National Forum Insights

As part of Next Steps, the Irish Council for International Students (ICOS) investigated the impact of the pandemic from an international student perspective. The ICOS research aimed to identify the issues facing international students, the actions that can be taken to address these issues, and the lessons that can be learned to improve teaching and learning, as well as the overall international student experience in Ireland.

This paper describes some innovative online and simulated solutions that were developed at Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) to enable continued provision of experiential learning opportunities for healthcare students during the Covid-19 pandemic. It shows how elements of experiential learning practice are amenable to virtual modes of delivery and considers the possible implications of this for experiential learning practice beyond the realm of health professions education.

What are the forefront issues concerning the assessment of students in further and higher education in 2021? To answer this question, QQI conducted a series of informal soundings with key people from Further Education (FE), Higher Education (HE) and Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) in 2021. Here we report our main HE-relevant findings.

QQI Assessment Insight 2021

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The higher education quality assurance system helps to ensure that education, research, qualifications and related services are of a quality that is acceptable nationally and internationally and supports confidence in the integrity of the qualifications system.The quality assurance system in Ireland emerges from the
actions and interactions of agents such as higher education institutions, their representative bodies, the Union of Students in Ireland, Professional, Statutory or Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs), state agencies and the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science. Each higher education institution has its own institutional quality assurance system that is embedded within the national system and determines the quality of education, research and related services that it is willing and able to maintain subject to national norms. In this paper we reflect on how this quality and qualifications system responded to the Covid-19 crisis, what can be learned from that, and how it may assist us in the future.

This document is an insight into USI’s contribution to the ‘Next Steps’ project. The Union of Students in Ireland (Aontas na Mac Léinn in Éirinn) is the national representative body for thirdlevel students in Ireland. USI represents more than 374,000 students in over thirty colleges across the island of Ireland. USI is represented on the Board of the National Forum by the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Perspective of Students

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This Insight presents the outcomes of a series of facilitated reflections with the Registrars and Chief Academic Officers of higher education institutions that
are members of the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA). These reflections examined the experiences of senior leaders charged with key
responsibilities for their institutions’ overall academic provision, including academic quality and integrity. Existing documentation from the very frequent meetings of the group during the public health emergency and associated sectoral / national policies were used to inform two workshops designed to explore what lessons had been learned during this time, and which key changes might be successfully maintained into the future. The workshops were facilitated by Maynooth University Innovation Design Lab (Mi:Lab) and took place in June 2021 (online) and August 2021 (face-to-face).

This StudentSurvey.ie Insight has a dual focus. Initially, it will focus on the aggregated national results of new questions specifically addressing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which were added to StudentSurvey.ie and PGR StudentSurvey.ie in 2021 (StudentSurvey.ie, 2021a). These results will have added value as higher education institutions emerge from the Covid-19 emergency with evolved priorities and challenges to overcome. The public health measures put in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic also meant that first year undergraduate students who entered higher education in the 2020-2021 academic year are believed to have had a substantially different experience than their predecessors (StudentSurvey.ie, 2021b). The second focus of this paper will explore this belief.

The challenges of the Covid pandemic prompted the launch or expansion of many student-supporting initiatives. The unprecedented conditions prompted student affairs professionals to ensure that learners continued to find the services and supports needed to successfully navigate the student journey. In doing
so, new resources and processes have arisen and novel collaborations have taken place between student support services and academic programmes. Together, these innovations have brought the contribution of student affairs professionals closer to the mainstream of the higher education experience.

This Insight stems from a report written on behalf of the Specialist Colleges group which sought to gather reflections on practice before and during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to propose some recommendations for future policy and practice in higher education. The Specialist Colleges group comprises members from the following institutions:
• Marino Institute of Education (MIE)
• Mary Immaculate College (MIC)
• National College of Art and Design (NCAD)
• Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM)
• St. Angela’s College, Sligo (SAC)
• Carlow College, St. Patrick’s (CC)
• St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth (SPCM)

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