QQI the power to check whether a college was able to provide courses before giving them approval. QQI would also be required and authorised to share information about these colleges with other State bodies in the regulation of the sector.

 

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Students taking higher level language exams are struggling

Are you having trouble with your European language course – but still choosing to do the higher-level exam? You are not alone… but it is not the best idea.

A State Examinations Commission report has looked at how students managed in key language exams last year.

In Spanish, the number of students taking the higher level exam has more than doubled in recent years. However, the percentage of students doing well has dropped. Instead, there has been a rise in D grades. Furthermore, the proportion of E or F grades doubled between 2012 and 2016.

Missing the basics

According to the State Examinations Commission, these students would have been better off taking the ordinary level exam. The SEC report also found that some students did not have a firm grasp on the basics of Spanish. This included vocabulary for numbers, days, dates and the weather.

The examiners found that most French students were well prepared for their exams. German language students ranged from those who were proficient to those who were very weak.

The examiners also found that many language students relied heavily on learned-off sentences for oral and written exams.

 

 

 

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Had a change of mind? Changing your third-level course choices

Between 5 May and 1 July, third-level applicants can register to change their third-level course. The change can be done free of charge online. Although there are some restrictions, as a general rule, you can change your mind as often as you like. Hey, choosing a course can be difficult!

Things to note

If you submit a Change of Mind, it cancels all your previous course choices in that category. That means if you have applied for a Level 8 and a Level 7 course, changing your mind about the Level 8 course, cancels your original Level 8 choice, but it doesn’t affect the Level 7 course.

Be careful you don’t mix up courses from different categories. That means you will need to check, and recheck, that your course choices are in the right category.

Watch the CAO Change of Mind video for a step-by-step guide to the process.

Restricted courses

You can’t put in a Change of Mind on a restricted course. However, you may be allowed to a do so if a restricted course shares the exact same assessment procedures as the course you originally applied for. However, you will need to consult with the relevant HEI before introducing such a course on your Change of Mind.

Restricted-category applicants

There are restrictions on certain and late applicants. These include:

  • Mature applicants
  • Transfer applicants
  • Anyone whose final school exams are not recent and from an EU school

If you are one of the above, you will need to speak to the individual Admissions Offices before introducing new course choices.

Statement of Course Choices

If you apply to change courses, you will receive a revised Statement of Course Choices. This will confirm your new course choices. However, this will not be issued before 1 June. You don’t receive this by 7 July, you must contact the CAO immediately. You will also need proof that you submitted a Change of Mind. Therefore, keep all records carefully.

Errors and Omissions

If there is an error or an omission on your statement of course a choice, contact the CAO as soon as possible. If you wait until August, it will be too late…

 

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Thinking of returning to education as a mature student?

Thinking of returning to education? If you did not get the chance to go to college, or would like to learn a new skill, there is no time like the present.

If you are 23 years old or older, you are a mature student. This works in your favour. There are lots of options to choose from…

Not finished your secondary education?

If you did not finish school, a good place to start is your local Education and Training Board. ETBs have adult literacy programmes and courses for early school-leavers. They also offer opportunities to return to study for the Leaving Certificate as well vocational training linked to business and industry.

Most college courses, including PLC courses, require students to have a Leaving Cert. However, some courses make exception for mature students. Check this before deciding you won’t be accepted.

Consider your skills

If you are in your thirties, forties or older, you may be concerned that you’re too long out of education. This can make returning to education seem daunting, but you won’t be alone.

As a mature student, you’ll have a number of skills younger students may lack. These include organisational, communication and negotiating skills. Parents quickly learn these skills! You are also more likely to have knowledge of a wider range of issues too. If your work experience is in a similar or related discipline to your course, you’ll have a distinct advantage here too. Whatever your work background, real world experience is invaluable. Don’t discount this. You have more skills than you know!

 

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Free lunchtime concert and lecture at the ILAC Centre

There’s a free lunchtime concert and lecture taking place on Thursday 11 May at the ILAC Library, ILAC Centre on Henry Street, Dublin from 12:45 to 2:30pm. This has been arranged by Maynooth University’s Department of Adult and Community Education ‘Communiversity’ and Music Department, as well as Dublin City Libraries. The event takes place

Dr Francesca Placanica and Aileen Cahill of the Music Department will perform a voice and piano recital. This will feature a lively array of songs from the twentieth-century. In addition, Dr Frank Cullen of the Royal Irish Academy will give a history lecture on the development of Dublin.

About Dr Francesca Placanica

Frencesca has studied opera and classical vocal repertoires, as well as opera acting and theatre acting techniques.

She won the International Solo Voice Competition Seghizzi (2007) in the Category “George Gershwin.” She graduated from musical institutions in Italy as well as the UK and the USA. Frencesca performs extensively as a chamber recitalist soloist in Europe as well as Canada and the USA. She holds a PhD from University of Southampton and is a twentieth-century vocal performance scholar.

Frencesca is currently hosted at Maynooth University, where she is an artistic research fellow. She is also the Principal Investigator of her Irish Research Council funded “En-Gendering Monodrama: Artistic Research and Experimental Production” (2015–17), mentored by Professor Christopher Morris. Her experimental productions are currently touring Ireland. She will also be touring Europe. For more information, please visit her website.

Aileen Cahill, Piano

Aileen Cahill completed her B.A. and Masters in Solo Piano at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. In 2007, she was awarded the prestigious Maura Tessier Piano Bursary for further study. She continued her studies at the Conservatory of Music D.I.T. In 2011, she graduated with a Masters in Piano Accompaniment. She has won many prizes for solo piano as well as concerto, organ, chamber music and piano duet. In addition, she has won prizes for vocal and instrumental duo at various music festivals throughout the country.

Aileen is a regular soloist with the Budweis Philharmonic Orchestra (Czech Republic) at the Musikakademie, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, as well as with the Sligo Baroque Orchestra. She continues to compete internationally as a soloist. She recently participated in competitions in Taranto, Cantú and Val Tidone in Italy.

Dr Frank Cullen

Dr Frank Cullen works in the Royal Irish Academy on the Irish Historic Towns Atlas project. He is author of Dublin 1847: City of the Ordnance Survey, published by the Royal Irish Academy in 2014. He obtained his PhD in Irish history from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth in 2005. His research compared the cities of Dublin and Belfast in the nineteenth century. His expertise is in urban history with specific interest in the city of Dublin in the early modern and modern period.

Frank is a recent addition to the Communiversity tutoring panel. He will give a short lecture on the development of the City of Dublin using an array of maps from the medieval to modern period.

For more information on the Communiversity, click here.

 

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USI condemns proposed student loan scheme

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) says that a student loan scheme is not an effective way to fund college education. They have a point. Large numbers of students in the UK and US graduate severely in debt. In addition, student leaders claim that setting up a loan scheme would be expensive. The also say that it would result in a new emigration ‘brain drain’.

The Cassells Report

President of USI Annie Hoey criticised the proposal.

“Less than a month after the Larkin Report which pointed out the long-term economic and short-term financial shortfalls of an income-contingent loan scheme, the Government is trying again to obscure the facts and create the impression that the only viable funding mechanism for Higher Education is a loan scheme,” said Ms Hoey.

“The Cassells Report showed that properly tax-funded higher education is a viable option, whereas a €10bn loan scheme favoured by Government right now is an attempt to borrow now and move the mess of repayment down the track,” she added.

The Cassells Report by the Expert Group on Future Funding for Higher Education recommended three funding options. One of these was replacing upfront fees with loans provided by the State.

Loans would be contingent on earnings. In addition, loans would have deferred repayments until a graduate was earning over a certain amount. The maximum monthly payment would €160 until the age of 33.

Loan scheme equivalent to reintroducing fees

USI claims the scheme is “out of touch with the reality of graduate salaries.”

“With the average salary in Ireland around €46,000, graduate salaries in Ireland are around €28,000, and significantly lower in Dublin,” Ms Hoey said.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry the loan scheme was simply a way of reintroducing full fees.

“The introduction of any student loans scheme amounts to the re-introduction of fees. It would be a regressive step which would effectively remove education as a right open to all.

“Over the last number of years we have seen huge increases in fees through almost yearly increases in the registration charge. The loan scheme would be full fees being re-introduced through the back-door.”

 

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Maynooth University ranks as one of the world’s Top 50 Young Universities

Great news for Maynooth University! The university entered the Times Higher Education’s (THE) Top 50 Young Universities at #49. This is the highest ranking achieved by an Irish university on this listing.

Maynooth University has performed well on international rankings lately. In addition to making the Young University list, it was named among the top 400 universities in the world and the top 200 European universities. Furthermore, Maynooth University is one of the top 200 universities with strongest international connections.

How the rankings work

A number of criteria affect the Young University Rankings. These include research income, teaching reputation, numbers of PhDs awarded, the number and quality of scholarly papers, as well as citations from staff and numbers of international staff and students.

Maynooth jumped 18 places since 2016. As a result, it is now Ireland’s foremost young university.

Huge endorsement

Maynooth University President, Professor Philip Nolan commented: “This is a huge endorsement of the University’s strategy to see Maynooth performing so strongly in terms of its perception by its international peers. It is just 20 years since Maynooth University was established as an independent institution by the Universities Act of 1997, and this is a huge endorsement of the hard work, research impact, and exceptional teaching on the part of the entire university community.”

Established as an autonomous university in 1997, Maynooth University is now Ireland’s fastest growing university. The institution has with more than 11,000 students. This includes almost 1,600 taught postgraduate and professional students and over 400 research students. The University has more than 70,000 alumni around the world.

 

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Essay mills come under fire

The Department of Education is to introduce laws to prosecute essay mills – companies who write students’ essays in exchange for money.

These paid-for essays are original work. However, someone other than the student writes them. As a result, cheating students can bypass a college’s plagiarism detection systems. Plagiarism detection works by comparing a student’s work to already published material. Contract cheating using essay mills is much harder to detect.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton plans to give powers to prosecute companies offering paid-for essays. He is also considering banning them from advertising.

Bruton said the department would consult education providers, students and other relevant parties, as well as look at recent UK research, before drawing up guidelines to address the problem.

Extent of contract cheating unknown

The extent of contract cheating in Ireland is unclear. Figures from The Irish Times suggest that around 1,000 students faced disciplining for plagiarism since 2010.

However, it is suspected that the number of cheating students is significantly higher.  Figures are difficult to gauge as a number of universities and education providers have not revealed figures. Penalties for students caught cheating range from written warnings to disqualification for repeat offenders.

Just another online resource?

An Irish company, Write My Assignments, describes itself as “an online education development company offering support to private individuals and businesses by qualified writers and researchers.” It claims that anyone using its services should reference the company as they would “any other online source.” However it seems likely that many of those using such services do not reference an essay writing service.

Write My Assignments claims they complete around 350 assignments each year and that demand for their service is growing.

 

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Could Brexit be an opportunity for Irish universities?

Global education firm EduCo International Group has claimed that Brexit offers a major opportunity for Irish universities. The company plans to set up an Irish branch to attract international students.

Dwindling number of international students in the UK

The number of international students applying to UK colleges is falling. However, international applications to Irish universities are up by 17 percent this year.

EduCo International Group plans to grow the number of undergraduate as well as postgraduate students coming here from China, India and South-East Asia.

Partnerships with Maynooth University and Dublin City University

EduCo, along with Maynooth University and Dublin City University, will provide pathway programmes to prepare international students for university study.

These integrate students into the university campus. In addition, pathway programmes offer smaller class sizes and more contact hours. As a result, international students have a greater chance of success.

Jacob Kestner, head of EduCo in Ireland, believes that Brexit has made international students wary about applying to UK institutions.

“Where international students are choosing to study abroad, increasingly they are not going to the UK. Our education agents – who recruit international students – tell us there is real concern over the UK closing its doors. This is a real Brexit opportunity,” he said.

This could be great news for Irish universities who wish to attract lucrative international students. Furthermore, this aligns with Irish government policy, which hopes to attract an additional 10,000 international students by 2020.

Enhanced visibility for Irish universities

DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said the partnership with EduCo will increase the visibility of Irish universities. In addition, Ireland will become a destination of choice for international students.

“As a globally engaged university, DCU is very excited about this opportunity to advance our internationalisation strategy and attract greater numbers of high-calibre international students,” he said.

Philip Nolan, Maynooth University president, called the EduCo partnership “a major step forward in the internationalisation of Irish higher education.”

Furthermore, Nolan said the university had doubled its international student numbers over the past five years. However, the university is keen to grow its global reach.

 

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Demand for SUSI student grants expected to be high

From Monday, 3 April 2017 the SUSI student grants reopens. The demand is expected to be high, particularly as maintenance grants for postgraduate students have been made available.

Students in the lowest income category can apply for the postgraduate maintenance grant, worth almost €6,000. In 2012, the government stopped funding for postgrad maintenance grants.

This is part of a scheme to help disadvantaged students. Grants are also on offer for lone parents and Travellers.

€380 million in student grants available

Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI) administers the student grant scheme. SUSI will provide €380 million in student grants. These will benefit more than 80,000 students.

Another key change is the “Second Chance” provision. Mature students who attended but did not complete an approved course will be able to apply for a grant as new student. However, the student must have had a five-year break in studying to be eligible.

Breaking the cycles of disadvantage

Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton said third-level education “has a unique capacity to break down the cycles of disadvantage”.

“I would encourage students who think they might be eligible for support to submit their online applications to SUSI as soon as possible to ensure that they are processed as quickly as possible.”

The closing dates for the 2017/18 student grant scheme are July 13th for new applicants and June 15th for renewal students.

 

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