6 Apr 2014

Voices of Academics in Irish Higher Education

A new research report on teaching and learning in Higher Education in Ireland captures some of the key challenges, threats and opportunities in the sector at the moment. As research output and assessment has been pushed under the microscope in recent years, it's a refreshing change to see teaching and learning being discussed at a national level. The report is well worth a read for anyone interested in the area, and I have flagged a few aspects that caught my attention below.

Firstly, it is nice to see libraries and other support functions get a mention (albeit a brief one).

"[The] ‘software’ of higher education comprises a wide range of people with specialist expertise: librarians, student support services, technicians, administrators, registries, estates, human resources, finance, information systems, research offices and strategic planners to name but a few. All have roles to play in supporting student learning".

Whilst the nexus between teacher and student will always be at the core of teaching and learning, I think the visibility of the role that libraries can also play has certainly increased in recent years, particularly where support has been embedded. However, there is undoubtedly still a lot of untapped potential in this respect.

Table 9 ranks the professional development priorities and interests of academics and I would imagine many would also be top of the agenda for teaching librarians, particularly those concerning technology. This congruence could potentially open up opportunities for librarians to partner with academic staff in mutual areas of interest such as elearning, assessment and student feedback.

Voices of Academics in Irish Higher Education (2014), p. 29
Another finding of note is that 44% of respondents ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’ with the statement "students are increasingly well prepared for third level education", citing a lack of critical thinking and inquiry skills among other factors. A comment provided by one respondent extends this further, noting:
"Students in third level show on average a high degree of consumer-attitude. Development of self-initiative and independence in learning in second-level education seem not to be sufficiently supported".
This is the kind of information that could potentially be used by school librarians to advocate for a sector that is heavily under-resourced at present.

Chapter 6 presents responses to the question "How would you promote good teaching in higher education?", and includes some interesting comments around formal teaching qualifications, teaching spaces, institutional recognition and teaching strategies such as PBL.

The report is written by Maria Slowey and Ekaterina Kozina with Eloise Tan, and can be downloaded from the AISHE website.


  1. Hi Michelle,
    Glad you found the report useful. Is there a membership body for librarians who work in universities/institutes of technologies in Ireland?
    Eloise Tan

  2. Thanks for the comment Eloise. The Library Association of Ireland's Academic & Special Libraries Group might be what you are looking for: http://academicandspeciallibraries.blogspot.ie/